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Klinger v. Ahern

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division

May 8, 2015

MICHAEL LAWRENCE KLINGER, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT J. AHERN, JOE. WHITTINGTON, AND M. COFFEY II, Defendants.

ORDER

RICHARD L. VOORHEES, District Judge.

BEFORE THE COURT are Defendants' Renewed Motions to Dismiss Pursuant to New Caselaw pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1), (2) and (6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. 26). Plaintiff has filed a response (Doc. 35), to which Defendants have replied, (Doc. 41).

On November 21, 2014, this Court granted in part and denied in part Defendants Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 25). Specifically, this Court refused to dismiss claims against Defendant Whittington and Ahern in their individual capacity. (Id. ). However, the Court of Appeals had recently decided Martin v. Wood, 772 F.3d 192 (4th Cir. 2014) only three days prior. Accordingly, this Court will revisit its earlier order to determine whether dismissal is appropriate as to Whittington and Ahern, individually.

Merely claiming that suit is brought against a state employee in his or her individual capacity does not transform the suit into an individual capacity suit. Martin, 772 F.3d at 195-96. Rather, a court must "look beyond the form of the complaint and conclusory allegations against [the employee] to determine who is the real, substantial party in interest.'" Id. (quoting Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 101 (1984)).

In Wood, the Fourth Circuit identified a five factor inquiry analyzing the substance of the claims asserted against an individual. These factors are:

1. Were the allegedly unlawful actions of the state officials tied inextricably to their official duties?
2. If the state officials had authorized the desired relief at the outset, would the burden have been borne by the State?
3. Would a judgement against the state officials be institutional and official in character such that it would operate against the State?
4. Were the actions of the state officials taken to further personal interests distinct from the State's interests; and
5. Were the state officials' actions ultra vires ?

Id. (quotations and citations omitted).

Accordingly, the Court will consider the following factors to determine whether the state is the real party in interest as opposed to Defendants Whittington and Ahern, individually.

1. Were the allegedly unlawful actions of the state officials tied inextricably to their official duties?

Defendants Ahern and Whittington are identified as North Carolina employees in the Complaint. Moreover, Ahern identified himself as "Special Agent for Criminal Investigation" when calling Plaintiff. (Doc. 1, at ¶ 11). Ahern then contacted third parties requesting information about Plaintiff by "flashing his badge and identifying himself as a special agent... signing his own summons[es]." (Id. at ¶ 13). ...


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