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Robert v. City of South Bend

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

February 5, 2015

THEODORE ROBERT, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF SOUTH BEND, et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

JON E. DEGUILIO, District Judge.

Plaintiff Theodore Robert, an African-American police officer employed by the City of South Bend, sued the City, the mayor, and several other City employees, claiming he had been discriminated against on the basis of his race. He makes a series of such claims in his currently operative Amended Complaint [DE 10], several of which are discussed below as relevant.

Defendants filed a Motion for Partial Dismissal of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint and for More Definite Statement as to All Remaining Claims. [DE 17.] Defendants asked for Count I to be dismissed as time-barred; certain individual defendants to be dismissed from plaintiff's Title VII, Equal Protection, and First Amendment retaliation claims because they were not proper defendants; and for the racial harassment claims to be dismissed because they failed to state a viable claim for relief. Defendants also sought a more definite statement on the remaining claims under Rule 12(e), arguing that the remaining allegations were overly vague and ambiguous. Mr. Robert responded in opposition and the defendants replied in support. [DE 19, 20.]

The Court referred the motion to the Magistrate Judge for a Report and Recommendation, and on September 5, 2014, Magistrate Judge Martin filed a Report and Recommendation in which he recommends that the Court: (1) dismiss the individual defendants; (2) dismiss Count I as time barred; (3) dismiss all claims based on a hostile work environment; and (4) deny the request for a more definite statement on the remaining claims. [DE 24.]

Mr. Robert filed a partial objection to the report and recommendation. [DE 27.] He objects only to the recommendations that Count I and the hostile work environment claims be dismissed. [ Id. ] The defendants have responded in opposition. [DE 28.] Mr. Robert did not file a reply and the time to do so has passed.

For the following reasons, the Court ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation, after either a de novo or clear error review depending on the claim at issue. The Motion for Partial Dismissal of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint and for More Definite Statement as to All Remaining Claims [DE 17] is therefore GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, as more fully detailed below.

I. Standard of Review

After referring a dispositive motion to a magistrate judge, a district court has discretion to accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations of the magistrate judge. 28 U.S.C. ยง 636(b)(1). Consistent with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b), the district court must undertake a de novo review "only of those portions of the magistrate judge's disposition to which specific written objection is made." See Johnson v. Zema Sys. Corp., 170 F.3d 734, 739 (7th Cir. 1999) (citing Goffman v. Gross, 59 F.3d 668, 671 (7th Cir. 1995)). If no objection or only a partial objection is made, the court reviews those unobjected portions for clear error. Id. Under the clear error standard, a court will only overturn a magistrate judge's ruling if the court is left with "the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made." Weeks v. Samsung Heavy Indus. Co., Ltd., 126 F.3d 926, 943 (7th Cir.1997).

Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes dismissal of a complaint when it fails to set forth a claim upon which relief can be granted. Generally speaking, when considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, courts must inquire whether the complaint satisfies the "notice-pleading" standard. Indep. Trust Corp. v. Stewart Info. Servs. Corp., 665 F.3d 930, 934 (7th Cir. 2012). The noticepleading standard requires that a complaint provide a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " which is sufficient to provide "fair notice" of the claim and its basis. Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)); Maddox v. Love, 655 F.3d 709, 718 (7th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted); see also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). In determining the sufficiency of a claim, the court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, accepts all well-pleaded facts as true, and draws all inferences in the nonmoving party's favor. Reynolds v. CB Sports Bar, Inc., 623 F.3d 1143, 1146 (7th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).

The Supreme Court has adopted a two-pronged approach when considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009) (citing Twombly ). First, pleadings consisting of no more than mere conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth. Id. This includes legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, as well as "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Second, if there are well-pleaded factual allegations, courts should "assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. at 679.

"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." McCauley v. City of Chi., 671 F.3d 611, 615 (7th Cir. 2011) (citing Iqbal and Twombly ). The complaint "must actually suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, by providing allegations that raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Maddox, 655 F.3d at 718 (citations omitted). However, a plaintiff's claim need only be plausible, not probable. Indep. Trust Corp., 665 F.3d at 935 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "[A] well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and that a recovery is very remote and unlikely." Id. In order to satisfy the plausibility standard, a plaintiff's complaint must "supply enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will yield evidence supporting the plaintiff's allegations." Id. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief is "a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense, " see Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citation omitted), and the Court will assess Mr. Robert's claims accordingly.

II. Discussion

The Court now turns to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, beginning with those portions to ...


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