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Fountain v. New Orleans City

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 19, 2018

KENNETH FOUNTAIN
v.
NEW ORLEANS CITY, ET AL.

         SECTION I

          ORDER & REASONS

          LANCE M. AFRICK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a motion[1] to dismiss filed jointly by defendants Dichelle Williams and the City of New Orleans (collectively, “the City”). For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

         Plaintiff Kenneth Fountain (“Fountain”) initially filed a complaint against the City alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, several state law claims, and “government Whistleblower Protections established via OSHA, federal law, The U.S. Department of Labor and Executive Orders establishing the same, as well as other applicable federal statutes, laws, and protections.”[2] The City responded by filing a motion to dismiss.[3]

         The City argued that Fountain's Title VII claim was time-barred and should be dismissed.[4] The City also urged the Court to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Fountain's state law claims.[5]

         On June 7, 2018, the Court dismissed Fountain's Title VII claim as untimely; however, the Court observed that, in his complaint, Fountain made vague references to non-Title VII federal law claims.[6] Although Fountain “[did] not identify with sufficient detail the nature of these other federal claims, if any, ” the Court nonetheless ordered that Fountain was permitted to file an amended complaint “specifically asserting any other causes of action” under federal law.[7]

         Despite the Court's straightforward order, Fountain filed a first amended complaint containing language and allegations nearly identical to those in the original complaint.[8] The amended complaint is equally as vague. Indeed, Fountain's alleged legal basis for federal relief is so unclear that, in its motion to dismiss, the City was forced to speculate as to which federal whistleblower protection laws give rise to Fountain's claims: “[T]he City's memorandum argument addresses the causes of action that the City believes Fountain may have intended to be asserted.”[9] The Court refuses to engage in such guesswork.

         In his response to the motion to dismiss, Fountain ignored the City's guesswork with respect to his federal whistleblower claims. While he did specify-albeit for the first time-that his Occupational Safety and Health Act claim arises under Section 11(c), he also claimed for the first time that federal law provides him with whistleblower protections under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the First Amendment.[10]Fountain did not raise any of these claims in either his original complaint or his first amended complaint, and he has not moved for leave to file a third amended complaint.

         The Court will not consider these new causes of action. “[I]t is axiomatic that the complaint may not be amended by the briefs in opposition to a motion to dismiss.” Car Carriers, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 745 F.2d 1101, 1107 (7th Cir. 1985) (citations omitted); see also Wright v. Ernst & Young LLP, 152 F.3d 169, 178 (2d Cir. 1998) (refusing to consider arguments mentioned for the first time in opposition memoranda); Schneider v. Calif. Dep't of Corrections, 151 F.3d 1194, 1197 n.1 (“In determining the propriety of a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, a court may not look beyond the complaint to a plaintiff's moving papers, such as a memorandum in opposition to a defendant's motion to dismiss.”) (citations omitted); Morgan Distrib. Co., Inc. v. Unidynamic Corp., 868 F.2d 992, 995 (8th Cir. 1989) (refusing to consider an argument raised in a brief responding to a motion because “[t]o hold otherwise would mean that a party could unilaterally amend a complaint at will”) (citation omitted).

         The Court provided Fountain the opportunity to amend his complaint and clarify his federal causes of action beyond nebulous and abstract references “to applicable federal law.” Notwithstanding the Court's specific order, he chose not to do so. Thus, dismissal of Fountain's federal law claims against the City is warranted.

         Having concluded that all of Fountain's federal law claims should be dismissed, only his state law claims remain. A district court may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a state law claim if:

(1) the claim raises a novel or complex issue of State law,
(2) the claim substantially predominates over the claim or claims over which the district court has original jurisdiction,
(3) the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction, or (4) in exceptional circumstances, there are other compelling ...

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