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Bright v. Tunica County School District

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division

September 11, 2017

MATTIE BRIGHT, as Guardian and next of kin for her daughter, Jane Doe PLAINTIFF
v.
TUNICA COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, et al. DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          Debra M. Brown, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This civil rights action is before the Court on the motions to dismiss or, in the alternative, for judgment on the pleadings filed by Bernard Stephen Chandler and Tunica County School District. Doc. #43; Doc. #45; Doc. #47.

         I

         Procedural History

         On August 24, 2016, Mattie Bright filed an amended complaint on behalf of her daughter, Jane Doe, in the Circuit Court of Tunica County, Mississippi. Doc. #2. The amended complaint, which asserts claims under Title IX and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, names as defendants (1) Tunica County School District; (2) Bernard Stephen Chandler, the Superintendent of the District, in his official and individual capacities; (3) Milton Hardrict, the principal at Coahoma Agricultural High School, in his official and individual capacities; (4) Stanley Ellis, the Assistant Superintendent of the District and the District's Title IX Coordinator, in his official and individual capacities; and (5) Brittany Brown, a teacher in the District, in her official and individual capacities. The amended complaint alleges that the various defendants are liable for a sexual assault and harassment Jane Doe suffered while a student in the District.

         Ellis and the District filed answers to the state court complaint on September 12, 2016. Doc. #5; Doc. #6. Hardrict filed his answer on October 20, 2016, and Chandler filed his on December 26, 2016. Doc. #16; Doc. #26. Both Hardrict and the District subsequently amended their answers on January 12, 2017, and January 15, 2017, respectively. Doc. #27; Doc. #31.

         On January 12, 2017, Ellis filed a “Motion of Defendant Stanley Ellis for Qualified Immunity, to Dismiss, and for Summary Judgment.” Doc. #28. Three days later, on January 15, 2017, Hardrict filed a motion seeking identical relief. Doc. #32.

         On January 26, 2017, Bright docketed a response to Ellis' motion for summary judgment, which was in substance and by title a motion for Rule 56(d) relief, along with a memorandum supporting her Rule 56(d) request. Doc. #34; Doc. #35. Following a notice of correction from the Clerk of the Court, Bright re-docketed her response as a motion for extension but did not file a supporting memorandum. Doc. #36. After receiving a second notice of correction, Bright filed a third motion for Rule 56(d) relief, again with no supporting memorandum. Doc. #38.

         On February 9, 2017, Ellis and Hardrict filed a “Combined Response” to Bright's three motions. Doc. #39. The next day, Ellis and Hardrict filed a “corrected” response. Doc. #40. Bright replied to the combined response on February 21, 2017. Doc. #42.

         On February 22, 2017, Chandler and the District filed a combined motion to dismiss “and/or” for judgment on the pleadings. Doc. #43. The following day, Chandler and the District filed separate “amended” motions seeking the same relief. Doc. #45; Doc. #47. Bright filed a combined response to the amended motions to dismiss on March 30, 2017. Doc. #51. On April 6, 2017, the District and Chandler filed motions to extend the deadlines to reply to Bright's response. Doc. #53; Doc. #54. Two days later, on April 8, 2017, before this Court could rule on the motions for extension, both Chandler and the District replied in support of their respective motions. Doc. #55; Doc. #56.

         On April 10, 2017, Chandler filed a motion for summary judgment. Doc. #57. About two weeks later, on April 25, 2016, this Court issued an order denying the motions for extension as moot. Doc. #59. Additionally, the order, which interpreted the first two Rule 56(d) motions as having been mooted by the third, denied the third motion for Rule 56(d) relief as improperly supported. Id. Bright filed a Rule 56(d) motion two days later seeking discovery to respond to Chandler's motion. Doc. # 63.

         On July 19, 2017, this Court denied the Rule 56(d) motion related to Chandler's motion for summary judgment. Doc. #68. Approximately two weeks later, on August 4, 2017, Bright responded in opposition to Chandler's motion for summary judgment. Doc. #71. Chandler replied in support of his motion on August 6, 2017.

         II

         Relevant Standards

         Chandler and the District have moved to dismiss “all claims in this matter alleged as arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) and/or Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.” Doc. #46; Doc. 48.

         As a general matter, 12(b)(6) relief is unavailable where a moving party has filed a responsive pleading. Young v. City of Houston, 599 F. App'x 553, 554 (5th Cir. 2015). Accordingly, when, as here, a moving party files a post-answer motion under both Rule 12(b)(6) and Rule 12(c), the proper course is to treat the motion as made under Rule 12(c). See Dorward v. Ramirez, No. 3:09-cv-18, 2009 WL 2777880, at *3 n.4 (N.D. Tex. Aug. 28, 2009) (“Although Waste Management states that it moves to dismiss under both Rule 12(b)(6) and Rule 12(c), the court will construe the motion as made under Rule 12(c) because it was filed after Waste Management filed an answer.”).

         “A motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) is subject to the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).” Doe v. MySpace, Inc., 528 F.3d 413, 418 (5th Cir. 2008). “The pleading standards for a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss are derived from Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides, in relevant part, that a pleading stating a claim for relief must contain ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” In re McCoy, 666 F.3d 924, 926 (5th Cir. 2012). Under Rule 12(b)(6), “[t]he central issue is whether, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the complaint states a valid claim for relief.” Great Plains Trust Co. v. Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., 313 F.3d 305, 312 (5th Cir. 2002). Under this standard, a court must “accept all well-pleaded facts as true.” New Orleans City v. Ambac Assurance Corp., 815 F.3d 196, 199-200 (5th Cir. 2016) (internal quotation mark omitted). However, “a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do so.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Rather,

[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.” 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. The plausibility standard is not akin to a “probability requirement, ” but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are “merely consistent with” a defendant's liability, it “stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of ‘entitlement to relief.'”

Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 544) (internal citations omitted).

         III

         Factual Allegations

         During the 2014-2015 school year, Doe, who was then fifteen years old, was enrolled as a freshman at Rosa Fort High School in the Tunica County ...


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