United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
OWEN BOWDRE, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the court on Defendants Birmingham
Jefferson County Transit Authority (BJCTA) and the BJCTA
Board of Directors' “Motion to Dismiss or in the
Alternative Motion for Summary Judgment.” (Doc. 7).
Plaintiff Barbara Murdock alleges that Defendants terminated
her employment because of her sex in violation of the Equal
Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and without due
process in violation of the Due Process Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment. Defendants moved to dismiss Ms.
Murdock's due process claim against BJCTA and all claims
against the Board. According to Defendants, Ms. Murdock has
not sufficiently alleged a property interest in her continued
employment to state a due process claim, and the Board is not
a legal entity subject to suit. As further explained below,
the court agrees with both points and WILL GRANT
Defendants' motion to dismiss.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court must first determine which standard of review applies
because Defendants style their motion as a motion to dismiss
or a motion for summary judgment in the alternative.
request summary judgment in the alternative because they
submitted with their motion to dismiss an employment
agreement between BJCTA and Ms. Murdock (doc. 9-1); and
generally, under Rule 12(d), “[o]nce the court
considers matters outside the complaint, the 12(b)(6) motion
to dismiss converts into a motion for summary
judgment.” Garcia v. Copenhaver, Bell &
Assocs., M.D.'s, P.A., 104 F.3d 1256, 1266 n.11
(11th Cir. 1997). But the Rules do not require the court to
consider exhibits that a defendant uses to attack a
complaint. Harper v. Lawrence Cty., Ala., 592 F.3d
1227, 1232 (11th Cir. 2010). Instead, the court may
“exclude” matters outside the pleadings and not
convert the Rule 12(b)(6) motion to a Rule 56 motion.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). And not considering exhibits attached to
a motion to dismiss “is the functional equivalent of
‘excluding' them” for purposes of Rule 12(d);
the court need not take a more formal step. Harper,
592 F.3d at 1232. So, the court exercises its
discretion to not consider the exhibit submitted with
Defendants' motion and the motion will proceed as a Rule
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.
Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a
defendant may move to dismiss a complaint for “failure
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” To
survive a motion to dismiss, “a complaint must allege
‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Adinolfe v. United
Tech. Corp., 768 F.3d 1161, 1169 (11th Cir. 2014)
(quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
555 (2007)). To be plausible on its face, the complaint must
contain enough “factual content that allows the court
to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). On a motion to dismiss,
the court accepts as true the factual allegations in the
complaint and construes them in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff. Id.
all allegations can defeat a motion to dismiss.
“[L]abels and conclusions . . . will not do, ”
and “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. If the court determines
that well-pleaded facts, accepted as true, do not state a
plausible claim, the court must dismiss the claim.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
Murdock's complaint presents few specific details
concerning her employment with and termination from BJCTA.
The court will present those factual allegations in the light
most favorable to Ms. Murdock.
Murdock worked as the Executive Director for BJCTA. (Doc. 1
at ¶ 20). BJCTA is incorporated under Alabama state law
and provides public transportation services in Jefferson
October 2017, five new members joined the nine-member Board.
(Doc. 1 at ¶ 21). According to Ms. Murdock, after the
Board composition changed, “a plan was conceived to
award Ms. Murdock's position to a younger less qualified
male employee that she had mentored and promoted through the
ranks to the position of Operations Manager.” (Doc. 1
at ¶ 21).
April 3, 2018, the Board summoned Ms. Murdock to a
“special board meeting without being given an agenda,
which was not standard procedure.” (Doc. 1 at ¶
22). When Ms. Murdock arrived at the meeting, the Board
“immediately adjourn[ed] to an executive session at the
exclusion of her, which was also outside of standard
the executive session, Defendants suspended Ms. Murdock
without pay pending an investigation of her office.
(Id. at ¶ 23). Defendants did not give Ms.
Murdock any advance notice of any charges against her, an
explanation of any evidence justifying her suspension, or an
opportunity to be heard and contest the suspension. Ms.
Murdock requested a list of the charges against her and an
opportunity to respond to them, but Defendants denied her
request and informed her that she was not entitled to a
hearing. Defendants then terminated her on May 23, 2018
without a hearing.
replaced Ms. Murdock with Christopher Ruffin, a male employee
whom Ms. Murdock had previously mentored and promoted.
According to Ms. Murdock, “Mr. Ruffin's
qualifications do not meet the specific needs of the position