747 F.2d 1062 (6th Cir. 1984), 83-3421, Lee v. Western Reserve Psychiatric Habilitation Center

Docket Nº:83-3421.
Citation:747 F.2d 1062
Party Name:George T. LEE, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. WESTERN RESERVE PSYCHIATRIC HABILITATION CENTER and David A. Sorensen, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:November 06, 1984
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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747 F.2d 1062 (6th Cir. 1984)

George T. LEE, Plaintiff-Appellant,



Sorensen, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 83-3421.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

November 6, 1984

Argued May 7, 1984.

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George W. Spittal, argued, Akron, Ohio, for plaintiff-appellant.

Deborah A. Piperni, Asst. Atty. Gen., argued, Columbus, Ohio, for defendants-appellees.

Before EDWARDS and JONES, Circuit Judges, and PHILLIPS, Senior Circuit Judge.

NATHANIEL R. JONES, Circuit Judge.

The plaintiff, George T. Lee, appeals from the district court's dismissal of his civil rights complaint arising under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. Upon consideration of the issues presented by this appeal, we affirm the judgment of the district court.


The plaintiff was discharged from his position as a probationary employee at Western Reserve Psychiatric Habilitation Center (Western Reserve), a State facility for the mentally ill, after being accused of engaging in oral sex with a patient there. The plaintiff alleged that he was denied due process because he was discharged "without a hearing in which he could have cross-examined witnesses and called witnesses and done so before an impartial decision maker."

On February 23, 1983 the plaintiff received a letter from David Sorensen, Western Reserve's Superintendent. The letter contained the allegation that the plaintiff had engaged in oral sex with a patient while working at Western Reserve. The plaintiff appeared before the Patient Abuse Committee on February 24, 1983 to answer questions concerning this allegation, but he was not given the opportunity to call and cross-examine witnesses or to be represented by counsel. As a result of its inquiry, the Patient Abuse Committee determined that the plaintiff had, in fact, engaged in oral sex with one of the patients. David Sorensen informed the plaintiff of the Committee's findings and the plaintiff was discharged three days later.

The plaintiff thereafter initiated this action in the district court under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. He sought a permanent injunction enjoining Western Reserve and David A. Sorensen from discharging employees without first giving them an opportunity to be heard and represented by counsel along

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with the right to call and cross-examine witnesses, and the right to present one's case before an impartial decision maker. The plaintiff also requested compensatory and punitive damages, declaratory relief, reinstatement, and attorney's fees.

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss based upon three grounds. First, they contended that the district court lacked jurisdiction over the case because the State of Ohio had not consented to the suit. Accordingly, the defendants claimed that the suit was barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Second, the defendants moved to dismiss the case pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Third, defendant Sorensen contended that the suit should be dismissed with respect to him for insufficiency of service of process. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(d). The district court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss, in part, because of the Eleventh Amendment, but primarily for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The district court found the third ground without merit. This appeal follows.


In cases involving the dismissal of a complaint, the complaint is to be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and its allegations taken as true. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974). The complaint should not be dismissed unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957).

  1. Eleventh Amendment

    The plaintiff concedes that the defendants are state entities and that his request for compensatory and punitive damages against the defendants is barred by the Eleventh Amendment. He contends, however, that an award of injunctive or declaratory relief would not violate the Eleventh Amendment. The Eleventh Amendment, which grants sovereign immunity to states under certain circumstances, provides:

    The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.

    Despite its limited language, the Supreme Court in Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1, 10 S.Ct. 504, 33 L.Ed. 842 (1890), held that the Eleventh Amendment bars a federal court from entertaining a suit brought by a citizen against his own State. Furthermore, it is well-settled that a suit may be barred by the Eleventh Amendment even though a state official rather than the State itself is the named party. Ford Motor Co. v. Department of Treasury, 323 U.S. 459, 65 S.Ct. 347, 89 L.Ed. 389 (1945). As the Court in Ford Motor stated:

    [W]hen the action is in essence one for the recovery of money from the state, the state is the real, substantial party in interest and is entitled to invoke its sovereign immunity from suit even though individual officials are nominal defendants.

    323 U.S. at 464, 65 S.Ct. at 350. As a general rule, therefore, the Eleventh Amendment bars an action against a state...

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