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Bowers v. City of Wilmington

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 29, 2014

ANTHONY BOWERS, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF WILMINGTON, DEPARTMENT OF POLICE, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

GREGORY M. SLEET, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Anthony Bowers ("Bowers"), filed this action pro se against the defendant, the City of Wilmington, Department of Police ("City of Wilmington"), seeking injunctive relief as well as back pay and other compensatory damages. (D.I. 1 at 5.) Presently before the court is the City of Wilmington's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and to dismiss state law claims for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. (D.I. 6 at 2.)

For the reasons that follow, the City of Wilmington's motion to dismiss Bowers' state law claim for failure to exhaust administrative remedies is granted. The motion to dismiss Bowers' claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted is denied.

II. BACKGROUND

Bowers alleges that he was unlawfully discriminated against in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. 1981. (D.I. 1 at 4.) Bowers states that he was a police officer with the Wilmington Police Department for three years before he was transferred to the Detective Division in 2002. ( Id. at 2.) After three years as a detective, Bowers claims that he was transferred to a U.S. Marshall Task Force, where he worked until September 2011. ( Id. ) At the conclusion of Bowers' service in the Task Force, he was not returned to the detective division, but was instead assigned to Patrol Division on September 5, 2011. ( Id. ) Bowers alleges that he was assigned to Patrol Division because the department and City of Wilmington were discriminating against him because of his race. ( Id. at 3.)

To support his theory, Bowers alleges the department's prior practice was for detectives who complete special assignments, such as the Task Force, were to be returned to the detective Division upon completion of the assignment. ( Id. at 2.) He claims that five white detectives who had recently been assigned to different task forces were returned to the Detective Division upon completion of their special assignments. ( Id. ) Bowers further alleges that even after he was informed that he would be returned to Patrol Division because there were no Detective positions available, a white officer was returned from a special assignment to the Detective Division. ( Id. ) Further, Bowers alleges that the Detective Division is currently comprised of twenty-two officers only one of whom is black. ( Id. )

The City of Wilmington, Department of Police has filed its motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), arguing that the Wilmington Police Department is not a separate juridical entity from the City of Wilmington and is not subject to suit. (D.I. 6 at 9.) The City of Wilmington also argues that Bowers cannot be granted relief under§ 1981 because it does not apply to state actors. (D.I. 10 at 6.) Finally, the City of Wilmington asserts that Bowers' state law discrimination claim should be dismissed because Bowers has failed to produce any evidence that he exhausted his administrative remedies within the statute of limitations. (D.I. 6 at 13.)

In his answer, Bowers agrees that the Wilmington Police Department is not a separate entity subject to suit, and claims that the Complaint was filed against the City of Wilmington. (D.I. 9 at 1.) Further, Bowers states that he can clarify this matter in an Amended Complaint. ( Id. ) Bowers also claims in his reply brief that he brought the cause of action under § 1981 through §1983 and his claim should not be dismissed. ( Id. at 3.) Finally, Bowers concedes that his claims under 19 Del. C. § 711 must be dismissed. ( Id. at 1.)

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for dismissal where the plaintiff "fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). In considering a motion to dismiss, the court "accept[ s] all factual allegations as true, construe[ s] the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine[s] whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). The issue for the court is "not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). As such, the touchstone of the pleading standard is plausibility. See Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir. 2012). The "complaint must plead enough factual matter' that, when taken as true, state[s] a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" In re Bill of Lading Transmission & Processing Sys. Patent Litig., 681 F.3d 1323, 1331 (Fed. Cir. 2012) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

Pro se complaints, "however inartfully pleaded, .... are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Where the plaintiff is a pro se litigant, the court "has an obligation to construe the complaint liberally." Gadson v. City of Wilmington Fire Dep't, 478 F.Supp.2d 635, 639 (D. Del. 2007). Pro se complaints may be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it appears "beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief." Hamilton v. Civigenics, 2005 WL 418023, at *2 (D. Del. Feb. 22, 2005) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 u.s. 97, 106 (1976).

IV. DISCUSSION

A. Failure to Exhaust ...


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