NB v. Demopolis City Board of Education
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS re 4 MOTION to Dismiss filed by Robert Alvin Griffin. It is recommended that the Court substitute, in the style of this matter, the real party in interest, the Demopolis City Board of Education, instead of Robert Alvin Griffin and dismiss Griffin from this action by granting his motion to dismiss (doc. 4). Objections to R&R due by 3/15/2012. Signed by Magistrate Judge William E. Cassady on 2/29/2012. (cmj)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
N.B., by and through his legal guardian, :
advocate, and next friend, L.K.,
ROBERT ALVIN GRIFFIN,
Superintendent of and for the
Demopolis City Board of Education,
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
This cause is before the Magistrate Judge for issuance of a report and
recommendation, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), on the defendant Robert Alvin
Griffin’s motion to dismiss (Doc. 4), plaintiff’s memorandum brief in opposition (Doc.
7), and Griffin’s reply (Doc. 8). Upon consideration of the foregoing pleadings, and all
other relevant pleadings in the Court’s file, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the
Court substitute, in the style of this matter, the real party defendant in interest, the
Demopolis City Board of Education, for Robert Alvin Griffin and dismiss Griffin from
this action by GRANTING his motion to dismiss (Doc. 4).
FINDINGS OF FACT
On January 10, 2012, plaintiff filed this action asserting various causes of action,
and seeking relief, pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(“IDEA”), 20 U.S.C. § 1400, et seq. (See Doc. 1.) Although the style of the complaint
identifies as the defendant “Robert Alvin Griffin, Superintendent of and for the
Demopolis City Board of Education” (id. at 1), the remainder of the complaint contains
no other mention of Griffin. Indeed, in the section of the complaint identifying the
parties to the action, plaintiff identifies the defendant as the Demopolis City Board of
Education (Doc. 1, ¶ 7), and elsewhere in the complaint also refers to the Demopolis
City Board of Education as the defendant (see, e.g., id. at ¶¶ 1, 10-11, 18, 28 & 30).
On January 31, 2012, the Demopolis City Board of Education answered the
complaint (Doc. 3)1 and, concurrent therewith, Robert Alvin Griffin filed a motion
seeking an order from this Court dismissing him, in his individual and official
capacities, from this case (Doc. 4). Plaintiff filed his memorandum brief in opposition
on February 12, 2012 (Doc. 7) and Griffin his reply on February 22, 2012 (Doc. 8).
In the memorandum brief in opposition, plaintiff makes clear that “Robert Alvin
Griffin is not a party to this lawsuit in his individual capacity” (Doc. 7, at ¶ 6) and that
he is not seeking to hold Griffin “liable in his individual capacity” nor is he “seeking
relief from . . . Griffin in his individual capacity.” (Id. at ¶ 8.) Instead, what plaintiff has
done is to name Griffin “in his official capacity acting as an agent for the Demopolis
City Board of Education.” (Id. at ¶ 9.) The summary of plaintiff’s argument is, as
In answering the complaint, the Board specifically stated that it was “designated
as ‘Robert Alvin Griffin, Superintendent of and for the Demopolis City Board of Education[.]”
(Id. at 1.)
In this instant case, the Plaintiff has brought a claim against Robert Alvin
Griffin in his official capacity as the superintendent of and for the
Demopolis City Board of Education. Bringing an action against Robert
Alvin Griffin in his official capacity as the superintendent of and for the
Demopolis City Board of Education is a way of pleading an action
against the Demopolis City Board of Education.
(Id. at 4 (emphasis supplied).) In reply, Griffin notes the following: (1) the style of the
complaint does not name him as a defendant being sued in his official capacity only; (2)
the style of the complaint fails to designate the Demopolis City Board of Education as a
party distinct from him; and (3) there is no need to bring official-capacity actions
against local government officials since government entities can be sued directly for
damages and injunctive relief. (Doc. 8, at 1-2.)
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
In Monell v. Department of Social Services of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct.
2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978), the Supreme Court recognized that official-capacity suits
“generally represent only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which
an officer is an agent[.]” Id. at 690 n.55, 98 S.Ct. at 2035 n.55. Based upon the foregoing
recognition, some seven years later, the Supreme Court in Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S.
159, 105 S.Ct. 3099, 87 L.Ed.2d 114 (1985) stated that “[a]s long as the government entity
receives notice and an opportunity to respond, an official-capacity suit is, in all respects
other than name, to be treated as a suit against the entity.” Id. at 166, 105 S.Ct. at 3105
(emphasis supplied; citation omitted). “It is not a suit against the official personally, for
the real party in interest is the entity.” Id. (emphasis in original). The Court went on to
note, however, that “[t]here is no longer a need to bring official-capacity actions against
local government officials, for under Monell . . . local government units can be sued
directly for damages and injunctive or declaratory relief.” 473 U.S. at 167 n.14, 105 S.Ct.
at 3106 n.14 (citation omitted).
Based upon the official capacity language contained in Monell and Kentucky v.
Graham, the Middle District of Alabama, in B.I. v. Montgomery County Board of Education,
750 F.Supp.2d 1280, 1283 (2010), stated that it was treating plaintiffs’ IDEA suit against
the Superintendents of the Montgomery County Board of Education and the Alabama
Department of Education in their official capacities as claims against the Montgomery
County Board of Education and the Alabama Department of Education, respectively. In
that case, in addition to suing the Superintendents in their official capacities, the
plaintiffs also, in the style (and body) of their complaint, sued the Montgomery Board of
Education and the Alabama Department of Education. See id. at 1280. Ultimately, the
Court in B.I. dismissed, without prejudice, plaintiffs’ claims against the individual
superintendents in their official capacities and stated that the case would proceed
against the Montgomery County Board of Education. Id. at 1286.
In light of the foregoing, the undersigned recommends that the Court proceed in
the manner set out hereinafter. First, there can be no doubt that the Demopolis City
Board of Education received notice and an opportunity to respond inasmuch as
concurrent with the filing of the instant motion to dismiss an answer was filed by the
Board (Doc. 3). The real party in interest in this case, as recognized by all (see Docs. 4, 7
& 8), is the Demopolis City Board of Education. Indeed, other than in its style, the
complaint refers to the Board as the defendant. (See Doc. 1.) And while the style of the
complaint—“Robert Alvin Griffin, Superintendent of and for the Demopolis City Board
of Education”—certainly suggests that which plaintiff has now made explicit (Doc. 7),
that is, that only official capacity claims are being made against Griffin, cf. Jordan v.
Randolph County Schools, 2009 WL 1410082, *1 (M.D. Ga. May 19, 2009) (observing that it
appeared, based on the style of the complaint, that plaintiffs were making official
capacity claims against the individual defendants in stating that the individuals were
being sued in their “capacities” as Chair of the Randolph County Board of Education, as
Superintendent of Randolph County School District, and as Principal of Randolph Clay
High School), the undersigned is having a conceptual problem with plaintiff’s failure to
include the Demopolis City Board of Education in the style of the instant complaint2
particularly given the Supreme Court’s clear language in Kentucky v. Graham that
“[t]here is no longer a need to bring official-capacity actions against local government
officials[.]” Id. at 167 n.14, 105 S.Ct. at 2106 n.14. Thus, while plaintiff technically may be
correct that “[b]ringing an action against Robert Alvin Griffin in his official capacity as
the superintendent of and for the Demopolis City Board of Education is a way of
pleading an action against the Demopolis City Board of Education” (Doc. 7, at 4),
because there is no longer any need to bring such an official-capacity suit the
undersigned recommends that this Court simply substitute, in the style of this matter,
the real party defendant in interest, the Demopolis City Board of Education, for Robert
Indeed, the undersigned has not come across any IDEA case in which the local
school entity has not been listed as a defendant in the style of the action.
Alvin Griffin and dismiss Griffin from this action, as any claims against Griffin in his
official capacity would be redundant to those asserted against the Board.
Based upon the foregoing, the Magistrate Judge recommends that the Court
substitute, in the style of this matter, the real party defendant in interest, the Demopolis
City Board of Education, for Robert Alvin Griffin and GRANT Griffin’s motion to
dismiss (Doc. 4).
The instructions which follow the undersigned’s signature contain important
information regarding objections to the report and recommendation of the Magistrate
DONE this the 29th day of February, 2012.
s/WILLIAM E. CASSADY
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S EXPLANATION OF PROCEDURAL RIGHTS AND
RESPONSIBILITIES FOLLOWING RECOMMENDATION, AND
FINDINGS CONCERNING NEED FOR TRANSCRIPT
Objection. Any party who objects to this recommendation or anything in it must, within fourteen
(14) days of the date of service of this document, file specific written objections with the Clerk of this
court. Failure to do so will bar a de novo determination by the district judge of anything in the
recommendation and will bar an attack, on appeal, of the factual findings of the Magistrate Judge. See 28
U.S.C. ' 636(b)(1)(C); Lewis v. Smith, 855 F.2d 736, 738 (11th Cir. 1988); Nettles v. Wainwright, 677
F.2d 404 (5th Cir. Unit B, 1982)(en banc). The procedure for challenging the findings and
recommendations of the Magistrate Judge is set out in more detail in SD ALA LR 72.4 (June 1, 1997),
which provides that:
A party may object to a recommendation entered by a magistrate judge in a dispositive
matter, that is, a matter excepted by 28 U.S.C. ' 636(b)(1)(A), by filing a >Statement of
Objection to Magistrate Judge=s Recommendation= within ten days3 after being served
with a copy of the recommendation, unless a different time is established by order. The
statement of objection shall specify those portions of the recommendation to which
objection is made and the basis for the objection. The objecting party shall submit to the
district judge, at the time of filing the objection, a brief setting forth the party=s arguments
that the magistrate judge=s recommendation should be reviewed de novo and a different
disposition made. It is insufficient to submit only a copy of the original brief submitted
to the magistrate judge, although a copy of the original brief may be submitted or referred
to and incorporated into the brief in support of the objection. Failure to submit a brief in
support of the objection may be deemed an abandonment of the objection.
A magistrate judge's recommendation cannot be appealed to a Court of Appeals; only the district
judge's order or judgment can be appealed.
Transcript (applicable Where Proceedings Tape Recorded). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ' 1915 and
FED.R.CIV.P. 72(b), the Magistrate Judge finds that the tapes and original records in this case are
adequate for purposes of review. Any party planning to object to this recommendation, but unable to pay
the fee for a transcript, is advised that a judicial determination that transcription is necessary is required
before the United States will pay the cost of the transcript.
Effective December 1, 2009, the time for filing written objections was extended to
“14 days after being served with a copy of the recommended disposition[.]” Fed.R.Civ.P.
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