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Donahue v. Brownback

United States District Court, D. Kansas

October 24, 2018

TONI R. DONAHUE, individual and on behalf of minor child, DCD, Plaintiff,



         This matter comes before the court on defendant Governor Sam Brownback's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 12). Pro se plaintiff Toni R. Donahue filed this action against defendant on behalf of her disabled son, claiming the Freedom from Unsafe Seclusion and Restraint Act signed by defendant in 2015 is unconstitutional. Defendant moved to dismiss this action claiming he is entitled to immunity under the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution and because plaintiff has failed to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion is granted.

         I. Background

         Defendant signed the Freedom from Unsafe Seclusion and Restraint Act, K.S.A. § 72-6151 et seq., (“the Act”) into law on May 27, 2015. Plaintiff alleges that because of the Act, her disabled son served “shock time” in a 5x4 isolation prison cell located in his autism classroom at Prairie Center Elementary School on at least six occasions between April 10, 2015 and October 23, 2015. Plaintiff claims her son suffered from emotional and physical trauma because of these incidents. Plaintiff blames the school district but maintains that defendant is ultimately responsible because the district was acting under the law defendant passed in May 2015. Plaintiff seeks relief against defendant in both his individual and official capacities for violations of her and her son's constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and “IDEA 2004.” She also claims defendant is liable for failing to train and supervise social workers at the Department of Children and Families (“DCF”), failing to implement policy changes at DCF, and failing to train police officers in local police departments. She seeks both compensatory and injunctive relief.

         Plaintiff has filed multiple lawsuits on the same subject matter. The present action was filed on January 31, 2018 and defendant filed his motion to dismiss on July 6, 2018.

         II. Legal Standards

         Defendant moves to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) and for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6).

         Under the Eleventh Amendment, “an unconsenting State is immune from suits brought in federal courts by her own citizens as well as by citizens of another State.” Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 662-63 (1974). A party asserting Eleventh Amendment Immunity may move to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) because “Eleventh Amendment Immunity concerns the subject matter jurisdiction of the district court.” Ruiz v. McDonnell, 299 F.3d 1173, 1180 (10th Cir. 2002).

         The court will grant a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss only when the factual allegations fail to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Although the factual allegations need not be detailed, the claims must set forth entitlement to relief “through more than labels, conclusions and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” In re Motor Fuel Temperature Sales Practices Litig., 534 F.Supp.2d 1214, 1216 (D. Kan. 2008). The allegations must contain facts sufficient to state a claim that is plausible, rather than merely conceivable. Id. “All well-pleaded facts, as distinguished from conclusory allegations, must be taken as true.” Swanson v. Bixler, 750 F.2d 810, 813 (10th Cir. 1984); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The court construes any reasonable inferences from these facts in favor of the plaintiff. Tal, 453 F.3d at 1252.

         Where, as here, the plaintiff proceeds pro se, the court construes the pro se filings liberally. Hall v. Doering, 997 F.Supp. 1445, 1451 (D. Kan. 1998) (citing Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9-10 (1980)). A court may not, however, supply “additional factual allegations to round out a plaintiff's complaint or construct a legal theory on plaintiff's behalf.” Whitney v. New Mexico, 113 F.3d 1170, 1173-74 (10th Cir. 1997).

         III. Analysis

         Plaintiff brings claims against defendant in his official and individual capacities under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. She also seeks relief under § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and “IDEA 2004.” The court will address defendant's alleged grounds for dismissal for each individual claim.

         a. Official Capacity Claims under § 1983

         The purpose of § 1983 is “to provide a remedy to parties deprived of constitutional rights by a state official's abuse of his position while acting under color of state law.” Haines v. Fisher, 82 F.3d 1503, 1508 (10th Cir. 1996). Section 1983 imposes liability “for violations of rights protected by ...

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