United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
DEBORAH L. LESER, Plaintiff,
INDIANAPOLIS PUBLIC SCHOOLS, BOARD OF SCHOOL COMMISSIONERS FOR THE CITY OF INDIANAPOLIS, MARY SULLIVAN, individually and in her official capacity, SAM ODLE, individually and in his official capacity, LANIER ECHOLS, individually and in her official capacity, MICHAEL O'CONNOR, individually and in his official capacity, GAYLE COSBY, individually and in her official capacity, KELLY BENTLEY, individually and in her official capacity, DIANE ARNOLD, individually and in her official capacity, LEWIS D. FEREBEE, WANDA LEGRAND, LE BOLER, SHALON DABNEY, and LELA TINA HESTER, Defendants.
ENTRY ON DEFENDANTS' RULE 72(A) OBJECTION TO
ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO AMEND COMPLAINT
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendants' Indianapolis
Public School (“IPS”), Board of School
Commissioners for the City of Indianapolis (“the
Board”), Mary Ann Sullivan (“Sullivan”),
Sam Odle (“Odle”), Lanier Echols
(“Echols”), Michael O'Connor
(“O'Connor”), Gayle Cosby
(“Cosby”), Kelly Bentley (“Bentley”),
Diane Arnold (“Arnold”), Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee
(“Dr. Ferebee”), Le Boler (“Boler”),
Dr. Wanda Legrand (“ Dr. Legrand”), Shalon Dabney
(“Dabney”), and Lela Tina Hester's
“Defendants”) Rule 72(a) Objection to Order on
Plaintiff's Motion to Amend Complaint. (Filing No.
109.) Plaintiff Deborah L. Leser (“Leser”)
seeks the Court's leave to add additional Defendants, Dr.
Ferebee, Dr. Legrand, Dabney, Hester, and Boler,
(collectively, “Newly Added Defendants”), to her
Complaint. Also before the Court is Defendants Motion
for Extension of Time to Respond to Plaintiff's First
Amended Complaint, (Filing No. 110). For the reasons
that follow, the Court overrules in part and
sustains in part Defendants' Objection
to the Magistrate Judge's decision.
district court may refer for decision a non-dispositive
pretrial motion to a magistrate judge under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 72(a). Rule 72(a) provides:
When a pretrial matter not dispositive of a party's claim
or defense is referred to a magistrate judge to hear and
decide, the magistrate judge must promptly conduct the
required proceedings and, when appropriate, issue a written
order stating the decision. A party may serve and file
objections to the order within 14 days after being served
with a copy. A party may not assign as error a defect in the
order not timely objected to. The district judge in the case
must consider timely objections and modify or set aside any
part of the order that is clearly erroneous or is contrary to
reviewing objections to a magistrate judge's order, the
district court will modify or set aside the order only if it
is clearly erroneous or contrary to law. The clear error
standard is highly deferential, permitting reversal only when
the district 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
Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(1) allows a party to amend its
pleading once as a matter of course within twenty-one days
after serving it, or “if the pleading is one to which a
responsive pleading is required, 21 days after service of a
responsive pleading or 21 days after service of a motion
under Rule 12(b).” After a responsive pleading has been
filed and twenty-one days have passed, “a party may
amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written
consent or the court's leave. The court should freely
give leave when justice so requires.” Fed. R. Civ. Pro.
15(a)(2). The rule, however, “do[es] not mandate that
leave be granted in every case. In particular, a district
court may deny a plaintiff leave to amend his complaint if
there is undue delay, bad faith[, ] or dilatory motive . . .
[, or] undue prejudice . . ., [or] futility of
amendment.” Park v. City of Chicago, 297 F.3d
606, 612 (7th Cir. 2002) (internal citation and quotation
marks omitted). A proposed amendment is futile if it
“fails to cure the deficiencies in the original
pleading, or could not survive a  motion to dismiss.”
Perkins v. Silverstein, 939 F.2d 463, 472 (7th Cir.
1991). “Whether to grant or deny leave to amend is
within the district court's discretion.”
Campbell v. Ingersoll Milling Machine Co., 893 F.2d
925, 927 (7th Cir. 1990).
instituted this lawsuit following her termination from IPS,
alleging violations of procedural and substantive due process
rights under both federal and state law. (Filing No.
1.) Leser began working for IPS in 1995. During her
tenure with IPS, she held several positions, including:
teacher, counselor, vice principal, and principal.
Leser's most recent IPS title was Director of Student
Services. As Director of Student Services, she was tasked
with supervising the principal of Longfellow Alternative
School (“Longfellow”). On February 17, 2016,
William Jensen (“Jensen”), then-principal of
Longfellow, contacted Leser regarding a parent's report
of an inappropriate sexual relationship (“the Taylor
Relationship”) between a student and a Longfellow
employee named Shana Taylor (“Taylor”). Leser
directed Jensen to contact Hester, the Assistant
Superintendent of Human Resources. Id. at 9. The
very same day, Dr. Ferebee, the Superintendent of IPS, also
learned of at least an inappropriate relationship between
Taylor and the student. Id. at 10. Hester advised
Jensen not to contact the police, and assigned Dabney to
Leser made several calls to other IPS employees, including:
Dr. Legrand; Human Resources officer Sandra Bombic; and IPS
Chief Strategist Boler. After informing each of them of the
inappropriate relationship at Longfellow, Leser asked Dr.
Legrand if there was anything else she needed to do. Dr.
Legrand stated: “sounds like you have it
handled.” Id. at 14. Boler also assured Leser
that she would inform Dr. Ferebee. None of the employees
contacted the police.
February 23, 2016, Dabney told Mark Cosand
(“Cosand”) to report the relationship to Child
Protective Services (“CPS”), which Cosand
reported the very same day. Id. at 10. On March 2,
2016, the “Shana Taylor story” became public.
Thereafter, IPS attorney David Given (“Given”)
interviewed Leser, as well as others including: Jensen,
Cosand, Dabney and Hester. Given explained that his goal was
to gather facts regarding the complaint made against Taylor.
Dr. Ferebee also conducted interviews. Leser was suspended on
March 15, 2016. Id. at 19. Hester and Dabney were
criminally charged with failure to make a report on April 12,
2016. Hester and Dabney were permitted to resign from their
employment on June 30, 2016. No criminal charges were filed
against Leser. On June 1, 2016, however, Leser received a
letter notifying her of a preliminary decision to cancel her
employment contracts for failure to report the incident to
CPS. Id. at 19-20. On June 27, 2016, a hearing was
held before the Board and, on June 30, 2016, the Board
unanimously voted to cancel Leser's employment contracts
based on insubordination and neglect of duty.
initiated this action on July 29, 2016 alleging the
Defendants denied her due process. Specifically, Leser
alleges: 1) Count I-Defendants failed to provide proper
notice regarding the hearing; 2) Count II-Attorney Given and
Dr. Ferebee failed to advise her of her Garrity
rights prior to interviewing her; 3) Count
III-Defendants' decision to terminate her was arbitrary
and capricious; and 5) Count IV-the Court should review the
decision to terminate Leser and grant her relief pursuant to
Indiana Code § 4-21.5-5-14. (Filing No. 1.) On
July 28, 2017, this Court dismissed Count II of Leser's
Complaint, regarding deprivation of her Garrity
rights. (Filing No. 49.) The Court further
determined that, at this early stage in the litigation,
Defendants' qualified immunity claim was not yet ripe,
due to a lack of information before the Court. On December 28,
2017, the deadline by which to amend the pleadings and/or
join additional parties, Leser filed a Motion to
Amend/Correct the Complaint, on the basis of newly discovered
information that implicated the proposed Newly Added
Defendants. (Filing No. 66 at 2.) Leser's Motion
to Amend her initial Complaint sought to add Jonathan Mayes
(“Mayes”), Given, Dr. Ferebee, Boler, Dr.
Legrand, Hester, and Dabney. On June 4, 2018, Magistrate
Judge Doris L. Pryor (“the Magistrate Judge”)
granted that Motion as to Defendants Boler, Dr. Legrand,
Hester, Dabney, and Dr. Ferebee. Although Leser's Motion
to Amend sought to add the Newly Added Defendants to multiple
Counts, the Magistrate Judge granted the Motion to add
Defendants Boler, Dr. Legrand, Hester, Dabney, and Dr.
Ferebee to only Counts III and IV of Complaint; counts that
allege under federal and state law that the Defendants
arbitrarily and capriciously made the decision to terminate
her teaching and administrative assignments. (Filing No.
104 at 7, 9; Filing No. 105 at 23-25.) On June
18, 2018, Defendants filed their objection to the Magistrate
Judge's Order. (Filing No. 109.)
The Magistrate ...