United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
RAYMOND A. JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
SCOTT CLARK HONDA ET. AL., Defendants.
ROBERT J. CONRAD, Jr., District Judge.
THIS MATTER comes before the Court on various motions to dismiss and supporting memoranda by Defendants, including: Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP and Shalanna Pirtle (collectively: Parker Poe Defendants) (Docs. 4-5), Scott Clark Honda and Randy Threatt (collectively: Scott Clark Defendants) (Docs. 7-8), The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Rueben Daniels, Jr., and Gloria Barnett (collectively: EEOC Defendants), (Doc. 26), Plaintiff's responses (Docs. 16, 20, 21, 31), and the Magistrate Judge's Memorandum and Recommendations (M&R) (Doc. 42). Plaintiff filed objections to the M&R (Doc. 45), and the Defendants replied (Docs. 46-48).
Plaintiff Raymond A. Johnson (Plaintiff), appearing pro se, filed suit in this Court on August 26, 2013. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff asserted both Title VII and conspiracy claims against Scott Clark Honda and Threatt, as well as a claim of conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) against the EEOC Defendants. (Doc. 1 at 1). Plaintiff also brought a claim of conspiracy against the Parker Poe Defendants. (Doc. 1 at 11-13, 58).
The Defendants asserted various grounds for dismissal under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, including Rules 12(b)(1), (2), (5); however, all Defendants moved for dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6). (Docs. 4, 7, 27). The Magistrate Judge filed his M&R on February 28, 2014, recommending that the motions be granted in full as to the EEOC and Parker Poe Defendants. The Magistrate Judge recommended that Scott Clark Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 7) be granted in part, and denied without prejudice in part.
Plaintiff lodged four objections to the Magistrate Judge's M&R: (1) that Plaintiff's claim against Pirtle was supported by sufficient factual content to survive a 12(b)(6) motion; (2) that Plaintiff had, in fact, exhausted his administrative remedies; (3) that service of process upon the EEOC Defendants was proper; and, (4) that he alleged sufficient facts to support a claim of conspiracy against the EEOC. Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that the EEOC and Scott Clark Defendants conspired to deny his discrimination claim. The Court reviews Plaintiff's objections de novo.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
A. Memorandum and Recommendation
The Federal Magistrate Act provides that "a district court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specific proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Camby v. Davis , 718 F.2d 198, 200 (4th Cir. 1983). "By contrast, in the absence of a timely filed objection, a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.'" Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co. , 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 72 advisory committee's note). Similarly, de novo review is not required by the statute "when a party makes general or conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations." Orpiano v. Johnson , 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982).
B. Motion to Dismiss
A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the plaintiff's complaint. See Edwards v. City of Goldsboro , 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). Except in certain specified cases, a plaintiff's complaint need only satisfy the "simplified pleading standard" of Rule 8(a), Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A. , 534 U.S. 506, 513 (2002), which requires a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2). To satisfy this Rule 8 requirement, the showing must consist of at least "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 697 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Robinson v. American Honda Motor Co., Inc. , 551 F.3d 218, 222 (4th Cir. 2009). "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. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, " however, "do not suffice." Id . Although the Court must consider all well-pled allegations in the complaint as true, Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), and must construe all factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co. , 176 F.3d 776, 783 (4th Cir. 1999), the Court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Papasan v. Allain , 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986).
A. Parker Poe Defendants
The Parker Poe Defendants represented Scott Clark Honda and two of its employees in this suit. Parker Poe contends that there are no independent legal claims asserted against them and that Plaintiff's complaint is devoid of facts sufficient to support any claims against them. (Doc. 5 at 2). The Court adopts the Magistrate Judge's recommendation to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against the Parker Poe Defendants for several reasons, including: Plaintiff failed to establish the essential elements of a conspiracy claim under either federal or state law; they were not Plaintiff's employer, a requirement for claims under Title VII or ADEA; an alleged violation of the North Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct cannot form a ...