Mercer v. City of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, C 98-0143-MWB.

Citation79 F.Supp.2d 1055
Decision Date06 December 1999
Docket NumberNo. C 98-0143-MWB.,C 98-0143-MWB.
PartiesTeresa L. MERCER, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA, and William J. Byrne, Defendants.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
79 F.Supp.2d 1055
Teresa L. MERCER, Plaintiff,
CITY OF CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA, and William J. Byrne, Defendants.
No. C 98-0143-MWB.
United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division.
December 6, 1999.

Page 1056


Page 1057

Mark J. Seidl, Seidl & Chicchelly, Marion, IA, for plaintiff Teresa Mercer.

Mohammad H. Sheronick, City Attorney, Cedar Rapids, IA, for defendants City of Cedar Rapids and William J. Byrne.


BENNETT, Chief Judge.

 I. INTRODUCTION .................................................. 1057
                 A. Procedural Background ...................................... 1057
                 B. Mercer's Claims ............................................ 1058
                 II. LEGAL ANALYSIS ................................................ 1058
                 A. Standards for a Rule 12(b)(6) motion ....................... 1058
                 B. Defendants' Grounds For Dismissal .......................... 1060
                 1. Failure to exhaust the Title VII claim .................. 1060
                 2. Inadequacy of the "equal protection" claim .............. 1061
                 3. Insufficiency of the "due process" claim ................ 1063
                 4. Insufficiency of allegations of municipal liability ..... 1064
                 5. Byrne's qualified immunity .............................. 1065
                III. CONCLUSION .................................................... 1066

Should this plaintiff's entire amended complaint be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted? The defendants think so, reiterating the same grounds for dismissal they asserted with regard to the plaintiff's original complaint. The plaintiff, however, concedes nothing, and asserts instead that it is the defendants' motion that should be denied in its entirety.

A. Procedural Background

This matter comes before the court pursuant to defendants' April 12, 1999, renewed motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The defendants filed their original motion to dismiss on December 17, 1998, seeking dismissal in its entirety of Mercer's original Complaint, filed on December 2, 1998. However, by order dated March 29, 1999, Senior Judge Edward McManus denied the original motion to dismiss on the ground that Mercer had filed a First Amended Complaint that appeared to be an attempt to remedy matters raised in the defendants' motion to dismiss. Judge McManus therefore treated Mercer's resistance to the motion to dismiss as a motion for leave to file an amended complaint, and on that basis, granted Mercer leave to amend and denied the defendants' original motion to dismiss.

The defendants, however, were not satisfied that the First Amended Complaint rectified any of the deficiencies they perceived in the original Complaint, and therefore renewed their motion to dismiss on April 12, 1999, asserting the identical grounds for dismissal. Mercer resisted the defendants' renewed motion to dismiss on April 26, 1999, and the defendants filed a reply to that resistance on May 6, 1999.

On September 27, 1999, Senior Judge McManus recused himself from all further proceedings in this action, on the ground that defendant Byrne is now employed as a court security officer at the Federal Building in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where

Page 1058

Judge McManus has his chambers. Consequently, the case was reassigned to the undersigned, whose chambers are in Sioux City, Iowa. This judge also provided the parties with the opportunity to express any concerns they might have that he should also disqualify himself from hearing this case. On November 5, 1999, the parties filed a notice that they had reached the conclusion that it is acceptable for the undersigned to continue to participate in this case.

No party has requested oral arguments on the defendants' renewed motion to dismiss. Therefore, the court considers this matter fully submitted.

B. Mercer's Claims

Although not a marvel of lucidity, it is apparent that plaintiff Mercer's First Amended Complaint alleges constitutional violations, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and sexual discrimination in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e. These claims allegedly arise from her termination on March 13, 1998, from her position as a police officer with the Cedar Rapids Police Department. At the time Mercer was terminated, defendant William J. Byrne was the Chief of Police for the City of Cedar Rapids. Mercer alleges that Byrne made the decision to terminate her, and in so doing, was acting as an agent with the full authorization of the defendant City of Cedar Rapids (the City). See First Amended Complaint, ¶ 6.

The essence of Mercer's claims of violations of Title VII and the United States Constitution appears to be stated in the following paragraphs of Mercer's First Amended Complaint:

7. Defendants' termination of Plaintiff was based in part on consideration of Plaintiff's gender in that others who had committed the same acts as alleged to be the basis for Plaintiff's termination were not terminated or similarly disciplined.

8. Defendants were acting under color of State law when they terminated Plaintiff, which act constituted the deprivation of Plaintiff's civil rights actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in the following particulars:

a) Plaintiff's termination resulted from her involvement in a relationship with another officer when both Plaintiff and that other officer were married. Plaintiff was subjected to a trumped up internal affairs investigation involving repeated inquiries into matters of a personal nature, and was fired as a consequence of her participation in the relationship, while the other party to the relationship was not terminated. Plaintiff was thereby denied equal protection under the law in that she was discriminated against on the basis of her gender.

b) At the time of Plaintiff's termination, Defendant Byrne made statements to the media which stigmatized Plaintiff as a person incapable of performing the duties of a police officer. Plaintiff was offered no opportunity in a public hearing to rebut those stigmatizing statements, and was thus deprived of a constitutionally protected occupational liberty interest without due process of law.

9. Defendants' termination of Plaintiff was also a violation of 42 U.S.C § 2000E-2 [sic].

First Amended Complaint, ¶¶ 7-9.

A. Standards for a Rule 12(b)(6) motion

The issue on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to FED. R.CIV.P. 12(b)(6) is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether the plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence in support of his or her claims. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974); United States v. Aceto Agric. Chem. Corp., 872 F.2d 1373, 1376 (8th Cir.1989). In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must assume that all facts alleged in

Page 1059

the plaintiff's complaint are true, and must liberally construe those allegations. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957); Gross v. Weber, 186 F.3d 1089, 1090 (8th Cir.1999) ("On a motion to dismiss, we review the district court's decision de novo, accepting all the factual allegations of the complaint as true and construing them in the light most favorable to [the non-movant]."); St. Croix Waterway Ass'n v. Meyer, 178 F.3d 515, 519 (8th Cir.1999) ("We take the well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and view the complaint, and all reasonable inferences arising therefrom, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff."); Gordon v. Hansen, 168 F.3d 1109, 1113 (8th Cir.1999) (same); Midwestern Machinery, Inc. v. Northwest Airlines, 167 F.3d 439, 441 (8th Cir.1999) (same); Wisdom v. First Midwest Bank, 167 F.3d 402, 405 (8th Cir.1999) (same); Duffy v. Landberg, 133 F.3d 1120, 1122 (8th Cir.) (same), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 119 S.Ct. 62, 142 L.Ed.2d 49 (1998); Doe v. Norwest Bank Minn., N.A., 107 F.3d 1297, 1303-04 (8th Cir.1997) (same); WMX Techs., Inc. v. Gasconade County, MO, 105 F.3d 1195, 1198 (8th Cir.1997) (same); First Commercial Trust v. Colt's Mfg. Co., 77 F.3d 1081, 1083 (8th Cir.1996) (same).

The court is mindful that in treating the factual allegations of a complaint as true pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court must "reject conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences." Silver v. H & R Block, Inc., 105 F.3d 394, 397 (8th Cir. 1997) (citing In re Syntex Corp. Securities Lit., 95 F.3d 922, 926 (9th Cir.1996)); Westcott v. City of Omaha, 901 F.2d 1486, 1488 (8th Cir.1990) (the court "do[es] not, however, blindly accept the legal conclusions drawn by the pleader from the facts," citing Morgan v. Church's Fried Chicken, 829 F.2d 10, 12 (6th Cir.1987), and 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1357, at 595-97 (1969)); see also LRL Properties v. Portage Metro Hous. Auth., 55 F.3d 1097, 1103 (6th Cir.1995) (the court "need not accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences," quoting Morgan, 829 F.2d at 12). Conclusory legal allegations need not and will not be taken as true; rather, the court will consider whether the facts alleged in the complaint, accepted as true, are sufficient to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Silver, 105 F.3d at 397; Westcott, 901 F.2d at 1488. The defendants misconstrue this rule, asserting, without citing any authority, that the court should reject "merely conclusory or argumentative allegations." It is precisely conclusory allegations of fact, and the allegations of fact disputed by the defendant, that this court must assume are true on a motion to dismiss. See, e.g., Conley, 355 U.S. at 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99; Gross, 186 F.3d at 1090. What the court must reject are "conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences." Silver, 105 F.3d at 397 (emphasis added).

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