Casiano–Montañez v. State Ins. Fund Corp., Civil No. 11–1002 (DRD).

CourtUnited States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
Writing for the CourtDANIEL R. DOMÍNGUEZ
Citation852 F.Supp.2d 177
PartiesNancy CASIANO–MONTAÑEZ, et al., Plaintiffs, v. STATE INSURANCE FUND CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date05 March 2012
Docket NumberCivil No. 11–1002 (DRD).

852 F.Supp.2d 177

Nancy CASIANO–MONTAÑEZ, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
STATE INSURANCE FUND CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.

Civil No. 11–1002 (DRD).

United States District Court,
D. Puerto Rico.

March 5, 2012.


[852 F.Supp.2d 178]


Celina Romany–Siaca, Celina Romany Law Office, San Juan, PR, for Plaintiffs.

Pedro A. Delgado–Hernandez, O'Neill & Borges, Yadhira M. Rodriguez–Quinones, Vanessa D. Bonano–Rodriguez, Department of Justice, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, San Juan, PR, for Defendants.


OPINION AND ORDER

DANIEL R. DOMÍNGUEZ, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) filed on May 9, 2011 (Docket No. 10), and Supplemental Motion to Dismiss filed on October 13, 2011 (Docket No. 22).

Plaintiffs seek injunctive and equitable relief under Sections 1983 and 1988 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988, for allegedly being victims of political discrimination, for violations of their due process rights secured under the First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution of the United States of America, the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; and for violations of Articles 1802 and 1803 of the Puerto Rico Civil Code, 31 L.P.R.A. §§ 5141 and 5142.

In their motion to dismiss, Defendants contend that Plaintiffs' complaint fails to allege specific acts necessary to sustain a claim for political discrimination pursuant to the applicable pleading standards of Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). In Defendants' supplemental motion to dismiss, Defendants request this Court's abstention under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971) as Plaintiffs all filed voluntarily administrative appeals before the Board of Appeals of the State Insurance Fund Corporation (“Board”) which are currently pending before the Board.

For the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED based on the supplemented motion. Consequently, the instant case is hereby DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE based on the

[852 F.Supp.2d 179]

Younger abstention, as further explained herein.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs were all employees of the State Insurance Fund Corporation (“Corporation”), offering medical and/or non-medical services at various locations operated and/or administered by the Corporation throughout Puerto Rico.1 On January of 2010, Plaintiffs received letters of intent from the Corporation notifying them individually of their dismissal (in the case of Plaintiffs Casiano and Soto) and of the demotion of their most recent promotion and reinstatement to the former position held (in the case of the remaining ten (10) Plaintiffs, to wit: Reyes–Vargas, Torres–González, Reyes–Ramos, Espino, Torres–Escribano, Custodio, Villegas, Rosa, Otero and Santiago) (“Employment Actions”). The reason stated in the letters of intent for the Employment Actions was that their current positions at the Corporation were declared null 2 as a result of an audit of personnel transactions made in the period of 2001 thru 2008. The Employment Actions were confirmed and became effective between March 31, 2010 and August 18, 2010. (Docket No. 1).

Thereafter, Plaintiffs requested informal administrative hearings to challenge the Employment Actions taken by the Corporation. The Corporation upheld the nullity of Plaintiffs' appointments and the Employment Actions taken against Plaintiffs.

As a result, Plaintiffs all voluntarily filed administrative appeals before the Board to challenge the Corporation's determination of nullity of their positions and the Employment Actions. Those appeals are currently pending resolution. The Board has not issued to this date a final resolution on any of the appeals.

On January 4, 2011, before having any final adjudication of their administrative appeals, Plaintiffs filed a complaint in this Court stating, in general, that the Employment Actions taken by the Corporation were based on political discrimination because Plaintiffs were all known activists and sympathizers of the Popular Democratic Party (“PPD,” for its Spanish acronym) and Defendants were all affiliated with the New Progressive Party (“PNP,” for its Spanish acronym). (Docket No. 1). The Defendants are: (1) the Corporation; (2) Zoimé Alvarez Rubio, her husband, José Ignacio Cobián, and the Conjugal Partnership Composed by both individuals (co-defendant Zoimé Alvarez Rubio is sued in her official capacity as Administrator of the Corporation, and in her individual capacity); (3) Saúl Rivera Rivera, his wife, Jane Doe, and the Conjugal Partnership Composed by both individuals (co-defendant Saúl Rivera Rivera is sued in his official capacity as Associate Director of the Human Resources Office of the Corporation, and in his individual capacity); (4) Jorge García Ortiz, his wife, X, and the Conjugal Partnership Composed by both individuals (co-defendant Jorge García Ortiz

[852 F.Supp.2d 180]

is sued in his official capacity as Executive Director of the Industrial Hospital of the Corporation, and in his individual capacity); and (5) Ernesto Santiago Sayas, his wife, Y, and the Conjugal Partnership Composed by both individuals (co-defendant Ernesto Santiago Sayas is sued in his official capacity as Administrator of the Industrial Hospital of the Corporation, and in his individual capacity).

On May 9, 2011, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss alleging that Plaintiffs' complaint: (1) includes unsupported conclusory statements of the causes of action claimed therein; (2) does not allege specific acts necessary to prove a prima facie case of political discrimination, specifically that Plaintiffs failed to allege that each of the Defendants had specific knowledge of each Plaintiffs' political affiliation, or that Defendants had opposing affiliations to those of Plaintiffs; 3 and (3) does not state factual allegations to distinguish the equal protection claim from their political discrimination claims.

On May 26, 2011, Plaintiffs filed their opposition to Defendants' motion to dismiss (Docket No. 14) re-alleging the charges included in the complaint. Specifically, Plaintiffs argue that Defendants “were fully aware” of Plaintiffs' political affiliation with the PPD because “knowledge of political affiliation is commonplace within the walls of the SFIC” (Docket No. 14, pages 6 and 7) (emphasis in original), without offering factual information or actual details as to how Defendants came about such knowledge, particularly when Plaintiffs' were working at nine different locations throughout Puerto Rico.4 (Docket No. 1).

On October 13, 2011, Defendants filed a supplemental motion to dismiss (Docket No. 22) requesting that this Court dismisses the instant action under the Younger abstention doctrine because there are pending state administrative proceedings before the Board concerning the issues and the parties of the instant complaint. (Docket Nos. 22 and 22–1). Defendants further contend that the Court should apply the same standard and analysis of Dávila Feliciano v. Puerto Rico State Insurance Fund, 818 F.Supp.2d 482 (D.P.R.2011) because, as was the situation in Dávila Feliciano, Plaintiffs' administrative appeals are currently pending resolution before the Board.

On November 4, 2011, Plaintiffs filed their opposition to the supplemental motion to dismiss (Docket No. 25), alleging that the Younger abstention doctrine is not applicable to the case at hand, that even when “some plaintiffs” challenged the nullity and legality of the Corporation's Employment Actions, the “Board lacks jurisdiction to hear and address political discrimination claims;” that the Board's “only express delegation of power

[852 F.Supp.2d 181]

to address political discrimination cases would be ... limited to employment separation during the probationary period;” and that this Court is the exclusive forum that Plaintiffs have to present their claims of political discrimination under the U.S. Constitution. (Docket No. 25) (emphasis in original).

II. MOTION TO DISMISS

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires plaintiffs to provide “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Under Twombly, supra, a plaintiff must “provide the grounds of his entitlement [with] more than labels and conclusions.” Thus, a plaintiff must now present allegations that “nudge [her] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible” in order to comply with the requirement of Rule 8(a). Id. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955;see e.g.Iqbal, Supra.

When considering a motion to dismiss, the Court's inquiry occurs in a two-step process under the current context-based “plausibility” standard established by Twombly and Iqbal, supra. “Context based” means that a Plaintiff must allege sufficient facts that comply with the basic elements of the cause of action. SeeIqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949–1950 (concluding that plaintiff's complaint was factually insufficient to substantiate the required elements of a Bivens claim, leaving the complaint with only conclusory statements). First, the Court must “accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint [,]” discarding legal conclusions, conclusory statements and factually threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action. Maldonado v. Fontanes, 568 F.3d 263, 268 (1st Cir.2009) (quoting Iqbal,supra ) (internal quotation omitted).

Under the second step of the inquiry, the Court must determine whether, based upon all assertions that were not discarded under the first step of the inquiry, the complaint “states a plausible claim for relief.” Id. This second step is “context-specific” and requires that the Court draw from its own “judicial experience and common sense” to decide whether a plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief may be granted, or, conversely, whether dismissal under...

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1 practice notes
  • Casiano–Montañez v. State Ins. Fund Corp., No. 12–1453.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • February 7, 2013
    ...401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971), and dismissed the plaintiffs' claims. Casiano–Montañez v. State Ins. Fund Corp., 852 F.Supp.2d 177, 182 (D.P.R.2012). The Corporation's decision to nullify the appointments made pursuant to internal hiring calls has spawned numerous other la......
1 cases
  • Casiano–Montañez v. State Ins. Fund Corp., No. 12–1453.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • February 7, 2013
    ...401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971), and dismissed the plaintiffs' claims. Casiano–Montañez v. State Ins. Fund Corp., 852 F.Supp.2d 177, 182 (D.P.R.2012). The Corporation's decision to nullify the appointments made pursuant to internal hiring calls has spawned numerous other la......

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