United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
CARLTON W. REEVES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Meridian-Lauderdale Public Library hired Sharon Smith to
manage its public relations. Within three months, Smith was
fired. She brought this suit challenging her termination. Now
before the Court are defendants' motion to dismiss and
Smith's motion for judgment on the pleadings.
Factual and Procedural History
following facts from Smith's complaint are undisputed.
See generally Docket Nos. 38, 44. As established by
state law, the library is managed by a board of trustees, who
have the authority to hire a director to oversee the daily
operations of the library.
Smith was hired in late October 2016, she received an
employee handbook that stated all library employees are
at-will employees and that she would be a probationary
employee during her first six months of employment. On
January 4, 2017, the library's director, Barbara Gough,
wrote Smith a “notice of corrective action” for
not vacuuming the floor of the library after being asked to
do so. Docket No. 38-2. This notice warned Smith that she
would be monitored for 30 days to ensure the
“infraction [was] corrected.” Id. Smith
wrote to the library's board of trustees (the
“board”) and asked for a hearing regarding the
notice. Counsel for the board denied Smith's request for
a hearing and stated that the board only had the authority to
hear employee grievances when an employee had been terminated
by the director “for cause.” Docket No. 38-3.
February 8, 2017, Smith was fired; she was told her
termination was without cause and she was reminded she had
only been a probationary employee. On February 17, 2017,
Smith appealed her termination to the board. At the next
board meeting, board member Wanda DeLee made a motion to deny
Smith a hearing, which passed by a unanimous vote.
then filed suit against the library, Gough, and DeLee. Her
complaint lists her causes of action: wrongful termination in
violation of Mississippi Code § 39-3-17; a violation of
Mississippi's constitutional guarantee of procedural due
process; a violation of the U.S. Constitution's guarantee
of procedural and substantive due process; a claim that the
library's employee handbook has a chilling effect on
constitutional rights; and a § 1983 Monell
claim. The present motions
12(b)(6) authorizes dismissal of actions that fail to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted. To survive a Rule
12(b)(6) 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) (quotation marks and
citation omitted). “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.
considering a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts the
plaintiff's factual allegations as true and makes
reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor.
Id. “Documents 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 her claim.” Causey v. Sewell
Cadillac-Chevrolet, Inc., 394 F.3d 285, 288 (5th Cir.
2004) (citation omitted).
same standard applies to motions for judgment on the
pleadings. See Guidry v. Am. Pub. Life Ins. Co., 512
F.3d 177, 180 (5th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). “A
motion brought pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c) is designed to
dispose of cases where the material facts are not in dispute
and a judgment on the merits can be rendered by looking to
the substance of the pleadings and any judicially noticed
facts.” Hebert Abstract Co. v. Touchstone Props.,
Ltd., 914 F.2d 74, 76 (5th Cir. 1990).
has alleged federal constitutional claims and state law
causes of action. Before evaluating the substance of
Smith's claims, a few points of clarification are in
in addition to pleading the due process claims, Smith lists a
§ 1983 Monell claim as a separate cause of
action. It is not. Section 1983 and the due process claims
are one and the same; Section 1983 is the avenue by which
Smith may bring her federal due process claims. See Cinel
v. Connick, 15 F.3d 1338, 1342 (5th Cir. 1994).
the handbook may be evidence of a type of § 1983
violation but it is not its own cause of action, like a
breach of contract claim. See Monell v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 690
(1978) (“Local governing bodies, therefore, can be sued
directly under § 1983 for monetary, declaratory, or
injunctive relief where, as here, the action that is alleged
to be unconstitutional implements or executes a policy
statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision officially
adopted and promulgated by that body's officers.”).
Mississippi's constitutional guarantee of due process is
identical to that of the federal constitution. See
Miss. Const. Art. 3, § 14. “Two claims are
duplicative of one another if they arise from the same facts
and do not allege distinct damages.” O'Quain v.
Shell Offshore, Inc., No. 2:12-CV-01693, 2013 WL 149467,
at *4 (E.D. La. Jan. 14, 2013) (citing Conway v. Icahn
& Co., 16 F.3d 504, 511 (2d Cir. 1994)). For these
reasons, the Mississippi procedural due process claim is
subsumed within the federal due process claim.
Court now turns to the merits of Smith's due process