133 F.3d 1054 (7th Cir. 1998), 97-2457, Duda v. Board of Educ. of Franklin Park Public School Dist. No. 84

Docket Nº:97-2457.
Citation:133 F.3d 1054
Party Name:John DUDA, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF FRANKLIN PARK PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT No. 84, John Barry, Dan Pietrini, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:January 16, 1998
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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Page 1054

133 F.3d 1054 (7th Cir. 1998)

John DUDA, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

BOARD OF EDUCATION OF FRANKLIN PARK PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT

No. 84, John Barry, Dan Pietrini, et al.,

Defendants-Appellees.

No. 97-2457.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

January 16, 1998

Argued Dec. 3, 1997.

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Margo L. Ely (argued), Oak Brook, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Michael A. Warner, Jr. (argued), Franczek, Sullivan, Mann, Crement, Hein & Relias, Chicago, IL, for Defendants-Appellees.

Before WOOD, JR., RIPPLE and DIANE P. WOOD, Circuit Judges.

RIPPLE, Circuit Judge.

John Duda filed a complaint against his employer, the Board of Education of Franklin Park Public School District No. 84 ("School District"), and certain administrative and custodial employees of the School District. The complaint alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, violations of his constitutional right to privacy. The district court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint. For the reasons set forth in the following opinion, we reverse the judgment of the district court and remand for further proceedings.

I

BACKGROUND

  1. The Allegations of the Complaint

    This case is before the court on appeal from the district court's grant of judgment on the pleadings. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In reviewing the district court's ruling, therefore, we must take the allegations in the pleadings as true.

    Prior to this litigation, John Duda had been a night custodian at the junior high school for eight years. The defendants knew that he had been diagnosed by a psychiatrist as a manic depressive with bipolar disorder and as a recovering alcoholic; they knew as well that he took medication to stabilize his depressive condition. On his work breaks, when Mr. Duda felt anxious or depressed, he often would write private thoughts in his diary. One night his coworkers on the custodial staff seized the diary and read his personal thoughts. Then they copied pages of the diary and gave them to the junior high school principal and other administrators and coworkers. 1 When the School District officials

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    read Mr. Duda's diary, they told him to leave the school premises until he received a "clean bill of health" from his doctor. That same day Mr. Duda saw his psychiatrist and obtained a note from him indicating that he was stable and could return to work. When the school officials required further independent psychiatric evaluation, Mr. Duda submitted the evaluations of two other psychiatrists indicating that he was stable, could return to work and was no danger to anyone.

    The defendants imposed other conditions on Mr. Duda before allowing him to return to work: He was required to continue attending Alcoholic's Anonymous and counseling and to keep taking his medication; moreover, he was to notify the Superintendent of the School District if any changes were made in his medication or counseling. In addition, the School District demanded that he refrain from all discussion about his diary with coworkers. Before he returned to work, Mr. Duda also was told that it would be tense and uncomfortable for him to return to the junior high school with his coworkers there. He was strongly encouraged to transfer to another school at which he would work alone. When he did transfer to the elementary school with no other custodians, Mr. Duda was told not to have conversations with others at the school. Finally, when he expressed an interest in applying for a better position, a bus driver/custodian opening, he was told not to apply because of the incident involving the diary.

    Mr. Duda claims that the ADA was violated because the School District segregated him from others at the school and told him not to apply for the bus driver job. In addition, Mr. Duda brought claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his constitutional rights were violated by the unreasonable search and seizure of his diary and the invasion of his privacy by the reading of his diary. He also alleged supplemental state claims grounded in the same actions of the defendants.

  2. The Decision of the District Court

    The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint or, in the alternative, to strike the claim for punitive damages. The district court ordered Mr. Duda to answer that motion. Instead of answering the pending motion, however, Mr. Duda filed a first amended complaint and a motion for leave to file it. The district court denied the motion to file the amended complaint, struck the amended complaint and gave Mr. Duda an additional 15 days in which to reply to the pending motion to dismiss. Mr. Duda then replied to the motion to dismiss. Notably, although he addressed the substance of the motion, he also requested specifically that the court grant him leave to amend the complaint if the court were to determine that the allegations in the initial complaint were insufficient. The district court granted the motion to dismiss the complaint. It did not address specifically the issue of the amended complaint in its order.

    Focusing exclusively on the initial complaint, the district court held that Mr. Duda had failed to state a claim under the ADA. The court turned to the § 1983 charges Mr. Duda raised and found them legally infirm on several grounds. The action was then dismissed in its entirety.

    II

    DISCUSSION

  3. Denial of Leave to Amend the Complaint

    Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure gives a plaintiff the right to amend his complaint before a responsive pleading is served. The rule clearly provides that a plaintiff "may amend his pleading once as a matter of course at any time before a responsive pleading is served." A responsive

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    pleading 2 does not include a motion to dismiss. See Camp v. Gregory, 67 F.3d 1286, 1289 (7th Cir.1995), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 116 S.Ct. 2498, 135 L.Ed.2d 190 (1996). 3 Once an amended pleading is filed, it supersedes the prior pleading. See Wellness Community-National v. Wellness House, 70 F.3d 46, 49 (7th Cir.1995); Barnett v. Daley, 32 F.3d 1196, 1198 (7th Cir.1994). "The prior pleading is in effect withdrawn as to all matters not restated in the amended pleading, and becomes functus officio." Fuhrer v. Fuhrer, 292 F.2d 140, 144 (7th Cir.1961). 4

    Here, although a responsive pleading had not been filed, the district court denied Mr. Duda's request for leave to amend the complaint and struck the amended complaint without making, as far as the record reflects, an independent assessment of its merits. This action was contrary to well established law. The amended complaint became, upon its submission, the operative complaint in the case; the original filing no longer controlled the litigation. The district court's assessment of that original pleading therefore cannot control the disposition of the defendants' motion.

    Rather than simply reverse the judgment and remand the case to the district court, considerations of judicial economy counsel that we scrutinize the amended complaint at this stage of the proceedings and determine its viability. The standards that must guide our inquiry are well established. In evaluating the sufficiency of the amended complaint, we must take the allegations stated in that document as true and must sustain that complaint if any facts that might be established within those allegations would permit a judgment for the plaintiff. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 101-02, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957). In assessing the averments of a complaint, we must remember, moreover, that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are based on the concept of notice pleading. It is sufficient if the complaint adequately notifies the defendants of the nature of the cause of action. Id. at 48, 78 S.Ct. at 103. As the Supreme Court has recently reminded us, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not permit us to demand a greater level of specificity except in those instances in which the Rules specifically provide for more detailed elaboration. See Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 168, 113 S.Ct. 1160, 1163, 122 L.Ed.2d 517 (1993). We emphasize that our task here is to pass on the adequacy of the amended complaint. We need not rule--and specifically

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    do not rule--on the correctness of the district court's perceptions of inadequacy in the initial pleading. With these principles in mind, we now turn to an examination of the amended complaint.

  4. The ADA Allegations

    We turn first to Count I of the amended complaint; it alleges a violation of the ADA.

    1. The Americans with Disabilities Act, codified at 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-213, provides "a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities." 42 U.S.C. § 12101(b)(1). The federal legislation, which took effect in July 1992, prohibits an employer's discrimination "against a qualified individual with a disability because of the disability of...

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