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Walburg v. State

December 12, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas A. Varlan United States District Judge



This civil action is before the Court on three motions: (1) a Second Motion to Dismiss filed by the State of Tennessee, Gina Lodge in her official capacity, and Gerald F. Nicely in his official capacity ("the State defendants") [Doc. 20]; (2) a Second Motion to Dismiss filed by the law firm Joyce, Meredith, Flitcroft & Normand, attorney M. Lynn Rogers, and attorney Carol Guthrie ("the firm defendants") [Doc. 29]; and (3) a Motion to Dismiss filed by Maximus, Inc. ("Maximus") [Doc. 7].*fn1 Plaintiff has responded to each motion [Docs. 11, 22, 31]. The Court has carefully considered the pending motions and the related pleadings in light of the applicable law. The Court will address each of the arguments made by the various defendants as to why plaintiff's claim against them should be dismissed.

I. Relevant Facts

The facts of this case are taken from plaintiff's amended complaint [Doc. 19]. On November 10, 2004, the Anderson County Chancery Court entered an order requiring that the driver's license of plaintiff, Terry Lou Walburg, be revoked pursuant to Tenn. Code. Ann. § 36-5-701 because she was in arrears in paying child support in the amount of $2,220.00. [Doc. 19, Ex. 1.] Maximus, a Virginia corporation, is under a contract with the State of Tennessee to collect child support in Anderson County, Tennessee. The firm defendants, a law firm and two attorney members with an office in Anderson County, Tennessee, are the Title IV-D attorneys for the Seventh Judicial District of the State of Tennessee. As such, they were charged with enforcing the Anderson County Chancery Court's order and therefore contacted the Tennessee Department of Safety in order to have plaintiff's driver's license revoked.

In June 2005, plaintiff learned that her driver's license had been suspended when she visited the law offices of the firm defendants for a conference concerning her child support. She alleges that until this point, she had never been notified of the license suspension and argues that this failure to provide notice is in direct contravention of the statute through which her license was revoked, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-5-701 et seq. Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-5-706(b) provides the following:

The licensing authority shall notify, without undue delay, by regular mail, an obligor certified from the department...that the obligor's application for the issuance, renewal or reinstatement of a license has been denied or that the obligor's current license has been suspended or revoked because the obligor's name has been certified by the department as an obligor who is not in compliance with an order of support.

Plaintiff alleges that the defendants' failure to adhere to this statutory notice requirement resulted in a deprivation of her right to due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitutional and Article I, §§ 2 and 8 of the Tennessee Constitution.

Plaintiff filed suit in this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("§ 1983"), seeking compensatory and punitive damages against defendants for the alleged violation of her constitutional right to due process. Plaintiff also seeks an injunction compelling defendants to adhere to the notice requirement of Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-5-706(b) in the future.

II. Analysis

A. Standard of Review

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) should not be granted "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). All well-pleaded allegations must be taken as true and be construed most favorably toward the non-movant. Trzebuckowski v. City of Cleveland, 319 F.3d 853, 855 (6th Cir. 2003). While a court may not grant a Rule 12(b)(6) motion based on disbelief of a complaint's factual allegations, Lawler v. Marshall, 898 F.2d 1196, 1199 (6th Cir. 1990), the court "need not accept as true legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences." Morgan v. Church's Fried Chicken, 829 F.2d 10, 12 (6th Cir. 1987). Consequently, a complaint will not be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) unless there is no law to support the claims made, the facts alleged are insufficient to state a claim, or there is an insurmountable bar on the face of the complaint.

B. Sovereign Immunity

1. State of Tennessee Defendants

The State defendants argue that plaintiff's claim against them should be dismissed on the grounds that they are immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment. [Doc. 21.] Plaintiff argues that the doctrine articulated by the Supreme Court in Ex Parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 159-60 (1908), allows plaintiff to pursue her claim for ...

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