Luy v. Baltimore Police Dept.

Decision Date16 July 2004
Docket NumberNo. CIV. CCB-03-2833.,CIV. CCB-03-2833.
Citation326 F.Supp.2d 682
PartiesSophal K. LUY v. BALTIMORE POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maryland

Sophal Luy, Baltimore, MD, pro se.

Kim Yvette Johnson, Laurel, MD, Neal M. Janey, Sr., The Janey Law Firm PC, Baltimore, MD, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

BLAKE, District Judge.

Now pending before the court is a motion to dismiss filed by defendants Commissioner Kevin Clark and the Baltimore Police Department.1 The issues in this motion have been fully briefed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons stated below, the defendants' motion to dismiss will be granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Sophal Luy ("Luy"), who is representing himself, was employed by the Baltimore Police Department ("BPD") as a probationary police officer from August 23, 2001 to June 20, 2002, when he was terminated.2 Luy alleges that he never was informed of the reasons for his termination, but that it was based on false charges against him of work-related misconduct. (Compl. at ¶ 6.) According to Luy's complaint, he was accused of racism and making racist comments, cowardice in responding to a call regarding a disorderly citizen, blatant disregard for police policy, and leadership problems for his questioning of police procedures. (Id. at ¶ 8-13.) Luy states that some of these charges were recited in official BPD documents and at a proceeding before the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation ("DLLR") related to his application for unemployment benefits. (Id. at ¶ 6, 9-10.) It is undisputed that in late May and early June 2002, officers of the BPD initiated an investigation into complaints involving Luy, and subsequently recommended that he be terminated.

Luy states that the defendants-the BPD, Commissioner Kevin Clark ("Clark"), and Lieutenant Barbara Magness ("Magness")-failed to give him notice of or an opportunity to respond to these charges. (Id. at ¶ 7, 14.) Luy admits in his complaint that, as a probationary police officer, he was not entitled to a hearing before a hearing board prior to his dismissal.3 (Id. at ¶ 14.) Nonetheless, he states that the BPD took advantage of his probationary status to wrongfully terminate his employment. (Id.) Luy asserts state law claims for defamation and wrongful termination and federal claims for violations of the Fourteenth Amendment,4 Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq.) ("Title VII"), and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Defendants BPD and Clark move to dismiss the complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

ANALYSIS

"The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is to test the sufficiency of a complaint; importantly, a Rule 12(b)(6) motion does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses." Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir.1999) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted). When ruling on such a motion, the court must "accept the well-pled allegations of the complaint as true," and "construe the facts and reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir.1997). Consequently, a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) may be granted only when "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, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957); see also Edwards, 178 F.3d at 244. In addition because the court is testing the legal sufficiency of the claims, the court is not bound by the plaintiff's legal conclusions. See. e.g., Young v. City of Mount Ranier, 238 F.3d 567, 577 (4th Cir.2001) (noting that the "presence ... of a few conclusory legal terms does not insulate a complaint from dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6)" when the facts alleged do not support the legal conclusions); Labram v. Havel, 43 F.3d 918, 921 (4th Cir.1995) (affirming Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal with prejudice because the plaintiff's alleged facts failed to support her conclusion that the defendant owed her a fiduciary duty at common law).

The defendants have attached a number of documents to their motion to dismiss, including internal BPD communications relating to Luy's termination and several affidavits from BPD employees. In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court ordinarily may not consider extrinsic evidence outside of the facts alleged in the plaintiff's complaint and any attachments to the complaint. The court may consider a document submitted by the defendant in support of a motion to dismiss, however, "[if] it was integral to and explicitly relied on in the complaint and [if] the plaintiffs do not challenge its authenticity." Am. Chiropractic Ass'n v. Trigon Healthcare, Inc., 367 F.3d 212, 234 (4th Cir.2004); see also Abadian v. Lee, 117 F.Supp.2d 481, 485 (D.Md.2000) ("The court may also consider documents referred to in the complaint and relied upon by plaintiff in bringing the action."). Because Luy alleges defamation and does not challenge the authenticity of the documents submitted by the defendants, the court may consider these to the extent that they contain any of the defamatory statements relied on in the plaintiff's complaint. The remainder of the documents are not properly before this court and will not be considered.5

I. Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981

Count IV, alleging a violation of Title VII, and count V, alleging a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, must be dismissed as to Clark because he is not a proper defendant. Supervisors are not liable in their individual capacities for violations of Title VII. See Lissau v. S. Food Service, Inc., 159 F.3d 177, 180-81 (4th Cir.1998); Arbabi v. Fred Meyers, Inc., 205 F.Supp.2d 462, 464 (D.Md.2002). Individual supervisors also cannot be liable under § 1981 unless "they `intentionally cause [an employer] to infringe the rights secured by' section 1981." Carson v. Giant Food, Inc., 187 F.Supp.2d 462, 483 (D.Md.2002) (quoting Tillman v. Wheaton-Haven Recreation Ass'n, 517 F.2d 1141, 1145 (4th Cir.1975)). Luy's complaint is devoid of any allegations naming Clark, and thus fails to state any basis for imposing individual liability on him under § 1981.

In any event, Luy has failed to state a claim under Title VII or § 1981 against any of the defendants. As a general matter, the elements of a prima facie claim for discrimination under either of these statutes require the plaintiff to demonstrate that (1) he is a member of a protected class; (2) his job performance was satisfactory; (3) he suffered an adverse employment action; and (4) similarly situated employees outside his protected class were treated more favorably. Frank v. England, 313 F.Supp.2d 532, 538 (D.Md.2004); Carson, 187 F.Supp.2d at 484.6 Although a plaintiff is not required to plead a prima facie case of discrimination in order to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 515, 122 S.Ct. 992, 152 L.Ed.2d 1 (2002), he nonetheless must plead facts sufficient to state each element of the asserted claim. Bass v. E.I. Dupont De Nemours & Co., 324 F.3d 761, 765 (4th Cir.2003). Among the elements that Luy must allege to state his claim under Title VII or § 1981 is that he was terminated or otherwise treated less favorably "because of" his race. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a).

Luy's complaint alleges in conclusory fashion that the defendants "willfully, intentionally, and unlawfully discriminated against Plaintiff on the basis of race." (Compl. at ¶ 24.) He states that he "was denied promotion, promotional opportunities, and equal treatment and subjected to harassment and disparate treatment because of his race." (Id. at ¶ 29.) Beyond asserting his own membership in a protected group as an Asian American, Luy does not allege any specific facts in support of these claims. The complaint provides no factual basis for concluding that Luy was treated differently from similarly situated employees outside of his protected class, or that he was intentionally discriminated against on the basis of his race. Although the court must "accept the well-pled allegations of the complaint as true" Ibarra, 120 F.3d at 474, the court need not accept "legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, or conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events." Baltimore-Clark v. Kinko's Inc., 270 F.Supp.2d 695, 698 (D.Md.2003) (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286, 106 S.Ct. 2932, 92 L.Ed.2d 209 (1986) and United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir.1979)). Luy's conclusory allegations of race discrimination, devoid of any reference to actual events during his employment, are not sufficient to state a claim under Title VII or § 1981 for race discrimination.7

II. Fourteenth Amendment Due Process

Luy alleges under count I that his termination, without notice of the charges against him or an opportunity to respond to those charges at a name-clearing hearing, violated his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. "The requirements of procedural due process apply only to the deprivation of interests encompassed by the Fourteenth Amendment's protection of liberty and property." Bd. of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 569, 92 S.Ct. 2701, 33 L.Ed.2d 548 (1972). An employee of a state or local government has a protected property interest in continued public employment only if he can show a "legitimate claim of entitlement" to his job under state or local law. Id. at 577-78, 92 S.Ct. 2701. A public employee in an at-will position cannot establish such an entitlement and thus cannot claim any Fourteenth Amendment due process protection. See Pittman v. Wilson County, 839 F.2d 225, 229 (4th Cir.1988); Rogosin v. Mayor, City Council...

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