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Clarke v. Petersburg City Public Schools

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

August 7, 2017




         Ronnie Clarke has applied to work for the City of Petersburg School Board (the "School Board")[1] many times to no avail. After each denied application, Clarke has filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the "EEOC"), followed by a suit in this Court for violation of Title VII. The Court has dismissed each case.

         In August 2015, Clarke again applied for a job with the School Board, and the School Board did not hire him. He now claims another violation of Title VII.

         Clarke originally sued the School Board and four individuals. The defendants moved to dismiss the case, and also moved for sanctions against Clarke. On May 4, 2017, the Court dismissed the claims against the four individuals with prejudice. As to the School Board, the Court rejected the argument that claim preclusion bars the current case. Nevertheless, the Court dismissed the claim against the School Board, but gave Clarke the opportunity to file a second amended complaint. The Court did not resolve the motion for sanctions at that time.

         On May 25, 2017, Clarke filed the second amended complaint. The School Board has again moved to dismiss. Because Clarke has not alleged sufficient facts to establish that the School Board did not hire him because of his prior EEOC complaints, the Court will grant the School Board's motion to dismiss. The Court, however, will not impose sanctions on Clarke.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Clarke worked for the School Board from 2006 to 2009. In 2009, the School Board laid him off because of a reduction in workforce. Since then, Clarke has applied for a similar job many times, but the School Board has not hired him.

         To date, Clarke has sued the School Board in this Court five times for discrimination or retaliation based on different rejected employment applications. See Clarke v. Petersburg City Pub. Schs., No. 3:1 l-cv-00164-REP (EEOC Charge No. 437-2010-00411); Clarke v. Petersburg City Pub. Schs., No. 3:13-cv-00333-REP (EEOC Charge No. 437-2012-00731); Clarke v. Petersburg City Pub. Schs., No. 3:14-cv-00239-REP (EEOC Charge No. 430-2013-02153); Clarke v. Petersburg City Pub. Schs., No. 3:14-cv-00517-REP (EEOC Charge No. 437-2013-01022); Clarke v. City of Petersburg, No. 3:15-cv-00470-HEH (EEOC Charge No. 438-2014-00892).

         In August 2015, Clarke again unsuccessfully applied for a job with the School Board. He says the Board rejected him because of an EEOC charge that resulted in a right to sue letter on April 24, 2014.[2] He now claims unlawful retaliation.


         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require a plaintiffs complaint to contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In cases where the plaintiff appears without an attorney (i.e., pro se), courts do not expect the pro se plaintiff to frame legal issues with the clarity and precision expected from lawyers. Accordingly, courts construe pro se complaints liberally. Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985) This principle of liberal construction, however, has its limits. Id. Courts do not need to discern the unexpressed intent of the plaintiff or to conjure up issues on the plaintiffs behalf. See Laber v. Harvey, 438 F.3d 404, 413 n.3 (4th Cir. 2006); Beaudett, 775 F.2d at 1276.

         The defendants have moved to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. A Rule 12(b)(6) motion gauges the sufficiency of a complaint. Goines v. Valley Cmty. Servs. Bd, 822 F.3d 159, 165 (4th Cir. 2016). Accordingly, in evaluating such a motion, courts typically focus only on the complaint, documents attached to the complaint, and documents explicitly incorporated into the complaint by reference. Id. at 166. In appropriate cases, however, courts may also (1) take judicial notice of public records, such as federal court records, and (2) consider documents submitted by the movant if the documents are integral to the complaint and indisputably authentic. Id; Witthohn v. Fed. Ins. Co., 164 F.App'x 395, 396 (4th Cir. 2006). When considering the complaint itself, courts must accept all allegations as true and must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v., Inc., 591 F.3d 250, 253 (4th Cir. 2009) (citing Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 244 (4th Cir. 1999)). The principle that a court must accept all allegations as true, however, does not apply to legal conclusions. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         Considering the facts in light of these principles, to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint must contain sufficient facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Id. "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. (quoting Bell Atl Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 565 (2007)).

         III. ...

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