United States District Court, D. Delaware
SAMUEL L. GUY, Plaintiff,
CITY OF WILMINGTON, Defendant.
L. Guy, Attorney at Law, Wilmington, DE - Pro Se Plaintiff.
M. Willoughby, Lauren E.M. Russell, YOUNG CONAWAY STARGATT
& TAYLOR, LLP, Wilmington, DE - attorneys for Defendant.
NOREIKA, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is the Motion to Dismiss and to Set a Briefing
Schedule (D.I. 16) filed by Defendant City of
Wilmington ("Wilmington" or "Defendant").
The Amended Complaint (D.I. 14) filed by Plaintiff, Samuel L.
Guy ("Guy" or "Plaintiff), raises three claims
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and one state law claim.
Defendant alleges that the Amended Complaint fails to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted and must be dismissed
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The Court has subject
matter jurisdiction over the federal claims pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1331 and over the state law claims pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1367. For the reasons set forth below, the
Court will grant Defendant's motion to dismiss pursuant
to Rule 12(b)(6).
is an At-Large Member of the 107th Session of the
Wilmington City Council ("Council"). (D.I. 14
¶¶ 1, 14). At the close of the 106th
Session of the Council, a total of $15, 400.00 in scholarship
and discretionary funding for At-Large Councilmembers
remained and carried over to the new session. (Id.
¶ 11). Plaintiff calculates that there should have been
an average of $3, 850 available for distribution to each
At-Large Councilmember in the 107th Session.
(Id. ¶ 12). Plaintiff, however, was not
allocated any funds. (Id. ¶ 15). Meanwhile,
re-elected At-Large Councilwoman Loretta Walsh received $8,
650.00, newly-elected At-Large Councilwoman Rysheema Dixon
received $6, 500.00, and newly-elected At-Large Councilman
Ciro Adams received $250. (Id. ¶ 16). Following
the disbursements, the Council President, Hanifa Shabazz,
made a public announcement that the distributions were made
in alphabetical order. (Id. ¶ 19). On May 8, 2017,
Plaintiff filed a complaint in the Superior Court of Delaware
against Hanifa Shabazz, Rysheema Dixon, Loretta Walsh, and
the Wilmington City Council for alleged violations of the due
process and equal protection clauses of the United States
Constitution and Delaware Constitution. (D.I. 1, Ex. A). The
complaint contended that “Shabazz made up an
alphabetical order rationale as her explanation” and
instead “distributed discretionary funds in a manner
reflecting her personal preference.” (D.I. 1
¶¶ 27, 29). Plaintiff alleged “[t]he method
of operating the scholarship and discretionary fund with
regard to the At-Large members of the 107th
Session of the Wilmington City Council violates the
constitutional guarantees of equal protection of the laws
under the Federal Constitution (a concept that inures as a
matter of due process under the Delaware constitution) and
due process of law under both Federal and Delaware
Constitutions.” (Id. ¶ 42). Plaintiff
further alleged that “Ciro Adams has had his
constitutional rights violated as well but he doesn't
seem concerned according to email correspondence he has
distributed.” (Id. ¶ 40). Defendants
Shabazz, Dixon, Walsh, and Wilmington City Council removed
the action to this Court on May 17, 2017, (D.I. 1), and
subsequently filed a motion to dismiss on June 16, 2017 (D.I.
3). On February 6, 2018, the Court issued an Opinion and
Order granting the motion to dismiss finding: (1) the
individual defendants' actions were subject to
legislative immunity; (2) the Wilmington City Council was not
a proper defendant; (3) Plaintiff had no protectable property
interest in the scholarship and discretionary funds, and
thereby no due process claim; and (4)Plaintiff's equal
protection clause claim, as pleaded, failed to state a claim.
(D.I. 11). Regarding the equal protection claim, the Court
As currently pled, the complaint does not allege that Guy was
treated differently from similarly situated newly elected
At-Large Council members. It is clear from the allegations
that the discretionary funds were allocated to the newly
elected At-Large City Council members based upon the
alphabetical order of the last names of the outgoing At-Large
Council members and the alphabetical order of the last names
of the newly elected At-Large City Council members. The
allocation method used was the same for all newly elected
At-Large City Council members. Unfortunately for Guy, his
name was last in the alphabetical order and the corresponding
outgoing At-Large City Council member had no money left in
(Id. at 12). The Court, however, provided Plaintiff
leave to file an amended complaint naming proper defendants
and reasserting a properly pleaded equal protection claim.
March 2, 2018, Plaintiff filed the Amended Complaint naming
Wilmington as the sole Defendant. (D.I. 14 ¶ 5). The
Amended Complaint is largely identical to the
original, save for the substituted Defendant and a
new section outlining the four counts. In that new section,
the Amended Complaint realleges a violation of the Equal
Protection Clause (Count I), but also adds claims alleging
violations of the First Amendment and Due Process (Counts II
and III), as well as a violation of Wilmington
City Code § 35-165 (Count IV). (Id.). The Court
will review each of these counts in turn.
complaint must contain “‘a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief,' in order to ‘give the defendant fair
notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which
it rests.'” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 554-55 (2007) (citing Conley
v. Gibson 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957); Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).
When dismissal is sought under Rule 12(b)(6), the court
conducts a two-part analysis. Fowler v. UPMC
Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). First, the
court separates the factual and legal elements of a claim,
accepting “all of the complaint's well-pleaded
facts as true, but [disregarding] any legal
conclusions.” Id. at 210-11. Second, the court
determines “whether the facts alleged in the complaint
are sufficient to show . . . a ‘plausible claim for
relief.'” Id. at 211 (quoting Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009)). A claim is facially
plausible where “plaintiff pleads factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “A pleading that
offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do.'” Id. Further, “[t]he
complaint must state enough facts to raise a reasonable
expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of [each]
necessary element” of the plaintiff's claim.
Wilkerson v. New Media Tech. Charter Sch. Inc., 522
F.3d 315, 321 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal quotations omitted).
issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but
whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support
the claims.” In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec.
Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1420 (3d Cir. 1997) (quoting
Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)). The
court may grant a motion to dismiss only if, after
“accepting all well pleaded allegations in the
complaint as true, and viewing them in the light most
favorable to plaintiff, [the] plaintiff is not entitled to
relief.” Id. “In deciding a Rule
12(b)(6) motion, a court must consider only the
complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of
public record, as well as undisputed authentic documents if
the complainant's claims are based upon these
documents.” Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223,
230 (3d Cir. 2010) (emphasis added).
Count I - 42 U.S.C. § ...