Charleston v. Ayers et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Abdul K Kallon on 2/21/2014. (PSM)
2014 Feb-21 PM 12:27
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
MONIQUE LASHAY WILSON
JENNIFER PARKER AYERS,
ALABAMA A&M UNIVERSITY
BOARD OF TRUSTEES, et al.,
Civil Action Number
Pro se Plaintiff Monique Lashay Wilson Charleston filed this lawsuit,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§1983,1 against Alabama A&M University Board of
Trustees (“AAMU”), and against University employees Jennifer Parker-Ayers,
Cassandra Tarver-Ross, Marshall P. Chimwedzi, Leslie Shelor, Mary Elizabeth
Plaintiff actually alleges a “violation of [her] civil rights,” under “42 U.S.C. § 1983 and
28 U.S.C. § 1343.” Doc. 3 at 2. Section 1343 gives “district courts . . . original jurisdiction of
any civil action authorized by law to be commenced by any person” to recover for damages
sustained in violation of rights outlined in 42 U.S.C. § 1985, or “to redress the deprivation . . . of
any right . . . secured by the Constitution of the United states or by any Act of Congress . . . .” 28
U.S.C. 1343(a)(1)-(3). However, because Plaintiff has not pleaded any facts that support a
violation of § 1985, see docs. 1 & 3, presumably, Plaintiff is proceeding under the section that
provides this court jurisdiction over claims for any rights secured by the Constitution or a federal
law. In other words, to the extent Plaintiff intended to raise a separate claim under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1343, that claim is similar to her § 1983 claim.
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Whitworth, and Michael Keith Johnson (collectively, “individual Defendants”).
Docs. 1, 3. Defendants moved to dismiss, or, alternatively, for a more definite
statement and to strike portions of Plaintiff’s response. Docs. 7, 13. The motions
are briefed and ripe for resolution. Docs. 12, 13, 14. For the reasons stated below,
the motion to dismiss is due to be GRANTED, rendering the motion to strike
I. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain “a
short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” “[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed
factual allegations,’ but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendantunlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Mere “labels and
conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” are
insufficient. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citations and internal quotation marks
omitted). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]’ devoid of
‘further factual enhancement.’” Id. (citing Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 557).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits dismissal when a
complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. “To survive a
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motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129
S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). A
complaint states a facially plausible claim for relief “when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (citation omitted). The
complaint must establish “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully.” Id. See also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)
(“Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.”). Ultimately, this inquiry is a “context-specific task that requires the
reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 129
S. Ct. at 1950.
On a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court accepts all factual
allegations as true. See, e.g., Grossman v. Nationsbank, N.A., 225 F.3d 1228,
1231 (11th Cir. 2000). However, legal conclusions unsupported by factual
allegations are not entitled to that assumption of truth. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950.
The court has reviewed Plaintiff’s complaint and amended complaint to
ascertain whether she raises the deprivation of a federally protected right since
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§ 1983 does not itself create a federal right “but merely provides ‘a method for
vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.’” Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266,
271 (1994); Doe v. Metro Police Dep’t, 445 F.3d 460, 467 (D.C. Cir. 2006). As
alleged violations of her federal rights, Plaintiff lists the following: (1) failure to
provide a “form needed;” (2) “defamation of character;” (3) “bodily harm with
malicious intent to confine to a mental institution;” (4) “HR failure to provide
proper forms for referral for evaluation at an approved facility;” (5) “failure to
provide truthful and correct information to EEOC about medical records and
referrals;” (6) “discrimanation [sic] in pursuit of work and privacy in accordance
with HIPAA;” and (7) “none [sic] disclosure of work prevention (i.e. no records of
medical leave or status.” Doc. 3 at 7. Unfortunately for Plaintiff, except for the
alleged discrimination, none of the conduct she alleges Defendants engaged in
rises to a cognizable right secured by the Constitution or an Act of Congress. As
such, Plaintiff has failed to state a cognizable claim with respect to these
Moreover, even Plaintiff’s contention that Defendants discriminated against
her “in pursuit of work and privacy in accordance with HIPPA,” docs. 1 at 3; 3 at
7, also fails to state a cognizable claim under federal law. The court recognizes
that pro se pleadings are subject to “less stringent standards” and should be
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liberally construed. Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980). Still, a liberal reading
of Plaintiff’s complaint, or allowing Plaintiff to amend for that matter, would not
save Plaintiff’s claims because Defendants have immunity. As best as the court
can discern from Plaintiff’s pleadings, the alleged discrimination stems from
AAMU’s insistence that Plaintiff submit a statement from her doctor opining that
she is fit to return to work. Doc. 12 at 2. While Plaintiff may think this request is
unreasonable, there is nothing under federal law that precludes AAMU from
making such a request in light of the circumstances here. In any event, under the
Eleventh Amendment, “[t]he judicial power of the United States shall not be
construed to extend to any suit . . . against one of the United States by citizens of
another state, or by citizens or subjects of any foreign state.” U.S. CONST. amend.
XI. The Supreme Court has additionally held “that an unconsenting state is
immune from lawsuits brought in federal court by the state’s own citizens.” Carr
v. City of Florence, Ala., 916 F.2d 1521, 1524 (11th Cir. 1990), citing Hans v.
Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1 (1890). Accordingly, absent an express waiver, “a suit in
which the State or one of its agencies or departments is named as the defendant is
proscribed by the Eleventh Amendment.” Id. (internal quotation marks and
citation omitted). Furthermore, states are not “persons” subject to liability under
§ 1983. Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). AAMU is
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an instrumentality of the state and, as such, is immune from § 1983 liability.
Harden v. Adams, 760 F.2d 1158, 1164 (11th Cir. 1985) (citation omitted);
Matthews v. Ala. A&M Univ., 787 So. 2d 691, 696-97 (Ala. 2000); Bd. of Trustees
of the Univ. of Ala. v. Garrett, 531 U.S. 356, 363 (2001) (citation omitted).
Therefore, AAMU’s motion to dismiss the § 1983 claims is due to be granted.
Likewise, the individual Defendants are also immune from § 1983 liability
because the Eleventh Amendment’s immunity doctrine extends to cover a state
official sued in his or her official capacity where the plaintiff seeks money
damages for past conduct because such lawsuits are considered suits against the
state itself. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985); Carr, 916 F.2d at
1524, citing Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984).
Therefore, to the extent the individual Defendants were acting in their official
capacity “pursuant to the power [they] possessed by state authority,” Edwards v.
Wallace Cmty. Coll., 49 F.3d 1517, 1522-23 (11th Cir. 1995) (citation omitted),
and in the absence of any claim for prospective relief, the motion to dismiss the
§ 1983 claims against the individual Defendants is also due to be granted.
Because the case is due to be dismissed, the court MOOTS the motion to
strike. By separate order, the court will GRANT AAMU and the individual
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Defendants’ motion to dismiss.
Done the 21st day of February, 2014.
ABDUL K. KALLON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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