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Siberius v. American Public University Systems, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division

September 13, 2019




         On November 13, 2018, the plaintiff, Machiavelli Farrakhan Siberius, proceeding pro se, filed an excessively lengthy Amended Complaint [ECF No. 29] against the above-named defendants, alleging various federal and state claims as further addressed in section III below. Pending before the court are the defendants' Motions to Dismiss [ECF Nos. 30, 32, and 34], the West Virginia Department of Education's (“WVDE”) Motion to Strike Plaintiff's Sur-reply (ECF No. 42), the plaintiff's Motion to Compel Joinder (ECF No. 44), and the plaintiff's Motion to Strike the WVDE's Reply and Motion to Strike Sur-reply (ECF No. 45), all of which will be addressed herein.

         This matter was initially referred to the Honorable Dwane L. Tinsley, United States Magistrate Judge for submission of proposed findings and a recommendation for disposition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). For reasons appearing to the court, the referral of this matter to the Magistrate Judge is WITHDRAWN and the undersigned will proceed to address the pending motions.

         I. Standard of Review

         The defendants have filed Motions to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. A motion filed under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint or pleading. Giarratano v. Johnson, 521 F.3d 298, 302 (4th Cir. 2008). A pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This standard “does not require ‘detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). When “faced with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss . . . courts must . . . accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true.” Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007).

         To survive a motion to dismiss, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). To achieve facial plausibility, the plaintiff must plead facts allowing the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable, moving the claim beyond the realm of mere possibility. Id. Mere “labels and conclusions” or “formulaic recitation[s] of the elements of a cause of action” are insufficient. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         Because the plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the court is obliged to construe his pleading liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 521 (1972). However, a district court does not assume the role of an advocate to construct arguments or theories for a pro se plaintiff and the court need not comb through the pleadings looking for potential claims. See Gordon v. Leake, 574 F.2d 1147 (4th Cir. 1978); Drake v. City of Fort Collins, 927 F.2d 1156, 1159 (10th Cir. 1991). “Judges are not like pigs, hunting for truffles buried in briefs.” United States v. Dunkel, 927 F.2d 955, 956 (7th Cir. 1991).

         II. Factual Background and Procedural History

         As alleged in the 105-page Amended Complaint, Machiavelli Farrakhan Siberius (hereinafter “the plaintiff”) who, at the time was known as “Adam Zane Dotson, ” was a student in American Public University System, Inc.'s (“APUS”) Post-Baccalaureate Teacher Preparation Certification Program. In the spring of 2016, the plaintiff was enrolled in EDUC697 Clinical Supervision, a student teaching course required to receive his teaching certification, and he was placed at Pressley Ridge in Wood County, West Virginia, for student teaching.

         According to the Amended Complaint, on or about June 6, 2016, the plaintiff was terminated from his student teaching position at Pressley Ridge for reporting a staff member to the Wood County Sheriff's Department for alleged physical abuse of a student. As a result of his termination, the plaintiff did not complete the full 16 weeks of student teaching required by APUS for his certification, received a failing grade for the Clinical Supervision course, and was not issued a certificate to teach in the State of West Virginia.

         On June 5, 2018, the plaintiff filed his initial Complaint in the Circuit Court of Wood County. It was removed to this court by APUS, with the consent of the other defendants. [ECF Nos. 3, 4, 5]. On September 28, 2018, United States Magistrate Judge Dwane L. Tinsley granted the plaintiff leave to amend his Complaint. [ECF No. 27]. On November 13, 2018, the plaintiff filed the Amended Complaint on which this matter is now proceeding. [ECF No. 29].

         Count II of the Amended Complaint asserts a claim against Pressley Ridge and the WVDE under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq., which was the basis for removal of the civil action to this federal court. Additionally, buried within Count III of the Amended Complaint is a claim purportedly brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Pressley Ridge and the WVDE alleging that the failure to receive his teaching certification deprived him of a property right and, thus, violated his right to due process. [ECF No. 29 at 53].

         The remaining claims in the Amended Complaint are state law claims alleging wrongful discharge, breach of contract, promissory estoppel, equitable estoppel, tortious interference, and conversion.[1] The breach of contract claims are brought only against APUS. The other state law claims are brought only against Pressley Ridge and the WVDE.

         On November 27, 2018, each defendant filed a motion to dismiss [ECF Nos. 30, 32, and 34], with accompanying memoranda of law [ECF Nos. 31, 33, and 35]. On December 3, 2018, the plaintiff filed responses in opposition to the motions to dismiss [ECF Nos. 37, 38, and 39]. On December 11, 2018, the WVDE filed a reply brief [ECF No. 40]. Thereafter, the plaintiff filed an unauthorized sur-reply [ECF No. 41], which the WVDE moved to strike [ECF No. 42], and the plaintiff filed a Motion to Strike the WVDE's Reply and Motion to Strike [ECF No. 45]. Also pending is the plaintiff's Motion ...

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