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Kathleen Faust v. Northfield Board of Education

September 4, 2012

KATHLEEN FAUST, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NORTHFIELD BOARD OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hillman, District Judge

OPINION

Before the Court is defendant's motion to dismiss. For reasons explained below, defendant's motion to dismiss shall be granted in part and denied in part without prejudice. Plaintiff's request to amend her complaint, as to any non-dismissed claims, will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Kathleen Faust filed a complaint alleging that defendant Northfield Board of Education violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD"), the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act ("CEPA"), plaintiff's procedural due process rights pursuant to NLRB v. Weingarten, 420 U.S. 251, 95 S.Ct. 959, 43 L.Ed.2d 171 (1975),*fn1 and plaintiff's rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Plaintiff has also alleged that defendant made defamatory statements about her.

Shortly after removing this case to federal court, defendant filed a motion to dismiss. Plaintiff's response was due on February 21, 2012. On February 23, 2012, plaintiff filed a letter requesting a two week extension of time to respond to defendant's motion. On March 20, 2012, more than three and half weeks later, plaintiff filed a response to the motion to dismiss attaching a proposed amended complaint.*fn2

II. JURISDICTION

Plaintiff has alleged that defendant retaliated against her for exercising her rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and therefore, this Court exercises subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question jurisdiction). The Court exercises supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's related state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard for Motion to Dismiss

When considering a motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), a court must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 351 (3d Cir. 2005). It is well settled that a pleading is sufficient if it contains "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Under the liberal federal pleading rules, it is not necessary to plead evidence, and it is not necessary to plead all the facts that serve as a basis for the claim. Bogosian v. Gulf Oil Corp., 562 F.2d 434, 446 (3d Cir. 1977). However, "[a]lthough the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a claimant to set forth an intricately detailed description of the asserted basis for relief, they do require that the pleadings give defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Baldwin County Welcome Ctr. v. Brown, 466 U.S. 147, 149-50 n.3 (1984) (quotation and citation omitted).

A district court, in weighing a motion to dismiss, asks "'not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claim.'"

Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 1969 n.8 (2007) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhoades, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) ("Our decision in Twombly expounded the pleading standard for 'all civil actions' . . . ."); Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) ("Iqbal . . . provides the final nail-in-the-coffin for the 'no set of facts' standard that applied to federal complaints before Twombly.").

Following the Twombly/Iqbal standard, the Third Circuit has instructed district courts to undertake a two-part analysis in reviewing a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6). First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated; a district court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210 (citing Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950). Second, a district court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "'plausible claim for relief.'" Id. (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950). A complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. Id.; see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (stating that the "Supreme Court's Twombly formulation of the pleading standard can be summed up thus: 'stating . . . a claim requires a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest' the required element.

This 'does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage,' but instead 'simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will ...


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