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Rodriguez v. Serna

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

July 24, 2018

ANNETTE RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
RICKY SERNA, BRANDI CORDOVA, PATRICIA TRUJILLO, NANCY BARCELO, RICK BAILEY, MATTHEW MARTINEZ, ANTHONY SENA, PEDRO MARTINEZ, MARIO CAETANO, RYAN CORDOVA, ANDY ROMERO, JOHN WATERS, BERNIE PADILLA, NORTHERN NEW MEXICO COLLEGE, THE NNMC BOARD OF REGENTS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS AND MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS WITH LEAVE TO AMEND.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court upon ten motions to dismiss filed by Defendants on February 15 and 21, 2018 (Docs. 12-15, 19-21, 24-26), and one Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings filed by Defendant Northern New Mexico College on February 28, 2018 (Doc. 32). Having reviewed the parties' pleadings and the applicable law, the Court finds that Defendants' motions are well-taken in part and, therefore, are GRANTED IN PART, but the Court will allow Plaintiff to file an amended complaint. The motions are otherwise DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE, and may be reasserted, if appropriate, after Plaintiff amends her complaint.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was an adjunct faculty member at Northern New Mexico College. She alleges that she was retaliated against after she began questioning alleged financial improprieties and misuse of federal grant money, violating her First Amendment and Due Process rights. She also alleges seven other claims against Defendants, as they allegedly tried to stop her from investigating and exposing these improprieties.[1] The fifteen defendants include Northern New Mexico College, the NNMC Board of Regents, and employees thereof.

         This case was removed from the Second Judicial District, Bernalillo County, New Mexico, on November 17, 2017. Doc. 1.

         All Defendants filed motions to dismiss or for judgment on the pleadings, asserting qualified immunity and statute of limitations issues, and that Plaintiff failed to state a claim as a matter of law pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), in part because of factual insufficiency.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a party to move for dismissal of a case for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Rule 8(a)(2), in turn, requires a complaint to contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Thus, “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Although a court must accept all the complaint's factual allegations as true, the same is not true of legal conclusions. See Id. Mere “labels and conclusions” or “formulaic recitation[s] of the elements of a cause of action” will not suffice. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. “Thus, in ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court should disregard all conclusory statements of law and consider whether the remaining specific factual allegations, if assumed to be true, plausibly suggest the defendant is liable.” Kan. Penn Gaming, LLC v. Collins, 656 F.3d 1210, 1214 (10th Cir. 2011).

         DISCUSSION

          I. Plaintiff Insufficiently Pled Claims.

         Plaintiff alleges three constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: First Amendment retaliation, Deprivation of First Amendment Rights of Free Association, and violation of her Due Process Rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. This is in conjunction with seven other federal and state law claims, set forth above.

         Section 1983 is the exclusive vehicle for vindication of substantive rights under the U.S. Constitution. See Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n. 3 (1979); Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271 (1994) (Section 1983 is the means through which a plaintiff may seek redress for deprivations of rights established in the Constitution). To state a claim for relief under § 1983, a plaintiff must assert acts by government officials acting under color of law that result in a deprivation of rights secured by the United States Constitution. 42 U.S.C. § 1983; West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         Plaintiff must allege some personal involvement by an identified official in the alleged constitutional violation to succeed under § 1983. Fogarty v. Gallegos, 523 F.3d 1147, 1162 (10th Cir. 2008). In a Section 1983 action, it is particularly important that a plaintiff's complaint “make clear exactly who is alleged to have done what to whom, to provide each individual with fair notice as to the basis of the claim against him or her.” Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1249-50 (10th Cir. 2008) (emphasis in original). As set out below, the Court concludes that Plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim for relief under § 1983.

         Plaintiff filed a complaint asserting ten claims against fifteen defendants, but did not specify which claims are asserted against which defendants. Thus, neither the Court nor the Defendants are able to tell which claims are asserted against which defendant. Because of these insufficiencies, Defendants filed motions to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim, which in part contain brief statements that Plaintiff failed to allege facts supporting certain claims.

         Moreover, in response to the motions to dismiss, Plaintiff for the most part failed to address which claims are alleged against the specified defendant, leaving it unclear whether she admits that she failed to state a claim on those counts. In any event, it is ...


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