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Campbell v. Department of Human Services

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

October 2, 2018

CHRISTOPHER CAMPBELL, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, STATE OF HAWAII; DOE PERSONS 1-10; DOE PARTNERSHIPS 1-10; DOE CORPORATIONS 1-10; ROE “NON-PROFIT” CORPORATIONS 1-10; AND ROE GOVERNMENTAL ENTITIES 1-10, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, STATE OF HAWAII'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

          SUSAN OKI MOLLWAY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION.

         Plaintiff Christopher Campbell has asserted employment discrimination, hostile work environment, and whistleblower claims against Defendant Department of Human Services, State of Hawaii (“DHS”), and unnamed Doe/Roe defendants. DHS moves for partial judgment on the pleadings, arguing that it has Eleventh Amendment immunity with respect to all state law claims and that the whistleblower claim, brought under state law, and the hostile work environment claim, to the extent based on a violation of state law, should therefore be dismissed with prejudice.[1] Determining that the Eleventh Amendment bars Campbell's state law claims against DHS, this court grants DHS's motion and dismisses the state law claims with prejudice.

         II. BACKGROUND.

         Campbell was employed by DHS as a Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist in Hilo, Hawaii, starting in June 2008. See ECF No. 1, PageID # 4. In the Complaint in the present case, filed on March 29, 2017, Campbell alleges that, while employed by DHS, he was subjected to “a discriminatory, hostile work environment” based on being African-American. Id. at 5. He alleges that he was denied promotions, yelled at and mocked by his supervisor, falsely accused of several acts such as stealing from co-workers and threatening his supervisor, and treated differently from co-workers who were not African-American. See Id. at 5-10. Campbell also alleges that DHS did not thoroughly investigate his complaints of racial discrimination and did not discipline co-workers who used racial slurs and other offensive language. See Id. at 8-10. He alleges that, when he reported this discriminatory treatment to his Hawaii State Senator and the Hawaii State Ethics Commission, DHS retaliated against Campbell and suspended him without pay for pretextual reasons. See Id. at 10-14.

         Campbell asserts three claims against DHS: (1) racial discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2000e-17; (2) a hostile work environment; and (3) retaliation against him as a whistleblower, in violation of Chapter 378 of Hawaii Revised Statutes. See Id. at 15-21. Campbell does not specify whether the hostile work environment claim is brought under Title VII or state law; the court assumes for purposes of this order that Campbell is proceeding under both. He seeks “general and special damages, including but not limited to reinstatement, an award of back pay, fringe benefits, senior and overtime and front pay, ” as well as compensatory damages, costs and attorney's fees, and pre- and post-judgment interest. Id. at 21.

         DHS now moves for partial judgment on the pleadings. ECF Nos. 17, 67. Trial is currently set for July 9, 2019. See ECF No. 63.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW.

         Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states, “After the pleadings are closed--but early enough not to delay trial--a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” The standard governing a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings is “functionally identical” to that governing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. United States ex rel. Caffaso v. Gen. Dynamics C4 Sys., Inc., 637 F.3d 1047, 1054 n.4 (9th Cir. 2011); accord Pit River Tribe v. Bureau of Land Mgmt., 793 F.3d 1147, 1155 (9th Cir. 2015) (“Analysis under Rule 12(c) is ‘substantially identical' to analysis under Rule 12(b)(6) because, under both rules, a court must determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint, taken as true, entitle the plaintiff to a legal remedy.”).

         With a Rule 12(c) motion, the allegations of the nonmoving party are accepted as true, while the allegations of the moving party that have been denied are assumed to be false. See Hal Roach Studios v. Richard Feiner & Co., Inc., 896 F.2d 1542, 1550 (9th Cir. 1989). A court evaluating a Rule 12(c) motion must construe factual allegations in a complaint in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Fleming v. Pickard, 581 F.3d 922, 925 (9th Cir. 2009). “Judgment on the pleadings is properly granted when, accepting all factual allegations as true, there is no material fact in dispute, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Chavez v. United States, 683 F.3d 1102, 1108 (9th Cir. 2012) (quotation marks and citation omitted); accord Jensen Family Farms, Inc. v. Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control Dist., 644 F.3d 934, 937 n.1 (9th Cir. 2011).

         Generally, when matters outside the pleadings are considered, a motion for judgment on the pleadings must be considered as one for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d). However, when adjudicating a Rule 12(c) motion, a court may consider matters subject to judicial notice without converting the motion to one for summary judgment. See Heliotrope Gen., Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 189 F.3d 971, 981 n.18 (9th Cir. 1999) (“When considering a motion for judgment on the pleadings, this court may consider facts that are contained in materials of which the court may take judicial notice.” (quotation marks omitted)).

         IV. ANALYSIS.

         A. Under the Eleventh Amendment, DHS Is Immune from Suit for Monetary Damages and Other Retrospective Relief Unless an Exception Applies.

         In its motion for partial judgment on the pleadings, DHS argues that the Eleventh Amendment bars Campbell's state law claims. See ECF No. 67-3, PageID #s 291-92. The Eleventh Amendment provides that “[t]he Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.” U.S. Const. amend. XI. Under the Eleventh Amendment, a state is immune from lawsuits for monetary damages or other retrospective relief brought in federal court by its own citizens or citizens of other states. Frew ex rel. Frew v. Hawkins, 540 U.S. 431, 437 (2004); Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 276 (1986); Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100, 105-06 (1984). Federal court actions against agencies or instrumentalities of a state are also barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Sato v. Orange Cty. Dep't of Educ., 861 F.3d 923, 928 (9th Cir. 2017); Blount v. Sacramento Cty. Superior Court, 559 Fed.Appx. 623, 623 (9th Cir. 2014). Eleventh ...


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