United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Spartanburg Division
Ileka L. Leaks, Plaintiff,
Limestone College; Walt Griffin, President In His Official Capacity, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
C. Coggins, Jr. United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss filed by
Defendants. ECF No. 5. Defendants seek to have
Plaintiff's race discrimination and retaliation claims
dismissed on the basis of res judicata. ECF No. 5. Plaintiff
filed a Response in opposition to the Motion to Dismiss, ECF
No. 13, and Defendants filed a Reply. ECF No. 14. Pursuant to
the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and Local
Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(g) (D.S.C.), Defendants' motion
was referred to a Magistrate Judge for consideration. The
Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation
(“the Report”) recommending that the
Defendants' motion to dismiss be granted. ECF No. 18.
Plaintiff filed Objections to the Report, ECF No. 19, and
Defendants filed a Response to Plaintiff's Objections.
ECF No. 20. Having reviewed the entire record, the Court
finds that the Magistrate Judge fairly and accurately
summarized the facts and applied the correct principles of
law. Accordingly, the Court adopts the Report and fully
incorporates it into this Order.
an African American female, began working for Defendant
Limestone College (“Limestone”) in August 2011 as
Director of Career Services. ECF No. 1 at 1-2. Since that
time, Plaintiff has also taught five to six classes each
semester at Limestone. ECF No. 1 at 1.
December 21, 2016, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit in the Cherokee
County Court of Common Pleas (“the State Court
Action”), alleging that Defendants added another
instructor to the course instructor rotation, elevated that
instructor to a higher level of seniority with more classes
to teach than Plaintiff, and changed Plaintiff's
classification to a non-exempt employee to reduce her
course load. ECF No. 5-1 at 2-6. The State Court action
asserted causes of action for breach of contract, breach of
contract with fraudulent intent, and retaliation. ECF No. 5-1
at 6-9. On March 15, 2017, Plaintiff filed a joint
stipulation of dismissal with prejudice in the State Court
Action as to all defendants. ECF No. 5-2.
April 11, 2017, Plaintiff filed the instant action, bringing
claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 for race discrimination
and retaliation. ECF No. 1 at 4-6. The substance of
Plaintiff's Complaint relates to the same subject matter
addressed in the State Court Action-i.e., Defendants'
alleged favoritism of another course instructor, reduction of
Plaintiff's course load, and classification of Plaintiff
as a non-exempt employee. ECF No. 1. In her Report
recommending the grant of the Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss, the Magistrate Judge found that Plaintiff's
claims in the instant case should be dismissed because they
are barred by res judicata. ECF No. 18.
Standard of Review
The Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court.
The Report has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility
to make a final determination remains with this Court.
Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71. Parties are
allowed to make a written objection to the Report within
fourteen days after being served a copy of the Report. 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). From the objections, the Court
reviews de novo those portions of the Report that have been
specifically objected to, and the Court may accept, reject,
or modify the Report, in whole or in part. Id.
Motion to Dismiss Standard
motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) examines the legal sufficiency of the facts alleged
on the face of the plaintiff's complaint. Edwards v.
City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999).
Under Rule 12(b)(6), a claim should be dismissed if it fails
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To that
end, the Court should “accept as true all well-pleaded
allegations and should view the complaint in a light most
favorable to the plaintiff.” Mylan Labs., Inc. v.
Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). However, the
Court “need not accept the legal conclusions drawn from
the facts” nor “accept as true unwarranted
inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or arguments.”
Eastern Shore Mkts., Inc. v. J.D. Assocs. Ltd.
P'ship, 213 F.3d 175, 180 (4th Cir. 2000).
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the
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. Although “a complaint attacked by a Rule
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual
allegations, ” a pleading that merely offers
“labels and conclusions, ” or “a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not
do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Likewise,
“a complaint [will not] suffice if it tenders
‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further
factual enhancements.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).
referenced above, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss argues
that Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed because they
are barred by res judicata. Res judicata bars litigation of
claims that were litigated or could have been litigated in an
earlier suit. Nevada v. United States, 463 U.S. 110,
130 (1983). To determine the preclusive effect of a state
court judgment, federal courts look to state law. Laurel
Sand & Gravel, Inc. v. Wilson, 519 F.3d 156, 161-62
(4th Cir. 2008). Under South Carolina law, res judicata
requires proof of three elements: “(1) identity of the
parties; (2) identity of the subject matter; and (3)
adjudication of the issue in the former suit.” Plum
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