Collins v. Parker et al
ORDER granting in part and denying in part 5 Motion to Dismiss. Signed by Judge James M. Moody on 8/2/11. (kpr)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
AND THE ARKANSAS
Pending is the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff has responded. Plaintiff has also
filed an Amended Complaint with the Court’s approval. For the reasons set forth below, the
Motion is denied in part and granted in part.
Plaintiff, an African-American male, filed suit on April 1, 2011 against the Defendant
Arkansas Department of Corrections (“ADC”) for discrimination and retaliation under Title VII
of the Civil Rights Act of 1963 and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1981. In addition, Plaintiff alleges
that Defendant Robert Parker (“Parker”), in his individual and official capacity, discriminated
against him in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1981. In his Complaint, Plaintiff specifically
states that he performed his job well, he was unjustly accused of falsifying documents and was
terminated by Parker. He states that the accusations occurred after Plaintiff testified in a
deposition. Plaintiff contends that similarly situated Caucasians were not treated in this manner.
According to the Complaint, Plaintiff grieved his termination and was reinstated. Plaintiff filed a
timely Charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) citing retaliation
and racial discrimination and received a right to sue letter on February 14, 2011.
The Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss arguing that the case should be dismissed
because (1) the Eleventh Amendment bars suit against the ADC and Parker in his official
capacity; (2) the Complaint does not state sufficient facts as required by Rule 8(a)(2); and (3)
Parker is entitled to qualified immunity.
The United States Supreme Court recently clarified the standard to be applied when
deciding a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). “While a complaint attacked by a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a 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. Id. at 1964-65 (citing
Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 508, n. 1, 122 S.Ct. 992, 152 L.Ed.2d 1 (2002);
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 104 L.Ed.2d 338 (1989) (“Rule 12(b)(6)
does not countenance ... dismissals based on a judge's disbelief of a complaint's factual
allegations”); Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974) (a
well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it appears “that a recovery is very remote and
unlikely”)). Although “[g]reat precision is not required of the pleadings,” the complaint should
state how, when, and where the cause of action occurred. Gregory v. Dillard’s Inc., 494 F.3d
694, 710 (8th Cir. 2007). “So, when the allegations in a complaint, however true, could not raise
a claim of entitlement to relief, this basic deficiency should . . . be exposed at the point of
minimum expenditure of time and money by the parties and the court.” Bell Atlantic, 127 S.Ct. at
1966 (internal citations omitted).
Eleventh Amendment Immunity
Defendants ask that Plaintiff’s claims under § 1983 against the ADC and Parker, in his
official capacity, be dismissed because they are barred by sovereign immunity and because these
defendants are not considered “persons” under § 1983. Section 1983 claims against the State of
Arkansas and its agencies are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Murphy v. State of Ark., 127
F.3d 750, 754 (8th Cir. 1997) (citing Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 99 S.Ct. 1139, 59 L.Ed.2d
358 (1979); Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 98 S.Ct. 3057, 57 L.Ed.2d 1114 (1978)).
Therefore, Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s § 1983 claim against the ADC is
Damage claims against individual defendants in their official capacities are also barred,
either by the Eleventh Amendment or because in these capacities they are not “persons” within
the meaning of § 1983. Murphy, 127 F.3d at 754 (citing Will v. Michigan Dept. Of State Police,
491 U.S. 58, 109 S.Ct. 2304, 105 L.Ed.2d 45 (1989)). However, when sued for prospective
injunctive relief, state officials in their official capacities are considered “persons” under § 1983,
and such relief is not barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Murphy, 127 F.3d at 754 (citing
Treleven v. University of Minn., 73 F.3d 816, 819 (8th Cir. 1996)). Therefore, Defendants’
Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s § 1983 claim for injunctive relief against Parker in his official
capacities is DENIED, and Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s § 1983 claims for damages
against Parker in his official capacity is GRANTED.
Sufficiency of the Complaint
The Court finds that the Plaintiff has stated sufficient facts to put the Defendants on
notice of the claims made against them.
Defendants argue that Parker is entitled to qualified immunity and the claims against him
should be dismissed. A two-part analysis is undertaken to determine whether an official is
entitled to qualified immunity. Clemmons v. Armontrout, 477 F.3d 962, 965 (8th Cir. 2007).
The threshold question asks whether the alleged facts demonstrate that the official’s conduct
violated a constitutional right. Id. (citing Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201, 121 S.Ct. 2151,
150 L.Ed.2d 272 (2001)). If the plaintiff meets this standard, the second step is to ask whether
this right was clearly established. Id. (citing Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201, 121 S.Ct. 2151,
150 L.Ed.2d 272 (2001)).
Plaintiff alleges that Parker unjustly accused him of falsifying documents and terminated
his employment because he is an African-American. Although Parker was reinstated, he
suffered a suspension of his employment and has allegedly been subject to disparate treatment in
retaliation for his complaints of discrimination. Taking Plaintiff’s allegations as true, as required
at this point in the litigation, Plaintiff has stated a constitutional violation by Parker.
As to the second part of the analysis, the Court finds that “[t]he constitutional right to be
free from [racial] discrimination is so well established and so essential to the preservation of our
constitutional order that all public officials must be charged with knowledge of it.” Goodwin v.
Circuit Court of St. Louis County, 729 F.2d 541, 546 (8th Cir. 1984). Therefore, the Court finds
that Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss the § 1983 claim against Parker on qualified immunity
grounds must be DENIED.
Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (Docket # 5) is DENIED as to Plaintiff’s § 1983 claim
for injunctive relief against Parker in his official capacities, GRANTED as to Plaintiff’s § 1983
claims for damages against Parker in his official capacity, and GRANTED as to Plaintiff’s §
1983 claim against the ADC. The remaining issues presented in the Motion to Dismiss are
IT IS SO ORDERED this 2nd day of August, 2011.
James M. Moody
United States District Judge
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