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Seibert v. Jackson County

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division

August 19, 2014

KRISTAN SEIBERT, Plaintiff,
v.
JACKSON COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

KEITH STARRETT, District Judge.

For the reasons stated below, the Court grants in part and denies in part the Motion to Dismiss [11] filed by Defendant Mike Byrd. Specifically, the Court grants the motion as to Plaintiff's official-capacity Section 1983 claims, but denies it in all other respects. The Court denies the Motion to Dismiss [10] filed by Defendant Jackson County, Mississippi.

I. BACKGROUND

This is a sexual harassment/hostile work environment case. Plaintiff was an officer in the Jackson County Sheriff's Department. She alleges that her boss, Sheriff James Michael "Mike" Byrd began making unwanted sexual advances toward her in May 2012, including touching, lewd remarks, and repeated requests for her to have sex with him. She claims that Byrd threatened to take her job from her if she did not comply with his demands. After Plaintiff refused to cooperate, Byrd transferred her to a different station but continued to threaten her or have others threaten her until he left office in December 2013.

Plaintiff filed this lawsuit, asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Title VII against Jackson County, Mississippi, and Mike Byrd in his individual and official capacities. Each Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss [10, 11], and the motions are ripe for review.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Co. LLC v. La. State, 624 F.3d 201, 210 (5th Cir. 2010) (punctuation omitted). "To be plausible, the complaint's factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. (punctuation omitted). The Court must "accept all well-pleaded facts as true and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Id. But the Court will not accept as true "conclusory allegations, unwarranted factual inferences, or legal conclusions." Id. Likewise, "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." PSKS, Inc. v. Leegin Creative Leather Prods., Inc., 615 F.3d 412, 417 (5th Cir. 2010) (punctuation omitted). "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1950, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009).

III. BYRD'S MOTION TO DISMISS [11]

A. Section 1983 Official Capacity Claims

First, Defendant Byrd argues that the Court should dismiss Plaintiff's Section 1983 claims against him in his official capacity.

Claims under § 1983 may be brought against persons in their individual or official capacity, or against a governmental entity. Personal-capacity suits seek to impose liability upon a government official as an individual while official-capacity suits generally represent only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent. Thus, an official-capacity suit is, in all respects other than name, to be treated as a suit against the entity. It is not a suit against the official personally, for the real party in interest is the entity.

Goodman v. Harris County, 571 F.3d 388, 395 (5th Cir. 2009) (punctuation and citations omitted). Defendant Byrd argues, therefore, that Plaintiff's official-capacity claims should be dismissed as redundant, as Jackson County, Mississippi, was also named as a Defendant.

When a plaintiff asserts official-capacity claims against a government official under Section 1983, "the real party in interest is the [government] entity." Id. at 395-96 (official capacity claims subsumed by claims against government entity); cf. Hunt v. Allison, No. 1:09-CV-131-HSO-JMR, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 114634, at *45-*46 (S.D.Miss. Sept. 2, 2010) (claims against county were redundant where claims against sheriff in official capacity had already been asserted). There is no advantage to Plaintiff, practical or otherwise, in retaining the official-capacity claims against Byrd alongside the Section 1983 claims against the County. Furthermore, maintaining both claims would needlessly clutter the record, ...


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