Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Balderas v. Southside Independent School District

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division

February 14, 2018

THERESA BALDERAS, LEONARDO LEO BALDERAS, AND JOSHUA BALDERAS, Plaintiffs,
v.
SOUTHSIDE INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT AND JULIAN DE LA ROSA GONZALES, JOHNNY CANTU JR., MANUEL SANDOVAL, JR., KENNETH BOULDIN JR., AND MARY BANDY, MELONIE IGLEHART-HAMMONS, IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES Defendants.

          Honorable Orlando Garcia Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          RICHARD B. FARRER JUDGE

         This Report and Recommendation concerns the 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Fourth Amended Original Complaint for Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted, filed by Defendants Southside Independent School District (“SISD”) and individual Defendants Julian de la Rosa Gonzales, Johnny Cantu, Jr., Manuel Sandoval, Jr., Kenneth Bouldin, Jr., Mary Bandy, and Melonie Iglehart-Hammons, in their individual capacities. Dkt. No. 19. In this First Amendment retaliation case, the District Court previously dismissed all claims against the individual defendants in their official capacities. See Dkt. No. 9 at 14 n.7.

         All pretrial matters in this case were referred to the undersigned for disposition pursuant to Western District of Texas Local Rules CV-72 and 1(c) and (d) to Appendix C, Dkt. No. 23, and this motion was specifically re-referred to the undersigned, Dkt. No. 32.[1] The undersigned has authority to enter this recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).

         After considering Defendants' Motion, Dkt. No. 19, the Response filed by Plaintiffs Theresa Balderas, Leonardo “Leo” Balderas, Jr., and Joshua Balderas (collectively, “the Balderases”), Dkt. No. 27, the Reply filed by Defendants, Dkt. No. 28, the case file, and the relevant law, the undersigned recommends that the District Court GRANT IN PART AND DENY IN PART Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, Dkt. No. 19, as follows: Theresa and Leo Balderas's First Amendment retaliation claims should survive the Motion to Dismiss in their entirety. Joshua Balderas's First Amendment retaliation claims against the individual board-member Defendants Julian de la Rosa Gonzales, Johnny Cantu, Jr., Manuel Sandoval, Jr., and Kenneth Bouldin, Jr., should also survive. Joshua Balderas's claims against SISD and interim superintendents Bandy and Iglehart-Hammons, however, should be dismissed.

         To further clarify, the undersigned's analysis can be broken down according to the Rule 12(b)(6) arguments advanced by the various Defendants, as discussed in greater detail in this report and recommendation, as follows:

Municipal liability of SISD. Theresa and Leo Balderas's First Amendment retaliation claims survive SISD's Rule 12(b)(6) municipal-liability arguments. Joshua Balderas's claims against SISD do not.
Qualified immunity of the individual board-member Defendants. All three of the Balderases' claims against SISD board members Julian de la Rosa Gonzales, Johnny Cantu, Jr., Manuel Sandoval, Jr., and Kenneth Bouldin, Jr. survive the individual board members' arguments on qualified immunity.
Qualified immunity of interim superintendents Bandy and Iglehart-Hammons. Joshua Balderas's claims against former SISD interim superintendents Mary Bandy and Melonie Iglehart-Hammons (only Joshua Balderas asserts claims against the interim superintendents[2]) fail because he cannot overcome the interim superintendents' arguments for qualified immunity.
Causation as to the individual board-member Defendants and SISD. All three of the Balderases' claims survive the individual board members' arguments on causation. Theresa and Leo Balderas's claims also survive SISD's causation arguments. Joshua Balderas's claims do not survive as to SISD. He has not alleged facts capable of showing that any alleged adverse employment action he suffered resulted from action attributable to SISD. His retaliation claim against SISD therefore fails on this basis as well as on municipal-liability principles.
Causation as to Joshua Balderas 's claims against Bandy and Iglehart-Hammons. Joshua Balderas's claims also cannot survive the causation arguments of Defendants Bandy and Iglehart-Hammons. Thus, his claims against them should be dismissed for this reason as well as on qualified-immunity grounds.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         This First Amendment retaliation case is brought by three current and former SISD employees who are all members of the same family. They allege they suffered retaliation in response to their open opposition to a faction of the SISD Board of Trustees that supported former Interim Superintendent Dr. Joe E. Gonzales during the May 9, 2015 school-board election (hereafter referred to as the “Gonzales faction”). The Balderases allege, by way of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, violations of their First Amendment rights of free speech and association.

         The Balderases initiated this action on March 8, 2016 against SISD, members of its Board of Trustees Julian de la Rosa Gonzales, Johnny Cantu, Jr., Manuel Sandoval, Jr., Kenneth Bouldin, Jr., and former SISD interim superintendents Mary Bandy and Melonie Iglehart-Hammons, in both their official and individual capacities. See Dkt. No. 1. Shortly thereafter, the Balderases amended their complaint, with leave of court. See Dkt. Nos. 4, 5. Defendants then moved to dismiss the Balderases' claims in their entirety. They raised several arguments, including that the claims against the individual Defendants in their official capacities were redundant of the claims against SISD. The individual Defendants, they argued, were entitled to qualified immunity on the individual-capacity claims. And Defendants further argued that the Balderases failed to plead a viable retaliation claim and, even if they had done so, the allegations in any event did not suggest alleged constitutional violations resulting from an “official policy or custom” of SISD, as would be needed to hold SISD liable under principles of municipal liability. See Dkt. No. 6. On August 24, 2016, the District Court ruled that the Balderases had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The Court, however, permitted the Balderases to amend their pleadings, except as to their claims against the individual Defendants in their official capacities. See Dkt. No. 9, at 14 & n. 7. The Balderases have now amended their complaint three times in the wake of the District Court's August 24, 2016 order. See Dkt. Nos. 9, 10, & 16.

         On April 25, 2017, Defendants moved to dismiss the Balderases' Fourth Amended Complaint. See Dkt. No. 19. Defendants, in their Motion to Dismiss, argue the Balderases have again failed to plead claims upon which relief may be granted. In particular, Defendants argue that the Balderases' allegations, even if taken as true for purposes of Rule 12(b)(6), could not establish that: (1) the alleged constitutional violations were the product of a SISD policy or custom sufficient to impose municipal liability against SISD; and (2) the individual Defendants sued in their individual capacities could be subject to liability notwithstanding their entitlement to qualified immunity. Id. In their Reply, Defendants argue the Balderases' claims also fail because they failed to plead facts that, even if true, could provide the necessary causal link between the Balderases' engagement in protected First Amendment activity and any alleged act(s) of retaliation. See Dkt. No. 28.

         On May 15, 2017, Magistrate Judge John W. Primomo recommended that the case be dismissed pursuant to Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure because the Balderases failed to respond timely to Defendants' motion to dismiss, despite having enjoyed multiple opportunities to amend their complaint. See Dkt. No. 25. That same day, the Balderases filed their Response, see Dkt. No. 27, along with objections to Judge Primomo's recommendation, arguing that their delay was due to a scheduling error, see Dkt. No. 29. In light of these filings, the District Court vacated the memorandum and recommendation, accepted the Balderases' Response as timely filed, Dkt. No. 27, and re-referred the case, including the instant motion. See Dkt. No. 32.

         The undersigned now considers the merits of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Balderases' Fourth Amended Complaint.

         II. Legal Standards

         In reviewing a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court “accept[s] ‘all well-pleaded facts as true, viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.'” New Orleans City v. Ambac Assur. Corp., 815 F.3d 196, 200 (5th Cir. 2016) (quoting In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2007)). But a court need not credit conclusory allegations or allegations that merely restate the legal elements of a claim. Chhim v. Univ. of Tex. at Austin, 836 F.3d 467, 469 (5th Cir. 2016) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

         A court's review of a motion to dismiss is “limited to the complaint, any documents attached to the complaint, and any documents attached to the motion to dismiss that are central to the claim and referenced by the complaint.” Lone Star Fund V (U.S.), L.P. v. Barclays Bank PLC,594 F.3d 383, 387 (5th Cir. 2010). A court may take judicial notice of matters of public record. See Norris v. Hearst Trust,500 F.3d 454, 461 n. 9 (5th Cir. 2007). The Balderases have attached various exhibits to their Response, Dkt. No. 27, such as deposition excerpts and reassignment letters, which purportedly provide evidentiary support for their arguments. Such evidence generally should not be considered in evaluating the merits of a motion to dismiss, and it will not be considered here. See Dorsey v. Portfolio Equities, Inc.,540 F.3d 333, 341 (5th Cir. 2008) ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.