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Schaefer v. Modelski

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

January 23, 2015

M.J. MODELSKI, Defendants.


MONA K. MAJZOUB, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff filed his pro se Complaint on August 27, 2013, alleging that Defendant violated his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution while acting in his capacity as an Administrative Law Judge for the Michigan Secretary of State's Office. ( See docket no. 1.) Plaintiff, a "traditional Jewish person, " alleges that Defendant discriminated against him on the basis of religion when Defendant asked him if he "had horns under his yarmulke" and asked him to recite The Lord's Prayer in the context of an administrative hearing. ( See id. ) Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief and monetary damages. ( See id.; see also docket nos. 10 and 13.) On July 21, 2014, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint in which he asserts that Defendant committed perjury by lying to an investigator during an investigation by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. (Docket no. 28.)

Before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings or for Summary Judgment.[1] (Docket no. 42.) Plaintiff has not filed a Response. All pretrial matters have been referred to the undersigned for consideration. (Docket no. 5.) The undersigned has reviewed the pleadings, dispenses with a hearing pursuant to E.D. Mich. L.R. 7.1(f)(2), and issues this Report and Recommendation.

I. Recommendation

For the reasons that follow, the undersigned recommends that Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings or for Summary Judgment (docket no. 42) be granted. Plaintiff's outstanding motions (docket nos. 29, 30, 35, and 37) and Defendant's Motion for Protective Order (docket no. 36) should be denied as moot. This matter should be dismissed in its entirety.

II. Report

A. Procedural History

On September 11, 2013, Plaintiff mailed Defendant a summons and a copy of his Complaint by certified mail. ( See docket no. 7.) On October 22, 2013, Plaintiff requested a clerk's entry of default and a default judgment. (Docket nos. 7, 8, and 9.) A Clerk's Entry of Default was entered against Defendant on October 22, 2013, but Plaintiff's request for Default Judgment was denied for failure to provide a sum certain. (Docket nos. 9 and 12.) On October 29, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Default Judgment against Defendant. (Docket no. 13.) He filed a supplemental brief on November 19, 2013 (docket no. 16), an Emergency Motion for Default Judgment on March 20, 2014 (docket no. 19), and a Supplement to his Motion on April 7, 2014 (docket no. 20).

As of May 5, 2014, Defendant had not filed an answer to Plaintiff's Complaint or to Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment. Thus, the undersigned ordered Defendant to show cause why he had failed to respond to Plaintiff's Complaint, noting that failure to respond to the Court's show-cause order may result in a judgment against Defendant. (Docket no. 21.) Defendant's attorney filed an appearance on May 14, 2014, and Defendant filed a Response to the Court's Order to Show Cause on March 23, 2014, asserting that Plaintiff's default should be set aside and that this matter should be dismissed because Plaintiff failed to properly serve Defendant. (Docket nos. 23 and 24.)

On July 21, 2014, the Court denied Plaintiff's Motions and granted him 30 days to properly serve Defendant. (Docket no. 27.) That same day, Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint, another Motion for Default Judgment, and his Motion for Sanctions. (Docket nos. 28, 29, and 30.) Plaintiff requested a Summons on August 1, 2014, and it appears that he served Defendant because Defendant filed an Answer on August 11, 2014. (Docket no. 34.) Plaintiff filed his next Motion for Default Judgment three days later. (Docket no. 37.) Defendant then filed his Motion for Protective Order, in which he asserts that discovery in this matter should be stayed while he files a Motion for Summary Judgment. (Docket no. 36.) Defendant filed his Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings or for Summary Judgment on October 9, 2014. (Docket no. 42.)

B. Legal Standards

1. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

Defendant moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). Rule 12(c) states that a party may move for judgment on the pleadings after the pleadings are closed but early enough not to delay trial. "Motions seeking judgment on the pleadings, brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), are reviewed under the same standard applied to motions to dismiss brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)." Estate of Malloy v. PNC Bank, No. 11-12922, 2012 WL 1094344, at *4 (E.D. Mich. Apr.2, 2012) (citation omitted). A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint. The court must "construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accept its allegations as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff." Directv, Inc. v. Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007); Inge v. Rock Fin. Corp., 281 F.3d 613, 619 (6th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted).

This acceptance of factual allegations as true, however, is inapplicable to legal conclusions: "Threadbare recitals of all the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Thus, the court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Id. (internal quotations and citations omitted). "Only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id.

"Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief [is] a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. To make this determination, a court may apply the following two-part test: (1) "identify pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth; and (2) "assume the veracity [of the remaining allegations] and determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. at 679.

Additionally, when a Rule 12(c) motion presents matters outside the pleadings, the court must convert the motion to a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56 unless the district court excludes such matters. Max Arnold & Sons, LLC v. W.L. Hailey & Co., Inc., 452 F.3d 494, 503 (6th Cir. 2006). But "matters of public record, orders, items appearing in the record of the case, and exhibits attached to the complaint[ ] also may be taken into account'" without the necessity of converting the motion into one for summary judgment. Barany-Snyder v. Weiner, 539 F.3d 327, 332 (6th Cir. 2008) (quoting Amini v. Oberlin Coll., 259 F.3d 493, 502 (6th Cir. 2001)).

2. Motion for Summary Judgment

"The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A moving party may meet that burden "by showing' - that is, pointing out to the district court - that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's ...

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