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Hampton v. State of Connecticut Judicial Branch

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 24, 2019

SECRETT HAMPTON, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF CONNECTICUT JUDICIAL BRANCH, STEPHEN GRANT, DEBORAH FULLER, and JOHN FITZGERALD, Defendants.

          RULING AND ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS

          Victor A. Bolden United States District Judge

         On August 24, 2018, Secrett Hampton (“Plaintiff”) sued the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch (“State Judicial Branch”), Stephen Grant, Debroah Fuller, and John Fitzgerald (collectively, “Defendants”), alleging, inter alia, that Defendants' unpaid suspension and termination of her employment violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983, and several state laws. Complaint, dated Aug. 24, 2018 (“Compl.”), ECF No. 1.

         On January 16, 2019, Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, dated Jan. 16, 2019 (“Mot.”), ECF No. 24; Defendants' Memorandum of Law in Support of Mot., dated Jan. 16, 2019 (“Defs.' Mem.”), ECF No. 24-1.

         For the reasons explained below, Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED, as the Court finds that (1) Ms. Hampton has failed to plead sufficient facts to state a plausible claim upon which relief can be granted under either Title VII or § 1983; and (2) Ms. Hampton has not stated a cause of action under § 1981 that appears to be independent from her § 1983 claim. Because her federal claims are dismissed, Ms. Hampton's state law claims are dismissed without prejudice to being refiled in state court, as the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over those claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c).

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Allegations[1]

         Ms. Hampton, an African-American woman, works as a Juvenile Detention Transportation Officer for the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch (hereafter, the “State Judicial Branch”) in the Court Support Services Division at the Juvenile Residential Services Unit at 239 Whalley Avenue in New Haven, Connecticut. Compl. ¶¶ 13, 12. Ms. Hampton alleges that the State Judicial Branch employs more than one hundred employees. Id. ¶ 11.

         On October 21, 2016, Ms. Hampton alleges that she and fellow officer Aquil Abdul-Salaam, an African-American man, “transported a known dangerous juvenile inmate to a medical appointment.” Id. ¶¶ 15-16.

         Ms. Hampton alleges that a “short time” before transporting him, this inmate “assaulted a seasoned male staff member at the facility at which the inmate was housed, choking and severely injuring the staff member[.]” Id. ¶ 17. On another occasion, Ms. Hampton alleges that this same inmate, while being transported, “became so enraged that he attempted to kick out the doors of the transport van, ” requiring Ms. Hampton to pull over and wait for additional staff to arrive to assist her. Id.

         Because this inmate was so dangerous, Ms. Hampton alleges that on October 21, 2016- before she took him to his medical appointment, along with Mr. Abdul-Salaam-the inmate “was placed in the most restrictive mechanical restraints available and permissible” under Defendants' policies, “including leg shackles, handcuffs and a belly chain secured around his waist attached to the handcuffs.” Id. ¶ 18. Ms. Hampton and Mr. Abdul-Salaam then allegedly took him to his medical appointment, which allegedly took place in a “busy public physician's office.” Id. ¶¶ 15, 19.

         After arriving at the office, the inmate allegedly “defeated his restraints, leaving the now unsecured belly chain attached to his handcuffs in front of his body, for ready use as a deadly weapon.” Id. ¶ 20. The inmate allegedly refused to comply with Ms. Hampton's directives, “acted in a threatening manner, ” and then “fled the medical office.” Id. ¶ 21.

         While Ms. Hampton alleges that she and Mr. Abdul-Salaam followed the inmate at a safe distance as required by State Judicial Branch policy, they were allegedly “unable to safely restrain him and return him to custody.” Id. ¶ 22. Ms. Hampton and Mr. Abdul-Salaam allegedly then returned to their work location and completed incident reports detailing the escape. Id. ¶ 24.

         Later that day, Mr. Hampton alleges that John Fitzgerald, the Superintendent of the State Judicial Branch, and Jimmy Gomez, a Shift Supervisor of the State Judicial Branch, approached her at the end of her shift. Id. ¶ 25. She alleges they told her to hand in her badge, and that Defendants placed her on unpaid administrative leave “prior to any investigation whatsoever.” Id. ¶¶ 26-27. She also alleges, upon information and belief, that Defendants reported her to the State of Connecticut Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) for physical and emotional neglect of the inmate. Id. ¶ 28.

         Ms. Hampton alleges that Defendants “refused and failed to conduct a timely investigation, ” and that she “remained on unpaid administrative leave for a protracted time.” Id. ¶ 30.

         On February 3, 2017, Defendants allegedly terminated Ms. Hampton's employment. Id. ¶ 31.

         Ms. Hampton alleges that both of these decisions were “recommended” by Deborah Fuller, Director of Family/Juvenile Services for the State Judicial Branch, and Mr. Fitzgerald, and that Stephen Grant, Executive Director of the Court Support Services Division, made the final decisions to suspend and then terminate her. Id. ¶¶ 32-33. Ms. Hampton alleges that all three of these individual defendants are white. Id.

         On April 2, 2018, Ms. Hampton alleges that DCF's findings of neglect were “reversed on appeal to that agency and set aside.” Id. ¶ 34. Ms. Hampton alleges that Defendants had relied, in part, on those findings when disciplining her. Id.

         On May 23, 2018, Ms. Hampton alleges that her termination and a “substantial portion” of her unpaid suspension were reversed by a union arbitration award. Id. ¶ 37.

         B. Procedural History

         On August 24, 2018, Ms. Hampton sued Defendants. See Compl. Ms. Hampton alleged three causes of action that appear to have been brought against the State Judicial Branch only, arising from her unpaid suspension and termination: (1) “discrimination based upon race, color, ethnicity, gender or in retaliation for her protected complaints about unlawful conduct, ” in violation of Title VII, Compl. ¶¶ 44-47 (Count One); (2) violation of Ms. Hampton's “common law rights” under Connecticut law, due to the State Judicial Branch's alleged discrimination in violation of the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 45a-60 et seq. (“CFEPA”), id. at 9, ¶¶ 47-48 (Count Two); and (3) violations of Ms. Hampton's “common law rights” under Connecticut law, due to the State Judicial Branch's alleged failure to adequately train, screen, hire, or supervise employees, id. at 9-10, ¶¶ 47-48 (Count Three).

         Ms. Hampton also alleged two causes of action against Mr. Grant, Ms. Fuller, and Mr. Fitzgerald: (1) intentional infliction of emotional distress, id. at 10-11, ¶¶ 47-51 (Count Four); and (2) intentional, reckless, and discriminatory conduct, and disparate treatment, in violation of “equal protection, due process, and 42 U.S.C. [§§] 1981 and 1983.” See Id. at 11-12, ¶¶ 47-53 (Count Five). With respect to Count Five, Ms. Hampton is suing Mr. Grant, Ms. Fuller, and Mr. Fitzgerald in their individual capacities only. Id. at 11, ¶¶ 47-49.

         For all five counts, Ms. Hampton claims Defendants' actions have resulted in: “loss of her rights; humiliation and ridicule; economic losses, including but not limited to loss of income and employment benefits; loss of employment opportunities, advancement and training; loss of self-esteem, peace of mind, emotional and physical well-being; loss of reputation and standing in his employment, in the eyes of prospective employers and in the public at large; and has suffered severe emotional and mental distress.” See Id. at 8, ¶ 47; 9, ¶ 48; 10, ¶ 48; 10-11, ¶ 51; 12, ¶ 53.

         On November 2, 2018, counsel appeared for the State Judicial Branch and for the individual Defendants. Notice of Appearance, dated Nov. 2, 2018, ECF No. 9. Counsel claimed, however, to be representing Mr. Grant, Ms. Fuller, and Mr. Fitzgerald in their official capacities only. Id.

         That same day, Defendants moved for: (1) an order requiring Ms. Hampton to post a bond as security for costs in the amount of $500, Motion for Security for Costs, dated Nov. 2, 2018, ECF No. 10; and (2) an extension of time until December 3, 2018 to respond to the Complaint, Motion for Extension of Time, dated Nov. 2, 2018, ECF No. 11.

         On November 3, 2018, the Court granted Defendants' motion to extend time and extended Defendants' time to respond to the Complaint to December 3, 2018. Order, dated Nov. 3, 2018, ECF No. 12.

         On November 5, 2018, the Clerk of the Court granted Defendants' motion for security for costs. Order, dated Nov. 5, 2018, ECF No. 13.

         On November 27, 2018, counsel appeared for Mr. Fitzgerald and Ms. Fuller, claiming to now represent them in their individual capacities as well.

         That same day, Defendants again moved to extend their time to respond to the Complaint. Motion for Extension of Time, dated Nov. 27, 2018, ECF No. 15.

         On November 28, 2018, the Court granted Defendants' motion and extended Defendants' time to respond to the Complaint to January 17, 2019. Order, dated Nov. 28, 2018, ECF No. 16.

         On December 14, 2018, Defendants moved for default and summary dismissal of this action, with prejudice, for failure to post the bond for costs. Motion for Default for Failure to Post Security for Costs, dated Dec. 14, 2018, ECF No. 17.

         On December 17, 2018, Ms. Hampton posted security for costs in the amount of $500. See ECF No. 19.

         On December 20, 2018, Defendants withdrew the motion for default for failure to post bond. Motion to Withdraw Motion for Default, dated Dec. 20, 2018, ECF No. 20.

         On December 21, 2018, the Court found both of Defendants' motions regarding the bond moot. See Orders, dated Dec. 21, 2018, ECF Nos. 21-22.

         On January 16, 2019, Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint under Rules 12(b)(1), 12(b)(2), 12(b)(5), and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, asserting eight grounds for dismissal. See Mot.

         On January 17, 2019, Defendants moved to stay discovery pending resolution of the motion to dismiss. Motion to Stay Discovery, dated Jan. 17, 2019, ECF No. 25.

         On January 30, 2019, the Court granted the motion and stayed discovery until May 1, 2019. Order, dated Jan. 30, 2019, ECF No. 26.

         On February 7, 2019, Ms. Hampton moved, with Defendants' consent, for an extension of time to respond to the motion to dismiss. Consent Motion for Extension of Time, dated Feb. 7, 2019, ECF No. 27.

         On February 8, 2019, the Court granted Ms. Hampton's motion and extended her time to respond to the motion to dismiss to March 11, 2019. Order, dated Feb. 8, 2019, ECF No. 28.

         On March 13, 2019, Ms. Hampton moved, with Defendants' consent, for a second extension of time to respond to the motion to dismiss. Consent Motion for ...


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