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Garcia v. City of McAllen

United States District Court, Fifth Circuit

December 16, 2013

SYLVIA GARCIA, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF McALLEN, et al., Defendants.

ORDER AND OPINION

MICAELA ALVAREZ, District Judge.

The Court now considers the self-styled "Defendant City of McAllen's Motion to Dismiss, "[1] filed by the City of McAllen ("City"), and the self-styled "McAllen Independent School District's Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject-Matter Jurisdiction, "[2] filed by the McAllen Independent School District ("School"). Sylvia Garcia as next friend of Frederick Matthew Garza ("Plaintiff") has filed a self-styled "Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint, "[3] but has not responded to the motions. After considering the complaint, motions, and relevant authorities, the Court STRIKES the City's motion, GRANTS the School's motion for claims related to educational malpractice, but DENIES the School's motion for claims related to civil rights violations. In addition, because this order resolves all motions on the Court's docket and neither Defendant has yet filed an answer, the Court CONTINUES the pretrial and scheduling conference as scheduled for December 17, 2013, [4] until February 11, 2014.

I. Factual Background

In this complaint, Plaintiff alleges causes of action arising from three separate episodes. In the first episode, she alleges the McAllen Independent School District failed to update her son's annual Individual Educational Plan (IEP) pursuant to the Individual with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA).[5] This failure deprived her son's teachers of the opportunity to be aware of a doctor's diagnosis given the previous summer.[6] Subsequently, Plaintiff's son was involved in a dispute with a teacher.[7] The School responded by transferring the boy to an inferior school. Despite repeated requests from Plaintiff, the School refused to hold a manifestation hearing prior to the transfer.[8] For this episode, Plaintiff seeks to recover under the 14th Amendment through § 1983, under § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and under the IDEA.[9]

In the second episode, Plaintiff alleges a gym teacher harassed her son until he experienced an anxiety attack, which gave him the appearance of being under the influence of alcoholic or narcotic substances.[10] School officials asked him to submit to a drug test and suspended him for three days upon his refusal. For this episode, Plaintiff seeks to recover under the 4th and 14th Amendments through § 1983.[11]

The details of the third episode remain unclear, but Plaintiff alleges that her son approached a school counselor, who called the City of McAllen Police.[12] The McAllen Police summarily arrested her son and sought to have him committed to a Mental Health and Mental Retardation Center (MHMR). Plaintiff alleges the school counselor instigated this arrest in retaliation for the lawsuit now before the Court. For this episode, Plaintiff seeks to recover under the 4th and 14th Amendments through § 1983.[13]

II. Standards for the Motions to Dismiss

The Fifth Circuit has interpreted the IDEA's exhaustion requirement as jurisdictional in nature.[14] As a result, claims subject to the IDEA's exhaustion requirement must be dismissed for the due process hearing before this Court may hear them.

Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), the Court "has the power to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on any one of three separate bases: (1) the complaint alone; (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record; or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts."[15] The Court construes pleadings from a pro se party liberally, [16] but "[t]he plaintiffs, as the parties asserting federal subject-matter jurisdiction, bear the burden of proving that its requirements are met."[17]

"The court's dismissal of a plaintiff's case because the plaintiff lacks subject matter jurisdiction is not a determination of the merits and does not prevent the plaintiff from pursuing a claim in a court that does have proper jurisdiction. In examining a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the district court is empowered to consider matters of fact which may be in dispute. Ultimately, a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction should be granted only if it appears certain that the plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle plaintiff to relief."[18]

III. The Amended Complaint and the City's Motion to Dismiss

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(1)(B) provides that a party may amend, as a matter of course, a pleading to which a response is required (such as a complaint) within 21 days after service of a motion under rule 12(b). The City of McAllen filed a motion to dismiss on October 22, 2013, [19] and Plaintiff filed her Amended Complaint on November 8, 2013.[20] Because she filed her Amended Complaint only 17 days later, the Court adopts it as the live pleading.

The City's motion to dismiss pointed out, albeit unsupported with legal analysis, that Plaintiff's first pleading alleged no cause of action against a City employee, since the School comprises a separate entity from the City. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint alleges that McAllen Police unlawfully arrested Plaintiff's son and sought to commit him involuntarily to a mental health center, violating the 4th and 14th Amendments via § 1983.[21] Because the ...


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