Lugg v. Sutton, Case No. 18-1412

CourtUnited States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. Central District of Illinois
Writing for the CourtJames E. Shadid, Chief United States District Judge
Citation368 F.Supp.3d 1257
Docket NumberCase No. 18-1412
Decision Date20 February 2019
Parties Elizabeth Timmerman LUGG, Plaintiff, v. Lenford SUTTON, individually, and in his capacity as Chair, Department of Educational Administration and Foundations at Illinois State University; Board of Trustees of Illinois State University, an Agency of the State of Illinois; and Robert Churney, Robert Dobski, Rocco Donahue, Julie Annette Jones, Mary Ann Louderback, John Rauschenberger, Sharon Rossmark, and Sarah Aguilar, Student Trustees, in their capacity as the Board of Trustees of Illinois State University, Defendants.

368 F.Supp.3d 1257

Elizabeth Timmerman LUGG, Plaintiff,
v.
Lenford SUTTON, individually, and in his capacity as Chair, Department of Educational Administration and Foundations at Illinois State University; Board of Trustees of Illinois State University, an Agency of the State of Illinois; and Robert Churney, Robert Dobski, Rocco Donahue, Julie Annette Jones, Mary Ann Louderback, John Rauschenberger, Sharon Rossmark, and Sarah Aguilar, Student Trustees, in their capacity as the Board of Trustees of Illinois State University, Defendants.

Case No. 18-1412

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division.

Signed February 20, 2019


368 F.Supp.3d 1258

John F. Doak, Katz Nowinski PC, Moline, IL, for Plaintiff.

Nicholas A. Simpson, Monica Hersh Khetarpal, Jackson Lewis PC, Chicago, IL, for Defendants.

ORDER AND OPINION

James E. Shadid, Chief United States District Judge

This matter is now before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 4) filed by the Defendants, Lenford Sutton, individually, and in his capacity as Chair, Department of Educational Administration

368 F.Supp.3d 1259

and Foundations at Illinois State University ("Sutton"); the Board of Trustees of Illinois State University, an Agency of the State of Illinois ("the Board"); and Robert Churney, Robert Dobski, Rocco Donahue, Julie Annette Jones, Mary Ann Louderback, John Rauschenberger, Sharon Rossmark, and Sarah Aguilar, Student Trustees, in their capacity as the Board of Trustees of Illinois State University ("Board members") (referred to collectively as "Defendants"). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 4) is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

BACKGROUND

The Plaintiff, Elizabeth Timmerman Lugg ("Plaintiff"), is employed at Illinois State University as an Associate Professor of Education Law in the Educational Administration and Foundations Department within the College of Education. On October 2, 2018, she filed a Complaint in the Circuit Court of McLean County against Defendants alleging claims under the Illinois Ethics Act and Title VII. (Doc. 1-1).

In Count I of her Complaint, she alleges Sutton retaliated against her in violation of the Illinois Ethics Act ("Ethics Act"), 5 ILCS 430/15-10, after she complained of age and gender discrimination and assisted with a Title IX sexual misconduct claim. (Doc. 1-1, pp. 12-15). In Count II, she alleges the Board also retaliated against her in violation of the Ethics Act. Id. at 15-18. In Counts III and IV, she alleges the Board and the Board members, in their official capacities, discriminated and retaliated against her violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Id. at pp. 18-24.

On November 9, 2018, Defendants filed a Notice of Removal, and the case was assigned to this Court. (Doc. 1). The case was removed to this Court because Plaintiff raised substantial federal issues in her Complaint, namely her claims of gender discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e. Accordingly, this Court has original jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

On December 31, 2018, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss and moved to partially dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint with prejudice under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(1). This Opinion follows.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) authorizes dismissal of a complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(1). Dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is proper if a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, which when accepted as true, states a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Id. (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) ). A plaintiff's claim must "give enough details about the subject matter of the case to present a story that holds together" to be plausible. Swanson v. Citibank, N.A. , 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010). A court must draw all inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Bontkowski v. First Nat'l Bank of Cicero , 998 F.2d 459, 461 (7th Cir. 1993).

368 F.Supp.3d 1260

Statements in the complaint must be sufficient to provide the defendant with "fair notice." Appert v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Inc. , 673 F.3d 609, 622 (7th Cir. 2012). This means that (1) "the complaint must describe the claim in sufficient detail to give the defendant ‘fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests’ " and (2) "its allegations must plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a ‘speculative level.’ " E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Services, Inc. , 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (internal citations omitted).

When evaluating a motion to dismiss, courts must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint. Ashcroft , 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937. However, the court need not accept as true the complaint's legal conclusions; "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. , 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 ). Conclusory allegations are "not entitled to be assumed true." Ashcroft , 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. , 550 U.S. at 554-55, 127 S.Ct. 1955 ).

ANALYSIS

I. Count I ("Ethics Act – Lenford Sutton")

In Count I, Plaintiff alleges Sutton retaliated against her in violation of the Illinois Ethics Act, 5 ILCS 430/15-10 (the "Ethics Act"), after she engaged in "protected activity" by complaining of age and gender discrimination and by providing corroborating evidence in connection with a Title IX sexual misconduct claim. (Doc. 1-1, ¶ 51-67). Plaintiff's prayer for relief includes two times the amount of back pay, interest on back pay, emotional distress damages, costs, attorney and expert witness fees, punitive damages, and equitable relief. Id. at p. 15.

In their Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 4) and accompanying Memorandum (Doc. 5), Defendants argue Count I should be dismissed because it is unclear whether Plaintiff brought Count I against Sutton in his individual or official capacity. Id. Defendants argue suing Sutton in his individual capacity is improper because he cannot implement the equitable relief Plaintiff seeks. (Doc. 5, p. 5). Sutton, in his individual capacity, lacks the authority to reinstate Plaintiff's classes and provide back pay. Such actions could only be taken in his official capacity as Chair of the Department. Id. Defendants ask the Court to dismiss Count I because they claim it does not meet the pleading requirements in federal court. Id.

Plaintiff argues she brought Count I against Sutton, individually and in his official capacity, under the portion of the Ethics Act, 5 ILCS 430/15-10, allowing for individual liability for monetary damages. (Doc. 7, p. 3; Doc. 1-1, p. 12, ¶¶ 54-55). She also seeks equitable remedies. Specifically, she asks Sutton, as Chair of the Department, to reinstate her full class load during the school year and her summer classes. Id.

The Court finds Count I meets the pleading requirements under Rule 8. FED. R. CIV. P. 8 ; see Bell Atlantic Corp. , 550 U.S. 544, 590, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (7th Cir. 2007). Specifically, paragraph 4 names Sutton as a Defendant "in both his individual capacity and in his capacity as agent and representative of Illinois State University" and paragraphs 54-55 state Count I is brought against Sutton under the individual liability provisions in Section 15-10. (Doc. 1-1, p. 3, ¶ 4; p. 12, ¶¶ 54-55).

But the question remains whether it is proper for Plaintiff to bring an individual

368 F.Supp.3d 1261

cause of action against Sutton under the Ethics Act. Plaintiff argues the plain...

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1 practice notes
  • Thiele v. Bd. of Trs. of Ill. State Univ., 1:20-cv-01197-SLD-TSH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. Central District of Illinois
    • September 30, 2021
    ...(7th Cir. 1991) (“The Board . . . must be accorded the respect due a state under the eleventh amendment.”); see also Lugg v. Sutton, 368 F.Supp.3d 1257, 1263-64 (C.D. Ill. 2019) (noting that the Board of Trustees of ISU was “an [a]gency of the State of Illinois” but had waived its Eleventh ......
1 cases
  • Thiele v. Bd. of Trs. of Ill. State Univ., 1:20-cv-01197-SLD-TSH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. Central District of Illinois
    • September 30, 2021
    ...(7th Cir. 1991) (“The Board . . . must be accorded the respect due a state under the eleventh amendment.”); see also Lugg v. Sutton, 368 F.Supp.3d 1257, 1263-64 (C.D. Ill. 2019) (noting that the Board of Trustees of ISU was “an [a]gency of the State of Illinois” but had waived its Eleventh ......

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