Huey v. Birmingham City Board of Education
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge L Scott Coogler on 7/3/12. (KGE, )
2012 Jul-03 PM 02:36
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
STEPHANIE S. HUEY,
BIRMINGHAM CITY BOARD OF
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
The Court has for consideration a motion to dismiss, which was filed by the
Defendant, Birmingham Board of Education (“BBOE”). (Doc. 24.) Plaintiff
Stephanie Huey filed the above-numbered cause of action, pro se, on July 6, 2011.
(Doc. 1.) After a hearing with the Court, Plaintiff obtained counsel and filed an
Amended Complaint. (Doc. 22.) In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff sues BBOE
for violation of her Equal Protection and Due Process rights under the Fifth1 and
“It is well settled that the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment does not bind state
governments. Rather, it is applicable only to the federal government.” Love v. Davis, 14 F. Supp.
2d 1273, 1276 n.1 (N.D. Ala. 1998) (citing Buxton v. City of Plant City, 871 F.2d 1037, 1041 (11th Cir.
1989)). Because BBOE is not alleged to be an agent or employee of the United States of America,
all claims made pursuant to the Fifth Amendment will be dismissed.
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Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, as well as breach of contract. The
issues raised in Defendant’s motion to dismiss have been fully briefed by the parties
and are ripe for decision. Upon full consideration and for the reasons stated herein,
the motion to dismiss will be granted.
Stephanie Huey was employed by BBOE as a mathematics teacher and assigned
to teach at Putnam Middle School. On November 5, 2005, she suffered an injury on
the job when the principal of the school collided with her. Because of her injury,
Plaintiff was unable to continue her teaching duties.
Plaintiff contends that when she was cleared by her doctor to return to work as
a teacher, BBOE did not allow her to return to work. Plaintiff’s position had been
filled by a non-certified substitute teacher without a math degree. “After a period of
time,” Plaintiff was allowed to return to work, but she was not offered an equivalent
position to the one she held prior to her injury and medical leave.
On March 22, 2010, Plaintiff submitted documentation to BBOE showing she
had earned a doctorate degree and requested an increase in pay commensurate with
that educational level. BBOE’s superintendent approved the pay increase on March
31, 2010, and it was placed on the agenda for consideration at the next BBOE meeting.
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BBOE refused to recognize the institution where Plaintiff earned her doctorate and
denied the salary increase. Plaintiff contends that the denied salary increase violated
her Equal Protection rights because the denial occurred at a time when BBOE hired
math and science teachers from the Philippines to teach for the 2009-10 school year
under emergency certifications or alternate certifications. (Doc. 22 ¶ 22.)
On May 31, 2010, Plaintiff was terminated from her position without a hearing
and her health care coverage was cancelled. (Id. ¶¶ 18, 26-27.)
A defendant may move to dismiss a complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) if the plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be
granted. “The standard of review for a motion to dismiss is the same for the appellate
court as it [is] for the trial court.” Stephens v. Dep’t of Health & Human Servs., 901
F.2d 1571, 1573 (11th Cir. 1990). “When considering a motion to dismiss, all facts set
forth in the plaintiff’s complaint ‘are to be accepted as true and the court limits its
consideration to the pleadings and exhibits attached thereto.’”
Nationsbank, N.A., 225 F.3d 1228, 1231 (11th Cir. 2000)(quoting GSW, Inc. v. Long
County, 999 F.2d 1508, 1510 (11th Cir. 1993)). All “reasonable inferences” are drawn
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in favor of the plaintiff. St. George v. Pinellas County, 285 F.3d 1334, 1337 (11th Cir.
To survive a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the
complaint “does not need detailed factual allegations;” however, the “plaintiff’s
obligation to provide the ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief’ requires more than
labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true
(even if doubtful in fact).”
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007)(internal citations omitted).2 The plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state
a claim that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. Unless a plaintiff has “nudged [his]
claims across the line from conceivable to plausible,” the complaint “must be
“[U]nsupported conclusions of law or of mixed fact and law have long been
recognized not to prevent a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal.” Dalrymple v. Reno, 334 F.3d 991,
In Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, the U.S. Supreme Court abrogated the oft-cited standard
that “a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt
that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief”
set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957). Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 560-63. The Supreme
Court stated that the “no set of facts” standard “is best forgotten as an incomplete, negative gloss
on an accepted pleading standard: once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by
showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint.” Id. at 563.
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996 (11th Cir. 2003) (quoting Marsh v. Butler County, Ala., 268 F.3d 1014, 1036 n.16
(11th Cir. 2001)). And, “where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer
more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged—but it has
not ‘show[n]’—‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ----,
129 S. Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)). Therefore, the U.S.
Supreme Court suggested that courts adopt a “two-pronged approach” when
considering motions to dismiss: “1) eliminate any allegations in the complaint that are
merely legal conclusions; and 2) where there are well-pleaded factual allegations,
‘assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an
entitlement to relief.’” American Dental Ass’n v. Cigna Corp., 605 F.3d 1283, 1290
(11th Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950). Importantly, “courts may infer
from the factual allegations in the complaint ‘obvious alternative explanation[s],’
which suggest lawful conduct rather than the unlawful conduct the plaintiff would ask
the court to infer.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1951-52). However, “[a]
complaint may not be dismissed because the plaintiff’s claims do not support the legal
theory he relies upon since the court must determine if the allegations provide for
relief on any possible theory.” Brooks v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Fla., Inc., 116 F.3d
1364 (11th Cir. 1997).
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Although plaintiff makes no reference to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, she does allege
violations of her Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection and Due Process rights.
“Section 1983 provides a remedy against ‘any person’ who, under color of state law,
deprives another of rights protected by the Constitution.” Collins v. City of Harker
Heights, Tex., 503 U.S. 115, 120 (1992). Municipalities and local government entities
are “persons” to whom § 1983 applies. Id. (citing Monell v. Dep’t of Social Servs. of
City of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978)). However, local government entities “may not
be sued under § 1983 for an injury inflicted solely by its employees or agents. Instead,
it is when execution of a government’s policy or custom, whether made by its
lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official
policy, inflicts the injury that the government as an entity is responsible under
§ 1983.” Id. at 121 (quoting Monell, 436 U.S. at 691, 694). Plaintiff’s Amended
Complaint does not include any factual allegations identifying a policy or custom that
caused the alleged constitutional deprivations at issue.
Even if Plaintiff had properly identified a policy or custom on the part of the
Defendant, “[t]he Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment generally
requires government entities to treat similarly situated individuals alike.” Alford v.
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Consolidated Gov’t of Columbus, Ga., 438 Fed. Appx. 837 at *839 (11th Cir. 2011)
(citing Campbell v. Rainbow City, Ala., 434 F.3d 1306, 1313 (11th Cir. 2006)). “In a
traditional employment case brought under the Equal Protection Clause, an employee
asserts that he was discriminated against on account of his membership in an
identifiable or protected class, such as race, religion, sex, or national origin.” Id.
(citing Engquist v. Oregon Dep’t of Agriculture, 553 U.S. 591, 128 S.Ct. 2146, 170
L.Ed.2d 975 (2008)). Plaintiff has not alleged that she belongs to an identifiable or
protected class, nor has she included sufficient facts to infer that similarly situated
individuals in a non-protected class were treated more favorably. Plaintiff does not
state a claim for violation of her right to Equal Protection under the Fourteenth
“[A]t a minimum, the Due Process Clause requires notice and the opportunity
to be heard incident to the deprivation of life, liberty or property at the hands of the
government.” Grayden v. Rhodes, 345 F.3d 1225, 1232 (11th Cir. 2003). “In
procedural due process claims, the deprivation by state action of a constitutionally
protected interest in ‘life, liberty, or property’ is not in itself unconstitutional; what
is unconstitutional is the deprivation of such an interest without due process of law.”
Zinermon v. Burch, 494 U.S. 113, 125 (1990) (emphasis in original).
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constitutional violation actionable under § 1983 is not complete when the deprivation
occurs; it is not complete unless and until the State fails to provide due process.” Id.
“This inquiry would examine the procedural safeguards built into the statutory or
administrative procedure of effecting the deprivation, and any remedies for erroneous
deprivations provided by statute or tort law.” Id. “In other words, the state may cure
a procedural deprivation by providing a later procedural remedy; only when the state
refuses to provide a process sufficient to remedy the procedural deprivation does a
constitutional violation actionable under section 1983 arise.” McKinney v. Pate, 20
F.3d 1550, 1557 (11th Cir. 1994).
Plaintiff contends that her termination was “arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse
of discretion.” (Doc. 22 ¶ 28.) In cases of negligent and intentional deprivations of
property, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that a postdeprivation remedy is all a
plaintiff is due. Zinermon, 494 U.S. at 128-30 (discussing Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S.
527 (1981), overruled on other grounds by Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327 (1986);
Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517 (1984)); McKinney, 20 F.3d at 1562-63. The Supreme
Court explained: “The state can no more anticipate and control in advance the
random and unauthorized intentional conduct of its employees than it can anticipate
similar negligent conduct.” Id. at 130 (quoting Hudson, 468 U.S. at 533). Therefore,
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“an intentional [or arbitrary] deprivation of property does not give rise to a violation
of the Due Process Clause if the state provides an adequate postdeprivation remedy.”
Id. at 533 n.14.
Plaintiff does not dispute that, at the time of her purported termination,
Alabama Code § 16-24-21 (2010)3 provided an adequate postdeprivation remedy in the
form of a direct appeal for teachers “denied a hearing before the local board of
education.” Instead, Plaintiff attempts to argue that when Defendant refused to
immediately reinstate her after she was earlier cleared by her doctor to return to work,
she suffered a “temporary termination.” Plaintiff claims that she did not have any
remedies available to her because “Defendant did not officially state that she was
terminated from her position.” (Doc. 26 at 5.) Plaintiff does not make a “temporary
termination” or reinstatement claim in Count II of the Amended Complaint. The
facts referenced in Count II pertain only to Plaintiff’s “termination” without a
hearing. Plaintiff alleged that she was “terminated from her position without a
hearing” on May 31, 2010. (Doc. 22 ¶ 18.) Plaintiffs are required to make clear what
facts support which claims for relief. Failing to “identify claims with sufficient clarity
to enable the defendant to frame a responsive pleading” is unacceptable. Beckwith v.
This provision was repealed in July 2011 by the Students First Act of 2011, but replaced by a
similar direct appeal provision. See Ala. Code. § 16-24C-12 (2011).
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Bellsouth Telecomms. Inc., 146 Fed. Appx. 368, 371 (11th Cir. 2005) (citing Byrne v.
Nezhat, 261 F.3d 1075, 1129-30 (11th Cir. 2001)). Plaintiff’s Due Process claim will
Because there is no allegation of diversity jurisdiction and the Amended
Complaint does not sufficiently state any claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Court
declines jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s breach of contract claim. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3);
see also United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726 (1966).
For the reasons outlined above, Defendant’s motion to dismiss will be granted.
A separate order will be entered.
Done this 3rd day of July 2012.
L. SCOTT COOGLER
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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