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Butts v. Aultman

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

December 21, 2018

ROSEMARY AULTMAN, in her official capacity as Chairman of the State Board of Education; DR. CAREY M. WRIGHT, in her official capacity as Superintendent of the Mississippi Department of Education; JASON DEAN; BUDDY BAILEY; KAMI BUMGARNER; KAREN ELAM; JOHNNY FRANKLIN; WILLIAM HAROLD JONES; JOHN KELLY; AND FRANK MCCLELLAND, all in their official capacities as members of the Mississippi State Board of Education; WINONA MUNICIPAL SEPARATE SCHOOL BOARD; AND MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI DEFENDANTS



         This cause comes before the court upon Plaintiffs' Second Motion for Preliminary Injunction and the State Defendants' motion to dismiss.[1] Upon due consideration of the motions, briefing, oral arguments, and applicable authority, the court is ready to rule.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Plaintiffs initially filed this lawsuit on November 17, 2017, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief concerning their disagreement with the Mississippi Legislature's decision to administratively consolidate the two school districts in Montgomery County, Mississippi, into one countywide school district. The Southern District court granted Plaintiffs' motion to change venue, and the case was transferred to this district on January 5, 2018, and later transferred within the district from the district judge initially assigned to the case to the undersigned district judge on June 5, 2018.

         Plaintiffs' Third Amended Complaint seeks a declaration that the consolidation statute, Miss. Code Ann. § 37-7-104.4, is unconstitutional, that it is violative of the constitutional guarantee of equal protection, that, as implemented, it dilutes voting rights in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973, [2] that it should be prevented from taking effect as drafted, and that the Winona Municipal Separate School District Board, acting as the Winona-Montgomery Consolidated School Board, should be enjoined from taking any further action and that any action taken to date pursuant to the allegedly unconstitutional statute should be voided.

         The State Defendants moved to dismiss all claims asserted by Plaintiffs. Subsequently, on July 1, 2018, the consolidation statute went into effect, and the two school districts in Montgomery County were formally consolidated, to be governed by an appointed interim board comprised of the existing Winona Municipal Separate School District Board from July 1, 2018, until January 1, 2019, at which time the permanent board will take effect. As provided by statute, the permanent board will consist of three members of the existing “Board of Trustees of the Winona Municipal Separate School District appointed by the Board of Aldermen of the City of Winona with the most years remaining in their terms.” Miss. Code Ann. § 37-7-104.4(3)(b). The two remaining members were elected by Montgomery County voters residing outside of the Winona corporate limits in November 2018 - one from each of two districts drawn by the defendant Montgomery County's Board of Supervisors. The permanent consolidated board will therefore be a combined board comprised of both appointed and elected members - the majority appointed.

         Standard of Review

         “To 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) (citing Bell Atlantic 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.

         “Motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) are viewed with disfavor and are rarely granted.” Lormand v. U.S. Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 232-33 (5th Cir. 2009). A court must accept all well-pleaded facts as true and must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Id. But the court is not bound to accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         A legally sufficient complaint must establish more than a “sheer possibility” that the plaintiff's claim is true. Id. It need not contain detailed factual allegations, but it must go beyond labels, legal conclusions, or formulaic recitations of the elements of a cause of action. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. In other words, the face of the complaint must contain enough factual matter to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of each element of the plaintiff's claim. Lormand, 565 F.3d at 255-57. If there are insufficient factual allegations to raise a right to relief above the speculative level or if it is apparent from the face of the complaint that there is an insuperable bar to relief, the claim must be dismissed. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215 (2007); Carbe v. Lappin, 492 F.3d 325, 328 & n.9 (5th Cir. 2007).

         In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court generally may not look beyond the pleadings. Cinel v. Connick, 15 F.3d 1338, 1341 (5th Cir. 1994). Matters of public record and matters of which the court may take judicial notice as well as documents attached to the complaint are exceptions. Id. at 1343 n.6; Lovelace v. Software Spectrum, Inc., 78 F.3d 1015, 1017 (5th Cir. 1996). Further, “[d]ocuments that a defendant attaches to a motion to dismiss are considered part of the pleadings if they are referred to in the plaintiff's complaint and are central to [the] claim.” Causey v. Sewell Cadillac-Chevrolet, Inc., 394 F.3d 285, 288 (5th Cir. 2001).


         Motion for Preliminary Injunction

         As an initial matter, the court finds that Plaintiffs are not entitled to a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction. A preliminary injunction is an “extraordinary remedy.” Texans for Free Enterprise v. Tex. Ethics Comm'n, 732 F.3d 535, 536 (5th Cir. 2013).

         A plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction must clearly show:

(1) A substantial likelihood that he will prevail on the merits, (2) a substantial threat that he will suffer irreparable injury if the injunction is not granted, (3) his threatened injury outweighs the threatened harm to the party whom he seeks to enjoin, and (4) granting the preliminary injunction will not disserve the public interest.

Planned Parenthood of Gulf Coast, Inc. v. Gee, 862 F.3d 445, 457 (5th Cir. 2017). “Failure to sufficiently establish any one of the four factors requires [the court] to deny the movant's requests for a preliminary injunction.” City of Dallas v. ...

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