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Mompoint v. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

November 28, 2018

CYNTHIA L. MOMPOINT, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Denise J. Casper United States District Judge.

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies without prejudice (1) Plaintiff's motion for counsel and (2) Defendants' motion to dismiss. If Plaintiff wishes to proceed in this matter, the Court grants her time to file an amended complaint.

         I. Background

         Cynthia Mompoint, proceeding pro se, commenced this action against her former employer, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (“Mass DOE”), and the Senior Associate Commissioner and Chief of Staff (the “individual Defendants”). Plaintiff alleges a Title VII employment discrimination claim and also alleges defamation and libel. D. 1. Plaintiff has also moved for appointment of counsel. D. 7.

         Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. D. 14. Defendants argue that the complaint fails to provide any facts that would give rise to a plausible claim for relief for any claim. D. 15. The individual Defendants contend that the Title VII claim is subject to dismissal because there is no individual liability under Title VII and that the defamation claim is subject to dismissal because the complaint fails to identify any false statement published by either of the individual Defendants. Id. The Mass. DOE contends that the Eleventh Amendment prevents this Court from exercising juridical authority and that the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act prohibits the defamation claim against the Mass. DOE. Id.

         On November 20, 2018, Plaintiff filed her pro se opposition to Defendants' motion to dismiss. D. 17.

         II. Analysis

         A. Standard of Review

         A complaint must contain only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “To 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 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic 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.” Id. The allegations must be sufficient to identify the manner by which the defendants subjected the plaintiff to harm and the harm alleged must be one for which the law affords a remedy. Id.

         In assessing the sufficiency of the complaint, “an inquiring court must first separate wheat from chaff; that is, the court must separate the complaint's factual allegations (which must be accepted as true) from its conclusory legal allegations (which need not be credited).” Guadalupe-Baez v. Pesquera, 819 F.3d 509, 514 (1st Cir. 2016) (citing Morales-Cruz v. Univ. of P.R., 676 F.3d 220, 224 (1st Cir. 2012)). The Court must then determine “whether the well-pleaded facts, taken in their entirety, permit ‘the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'” Id. (citations omitted).

         B. The Original Complaint Fails to State any Plausible Claims

         Although pro se pleadings are liberally construed, the burden is on Mompoint to set forth plausible claims upon which relief may be granted and to provide sufficient notice of her claims to the Defendants. Ateek v. Massachusetts, No. 11-11566-DPW, 2011 WL 4529393, at *3 (D. Mass. Sept. 27, 2011) (citing to Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure).

         Mompoint makes the conclusory assertions that the defendants engaged in racially discriminatory actions and that she “was a victim of libel, racist, unfair derogatory statements and evaluations.” There are no allegations concerning the defendants' actions that are sufficient to give “the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the ground upon which it rests.” See Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         To the extent Plaintiff alleges defamation, she has not alleged that either of the individual Defendants are at fault for the publication of a false statement regarding the plaintiff, capable of damaging the plaintiff's reputation in the community, which either caused economic loss or is actionable without proof of economic loss. See White v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mass., Inc., 442 Mass. 64, 66 ...


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