United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Savannah Division
DR. LAVERNE HALLIBURTON, Plaintiff,
LIBERTY COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT; DR. JUDY SCHERER, individually; DR. FRANKLIN PERRY, individually and in his 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.
WILLIAM T. MOORE, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs
Second Amended Complaint. (Doc. 2 9.) For the following
reasons, Defendants' motion is GRANTED IN
PART and DENIED IN PART.
case stems from the Superintendent of Defendant Liberty
County School District's decision not to recommend
renewal of Plaintiffs contract as principal. Plaintiff
LaVerne Halliburton claims she faced racial discrimination in
her workplace.In July 2006, Plaintiff was hired as a
principal by the Liberty County School District. (Doc. 28 at
¶ 14.) Plaintiff, while employed as a principal,
received satisfactory evaluations and earned $108, 000.00 a
year plus fringe benefits. (Id. at ¶ 15.)
Plaintiff alleges that during a meeting around March 2011,
Defendant Dr. Judy Burton Scherer, the then Superintendent of
the Liberty County School District, made a recommendation to
the school board to not renew Plaintiff's employment
contract. (Id. at 18.) The recommendation was not
acted upon during the March 2011 meeting, but Defendant
Scherer allegedly made a second recommendation to not renew
Plaintiffs employment contract during a meeting on or about
April 14, 2011. (Id.) The recommendation of
Defendant Scherer was defeated by a four-to-three vote of the
board members, with all four of the black board members
voting against the recommendation and all three of the white
board members voting to approve the recommendation.
(Id.) Plaintiff alleges that after Defendant
Scherer's recommendation was unsuccessful, Defendant
Scherer "illegally and without legal authority attempted
to unilaterally, and on her own accord, non-renew the
contract of Plaintiff/Petitioner even though she did not have
the legal authority under Georgia law to do so."
(Id. at ¶ 19.)
contends that her termination was due to her complaints to
Defendant Scherer about the job performance of her white
assistant principal and that her non-renewal was directly
related to Plaintiffs exercise of her First Amendment rights.
(Id. at ¶ 20.) Plaintiff also states that
Defendant Scherer allowed white employees to undermine her
authority and position as principal. (Id. at ¶
21.) After Plaintiff was terminated, her position was filled
by a white person and Plaintiff s white assistant principal
was transferred rather than terminated or non-renewed.
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. (Doc. 1, Attach. 2 9.) However, the
Georgia Court of Appeals reversed that decision in part and
dismissed the claims against Defendant Liberty County School
District ("LCSD") and the individual Defendants, in
their official capacities. (Doc. 1, Attach. 46.) In response,
Plaintiff filed an amended complaint in superior court. (Doc.
1, 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. at 11 4-7 (including both
paragraphs number 6).)
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.) Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the
amended complaint (Doc. 4), which this Court denied. (Doc. 2
6.) Due to the exceedingly poor nature of the amended
complaint, this Court dismissed Plaintiffs amended complaint
and directed Plaintiff to file a new amended complaint. (Doc.
26 at 10.) Plaintiff filed her second amended complaint on
April 19, 2018 (Doc. 28) and Defendants have now moved to
dismiss the second amended complaint (Doc. 29).
second amended complaint, Plaintiff brings six counts against
Defendants, four of which are state law claims and two of
which are federal claims. (Doc. 28 at ¶ 2.) Plaintiff
specified in paragraphs 6-13 that Defendants Scherer, Baker,
Anderson, Carter, Frasier, Guyett, Jones, and Woods are being
sued in their individual capacities for the state law claims
and in their individual and official capacities for the
federal law claims. (Id. at ¶¶
6-13.) First, in Count I, Plaintiff claims
that Defendants' actions in stigmatizing Plaintiff during
the non-renewal and/or termination process and foreclosing
employment opportunities in other school systems violated her
rights under the Constitution of the State of Georgia.
(Id. at ¶¶ 23-24.) In Count II, Plaintiff
claims that Defendants discriminated against her on the basis
of race, in violation of the Constitution of the State of
Georgia. (Id. at ¶¶ 25-26.) In Count III,
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants tortuously interfered with
her employment relationship in violation of Georgia law.
(ld. at ¶¶ 27-28.) In Count IV, Plaintiff
claims that Defendants violated her rights of freedom of
speech, association, and affiliation under the Constitution
of the State of Georgia by "taking action" against
her "because of her political association and/or
affiliation." (Id. at ¶ 30.) In Count V,
Plaintiff claims Defendants discriminated and retaliated
against her on the basis of race in violation of 4 2 U.S.C.
§ 1981. (Id. at 33.) Finally, in Count VI,
Plaintiff brings 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims based on
violations of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment, violations of her right to due process and
"liberty interests," and violations of her First
Amendment rights of freedom of speech and association.
(Id. at ¶¶ 35-38.)
3, 2018, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 2 9.) In
their motion, Defendants contend that Plaintiffs state law
claims, Counts I, II, III, and IV, fail to state plausible
claims. (Doc. 29 at 7.) In regards to Plaintiff's federal
law claims, Defendants argue that both Count V and VI are
barred by the two-year statute of limitations. (Id.
response, Plaintiff argues that her state law claims are
properly before this Court because the Georgia Court of
Appeals found that "there was sufficient evidence for
claims based on racial discrimination to go forward" and
additionally argues that she has demonstrated a prima facie
case of racial discrimination. (Doc. 36 at 5, 7.) Plaintiff
does not otherwise respond to Defendants' arguments that
she has failed to state a claim in her state law claims. In
regards to her federal law claims, Plaintiff contends that
her claims are timely as they relate back to her original
complaint. (Id. at 8.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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 Metalled factual allegations,' but it demands
more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me
accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
67 8 (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).
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., 3 F.3d 1252, 1261 (11th Cir. 2009) (quotations
omitted) (quoting Iqbal, 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." Iqbal, 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.
the Court considers a motion to dismiss, it accepts the
well-pleaded facts in the complaint as true.
Sinaltrainal, 578 F.3d 12 52 at 12 60. 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 'does 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).
DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS
Plaintiff's State Law Claims (Counts I, II, III,
their Motion to Dismiss, Defendants contend that all of
Plaintiff s state law claims against the individual board
members should be dismissed because Plaintiff failed to
allege any facts tying specific claims to individual
defendants. (Doc. 29 at 8.) Defendants further contend that
all of Plaintiff's state law claims should be dismissed
because (1) Plaintiffs first count fails to state a claim,
(2) Plaintiffs second count fails to state a claim because
Plaintiff did not allege facts that she was not treated like
similarly-situated individuals, (3) Plaintiffs third count is
vague and fails to allege facts that renders the claim
plausible under Iqbal, and (4) Plaintiffs fourth
state law claim fails to state a claim. (Id. at
8-11.) Additionally, Defendants state in a footnote that
Defendant Scherer cannot be party to this action because she
has passed away. (Doc. 29 at 8.) Each of these arguments will
be addressed in turn.
Failure to allege facts against specific Defendants
Plaintiff claims that the individual board members violated
her constitutional rights and tortuously interfered with her
right to contract, Defendants contend that these claims must
be dismissed because Plaintiff "does not point to one
single act on the part of a Board Member, acting
individually, which supports these claims." (Doc. 29 at
8.) Plaintiff has named as Defendants in this action the
members of the Liberty County School District's board of
education. Defendants Baker, Anderson, Carter, Frasier,
Guyett, Jones, and Hoods (the "Board Defendants")
are listed in the second amended complaint alongside
Defendant Scherer, however, Plaintiff includes sparse factual
allegations regarding these defendants. (Doc. 28 at ¶
introducing each of the Defendants, Plaintiff specifically
pled that Defendant Scherer (1) "participated in the
process which lead [sic] to the unlawful termination of
Plaintiff/Petitioner's employment," (2)
"participated in the retaliation against Plaintiff for
engaging in protected activity," and (3)
"participated in and caused the racially disparate
treatment of Plaintiff/Petitioner from similarly situated
white employees." (Id. at ¶ 6.) However,
Plaintiff does not include similarly specific ...