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Halliburton v. Liberty County School District

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division

March 29, 2018

DR. LAVERNE HALLIBURTON, Plaintiff,
v.
LIBERTY COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT; DR. JUDY SCHERER, individually and in her official capacity as Superintendent of the Liberty County School District; LILY H. BAKER, individually and in her official capacity as a Board Member of the Liberty County School District; MARCIA ANDERSON, individually and in her official capacity as a Board Member of the Liberty County School District; BECKY CARTER, individually and in her official capacity as a Board Member of the Liberty County School District; CHARLIE J. FRASIER, individually and in his official capacity as a Board Member of the Liberty County School District; CAROL GUYETT, individually and in her official capacity as a Board Member of the Liberty County School District; VERDELL JONES, individually and in his official capacity as a Board Member of the Liberty County School District; and HAROLD WOODS, individually and in his official capacity as a Board Member of the Liberty County School District; Defendants.

          ORDER

          WILLIAM T. MOORE, JR UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 4.) For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is DENIED. However, Plaintiff's amended complaint is DISMISSED. Plaintiff is DIRECTED to file an amended complaint within twenty-one days of the date of this order.

         BACKGROUND

         This case stems from the Superintendent of Defendant Liberty County School District's ("Defendant District") decision not to recommend renewal of Plaintiff's contract as principal. Plaintiff initially filed suit in the Superior Court of Liberty County alleging various state law claims. (Doc. 1, Attach. 26.) In a one-sentence order, the Superior Court denied Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (Id., Attach 29.) However, the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed that decision in part and dismissed the claims against Defendant District and the individual Defendants, in their official capacities. (Id., Attach. 4 6.)

         In response, Plaintiff filed an amended[1] complaint in Superior Court. (Id., Attach. 48.) The amended complaint alleged the same claims, including those previously dismissed, and added claims based on 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Id. ¶¶ 4-7 (including both paragraphs number 6).) Based on the inclusion of these federal claims, Defendants invoked this Court's federal question jurisdiction and removed the case to this Court. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff sought to remand this case on the basis that not all Defendants consented to removal. (Doc. 14.) This Court denied Plaintiff's Motion to Remand. (Doc. 21.)

         In their Motion to Dismiss, Defendants argue that Plaintiff is precluded from raising again those claims previously dismissed by the Superior Court and affirmed by the Georgia Court of Appeals. (Doc. 4 at 4-6.) Similarly, Defendants maintain that Plaintiff is precluded from raising the additional federal claims because she failed to raise them in the prior proceeding. (Id.) Finally, Defendants contend that Plaintiff's federal claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. (Id. at 6-8.)

         In response, Plaintiff advances a confusing argument that appears to reason that the Georgia Court of Appeals' decision was not a final order because it did not dispose of all her claims. (Doc. 16 at 3-6.) Therefore, Plaintiff believes that she was free to replead the dismissed claims and add completely new federal claims. (Id. at 5.) In addition, Plaintiff contends that her federal claims are timely because they relate back to her original complaint, which was filed within the statute of limitations. (Id. at 6-8.)

         ANALYSIS

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires a complaint to 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-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). "A pleading that offers "labels and conclusions' or a 'formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.' " Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders 'naked assertion [s]' devoid of 'further factual enhancement.' " Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557) (alteration in original).

         "To survive a 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.' " Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). For a claim to have facial plausibility, the plaintiff must plead factual content that "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Sinaltrainal v. Coca-Cola Co., 578 F.3d 1252, 1261 (11th Cir. 2009) (quotations omitted) (quoting Igbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Plausibility does not require probability, "but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Igbal, 556 U.S. at 678. "Where a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.' " Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Additionally, a complaint is sufficient only if it gives "fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Sinaltrainal, 578 F.3d at 1268 (quotations omitted) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555) .

         When the Court considers a motion to dismiss, it accepts the well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true. Sinaltrainal, 578 F.3d 1252 at 1260. However, this Court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Moreover, "unwarranted deductions of fact in a complaint are not admitted as true for the purpose of testing the sufficiency of [plaintiff's] allegations." Sinaltrainal, 578 F.3d at 1268 (citing Aldana v. Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A., Inc., 416 F.3d 1242, 1248 (11th Cir. 2005)). That is, "[t]he rule Moes not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, ' but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element." Watts v. Fla. Int'l Univ., 495 F.3d 1289, 1295-96 (11th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545).

         II. DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

         As an initial matter, the Court notes that the briefing in this case may very well be the absolute worst and useless this Court has ever had the misfortune to encounter. Neither parties' legal arguments, to the extent they can actually be deciphered, are anything near correct. Basically, the parties simply dumped some facts, along with some obfuscating case law, at the Court's feet and now expect this Court to do ...


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