United States District Court, N.D. Indiana
DEXTER ROGERS, Individually and as Personal Representative of the ESTATE OF CARRIE BELL ROGERS and as Personal Representative of the ESTATE OF PREMIUS ROGERS, Plaintiff,
THE OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, JENNIFER PRUITT, KELLY PAUTLER, and CHIEF JUDGE CRAIG BOBAY, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
THERESA L. SPRINGMANN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss [ECF No.
34], filed by the Defendants Jennifer Pruitt, Kelly Pautler,
Chief Judge Craig Bobay, and the Office of the Attorney
General (collectively “the Defendants”) on March
27, 2017, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). The pro se Plaintiff, Dexter Rogers, Individually
and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Carrie Bell
Rogers, and as Personal Representative of the Estate of
Premius Rogers, filed the Amended Complaint [ECF No. 29]
against the Defendants on February 22, 2017, which stems from
their conduct relating to a consumer complaint that he filed
in state court.
pending before the Court are the Plaintiff's Motion for a
Hearing Pursuant to Local Rule 65-1 [ECF No. 43], a Motion to
Disqualify Magistrate Judge Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 455
[ECF No. 42], and a Motion to Vacate Pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 60(d)(1)(3) [ECF No. 41]. For the reasons
stated in this Opinion and Order, the Court grants the
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, denies the Plaintiff's
Motion for a Hearing, and terms the Motion to Disqualify and
the Motion to Vacate as moot.
Amended Complaint stems from a consumer complaint regarding
the death of the Plaintiff's mother, initiated by the
Plaintiff on November 14, 2014. The Plaintiff alleges that
the Defendants violated Indiana rules and procedure,
discriminated against him because of his race and pro se
status, and denied him access to the courts. Accordingly, the
Plaintiff filed suit in federal court, invoking Title VI of
the Civil Rights Act of 1962, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et
seq., as the grounds for relief. The statute provides that
“[n]o person in the United States shall, on the ground
of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from
participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to
discrimination under any program or activity receiving
Federal financial assistance.” Id. §
2000d. The Amended Complaint seeks declaratory, injunctive,
and compensatory relief, and attorney's fees.
to the Amended Complaint, Defendant Pruitt is a case analyst
with the Office of the Attorney General who was, at one point
or another, assigned to handle the Plaintiff's consumer
complaint. The Plaintiff alleges that he tried to follow up
on the status of his consumer complaint throughout 2015 and
2016, but he was ignored. Finally, on “October 19,
2016, . . . [Defendant] Pruitt answered via email that the
Plaintiff's case was closed on September 14, 2015.”
(Am. Compl. ¶ 15, ECF No. 29.) The Plaintiff alleges
that the “Office of the Attorney General failed to
conduct a thorough investigation into his claim stemming from
his race, pro se status, and the fact that he's filed
Title VI claims” in other cases against the Indiana
state judiciary. (Id. ¶ 20.)
addition, the Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Paulter was
opposing counsel in a 2014 medical malpractice case in which
he was the Plaintiff before she was hired into the Office of
the Attorney General. The Plaintiff argues that Defendant
Paulter was “purposely sent highly material
information” about his pending consumer complaint.
(Id. ¶ 43.) Possessing this information was
allegedly a conflict of interest that necessitated recusal
(Id. ¶¶ 57-65), and as a result Defendant
Paulter essentially undermined the Office of the Attorney
General's investigation into his consumer complaint,
“engage[d] in ex parte communications,
inflict[ed] racial animus, and collude[ed] to harm the
Plaintiff” (Id. ¶ 65).
Chief Judge Bobay was appointed to preside over one of the
Plaintiff's state law cases, allegedly because Chief
Judge Bobay and opposing counsel in one of the
Plaintiff's civil claims “engaged in reasonably
inferred ex parte communications to ensure his
appointment.” (Id. ¶ 80.) On October 10,
2016, the Plaintiff filed a motion to recuse Chief Judge
Bobay, because of the aforementioned reasons and because one
of the Plaintiff's state law claims was against the Allen
Superior Court. (See Id. ¶¶ 73-76, 82.)
Chief Judge Bobay declined to recuse himself on October 18,
2016, and the Plaintiff's subsequent appeals of that
decision were unsuccessful. (See Id. ¶¶
86-91.) The Plaintiff alleges that Chief Judge Bobay's
actions have denied him due process and access to the courts,
and that his race was the motivating factor behind these
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint
must ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.'” Adams v. City of Indianapolis, 742
F.3d 720, 728 (7th Cir. 2014) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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 Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009)). Although pro se complaints are to be
liberally construed and are held to a less stringent standard
than pleadings drafted by lawyers, Luevano v. Wal-Mart
Stores, Inc., 722 F.3d 1014, 1027 (7th Cir. 2013), and a
court may also consider facts alleged in a pro se
plaintiff's brief in opposition to a motion to dismiss
when considering the sufficiency of the complaint (if the
facts are “consistent with the allegations in the
complaint”), Smith v. Dart, 803 F.3d 304, 311
(7th Cir. 2015), the factual allegations in the complaint
must nevertheless be enough to raise a right to relief above
a speculative level, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.
Factual allegations are accepted as true at the pleading
stage, but “allegations in the form of legal
conclusions are insufficient to survive a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion.” Adams, 742 F.3d at 728 (internal
Defendants assert that they are entitled to dismissal
because: (1) the individuals named are not subject to suit
under Title VI and (2) the Amended Complaint fails to comply
with Rule 8 and/or fails to state a claim upon which relief
can be granted. In his Response [ECF No. 36], the Plaintiff
“stands by all allegations that were substantiated by
facts that were submitted within his initial
pleadings.” (Resp. 1, ECF No. 36.) The Court addresses
these arguments below.
Individual Defendants Are Not Subject to Suit Under Title VI.
Defendants argue that they are not subject to suit under
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act because they are not
recipients of federal funds. Although neither the United
States Supreme Court nor the Seventh Circuit have addressed
this specific question, the answer can be found in a
different provision of the Civil Rights Act. Title IX of the
Civil Rights Act “was modeled after Title VI of the
Civil Rights Act” and that the “two operate in
the same manner, ” Gebser v. Lago Vista Indep. Sch.
Dist.,524 U.S. 274, 286 (1998), which means that
“a decision with respect to one statute applies to the
other statute, ” C.S. v. Couch, 843 F.Supp.2d
894, 905 n.14 (N.D. Ind. 2011); Doe v. Galster, No.
09-C-1089, 2011 WL 2784159, *6 (E.D.Wis. July 14, 2011). A
“Title IX claim can only be brought against a grant
recipient and not an individual.” Smith v. Metro.
Sch. Dist. Perry Twp.,128 F.3d 1014, 1019-20 (7th Cir.
1997) (discussing Congress' rationale for limiting
private rights of action under Title IX). Accordingly, a
plaintiff may not bring a Title VI claim against an
individual who is not a recipient of federal grant monies.
See Couch, 843 F.Supp.2d at 905 ...