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Doyle v. Town of Falmouth

United States District Court, D. Maine

October 23, 2019

MICHAEL DOYLE, Plaintiff,
v.
TOWN OF FALMOUTH, Defendant.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          Nancy Torresen United States District Judge

         Before me is the Defendant's motion to dismiss the Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (“Def.'s Mot.”) (ECF No. 5). For the reasons stated below, the motion to dismiss is GRANTED. The Plaintiff's claims are DISMISSED without prejudice.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Michael Doyle claims that Defendant Town of Falmouth (“Town” or “Defendant”), through its Town Council (“Council”), violated its own rules of conduct, denied him equal protection under the law, and suppressed lawful speech. His Complaint, which was filed in Maine Superior Court on April 10, 2019, is produced in its entirety below:

FACTS:
1. Defendant Town of Falmouth's Town Council led by Chairmen Caleb Hemphill, violated their Council rules and denied Plaintiff equal protection under the law as laid out in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. The Council Rules were violated in Section 17[1] (Exhibit 1) when Councilor Hope Cahan blurted out after Plaintive [sic] finished a comment at the podium, “No applausing, (Cahan's word choice) we want to create a safe space for people who want to comment so would you please withhold from clapping or booing that would be greatly appreciated so everyone can speak and not held in judgment.” without permission to speak from the Chairman Hemphill. Cahan, according to Council rules, Section 19[2]must make satisfaction before being allowed to speak or vote after the breach. Hemphill allowed Cahan to vote on an item at the April 9th Council meeting. Plaintiff is required to abide by Council Rules while they violate and refuse to enforce their own rules of conduct. For example Democrats are allowed to drone on well after the five-minute limit at the podium has expired, while Plaintiff, a Republican, is constantly and strictly held to the five-minute limit.
2. Plaintiff moves the Court to invalidate all Council votes made that counted Cahan's vote from April 9th up to and including all other votes until Cahan makes satisfaction as defined by “a fulfillment of an obligation or claim” and mandate that all Council Rules be enforced equally on members as well as speakers at the podium both Democrats and Republicans.
3. Respectfully submitted this 10th day of April 2019[.]

Compl. (ECF No. 4-2).

         The Defendant removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441. (ECF No. 1). On May 28, 2019, the Defendant moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the “legal sufficiency” of a complaint. Maine Educ. Ass'n Benefits Trust v. Cioppa, 842 F.Supp.2d 373, 376 (D. Me. 2012). The general rules of pleading require a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). That “short and plain statement” need only “give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotations and alterations omitted).

         However, “[t]o 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 v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (internal quotations omitted). “Merely reciting elements of a claim will not do. . . . Nor will alleging facts that are too meager, vague, or conclusory to remove the possibility of relief from the realm of conjecture.” Lydon v. Local 103, Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, 770 F.3d 48, 53 (1st Cir. 2014) (internal quotations and citation omitted). Furthermore, although a plaintiff need not establish a prima facie case of his claim at the pleading stage, “the elements of a prima facie case may be used as a prism to shed light upon the plausibility of the claim.” Rodríguez-Reyes v. Molina-Rodríguez, 711 F.3d 49, 54 (1st Cir. 2013).

         Faced with a motion to dismiss, I examine the factual content of the Complaint and determine whether those facts support a reasonable inference “that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. First, I “isolate and ignore statements in the complaint that simply offer legal labels and conclusions or merely rehash cause-of-action elements.” Schatz v. Republican State Leadership Comm., 669 F.3d 50, 55 (1st Cir. 2012). Second, I take the complaint's well-pleaded, non-speculative facts as true, “drawing all reasonable inferences in the pleader's favor, and see if they plausibly narrate a claim for relief.” Id. However, I need not accept “[t]hreadbare recitals of the ...


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