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McQueary-Layne v. Louisiana State Board of Nursing

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

June 26, 2019

KIMBERLEY MCQUEARY-LAYNE
v.
LOUISIANA STATE BOARD OF NURSING ET AL.

          RULING AND ORDER

          BRIAN A. JACKSON JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the Motion (Doc. 55) of Defendants Wanda Matthews, Sharetha Brown, and Carrie LeBlanc Jones to dismiss pro se Plaintiff Kimberley McQueary-Layne's complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons that follow, the Motion (Doc. 55) is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This dispute arises from Louisiana State Board of Nursing disciplinary proceedings culminating in the suspension of McQueary-Layne's nursing license.

         Dissatisfied with those proceedings, McQueary-Layne sued all involved: the Board of Nursing; its lawyer, Carrie LeBlanc Jones; its compliance investigator, Sharetha Brown; and its hearing officer, Wanda Matthews. (Doc. 8). McQueary-Layne alleges that Defendants violated her constitutional rights by "accus[ing] her of heinous allegations," "subjecting] [her] to humiliation and mockery by a prejudiced jury," and "withhold[ing] exculpatory evidence." (Id. at pp. 2-3). She also alleges that Defendants defamed her and violated Louisiana's Administrative Procedure Act. (Doc. 1 at p. 2; Doc. 8 at p. 2). She seeks damages and "judicial review" of the Board of Nursing disciplinary proceedings. (Doc. 8 at pp. 6-7).

         Defendants moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim. (Doc. 18). The Court granted the motion, in part, [1] and dismissed McQueary-Layne's claims. (Doc. 46 at pp. 18-19). The Court granted her leave, however, to amend her complaint to attempt to plead (1) a federal-law individual-capacity claim against Sharetha Brown and (2) state-law individual-capacity claims against Jones, Matthews, and Brown. (Doc. 46). McQueary-Layne timely amended her complaint, and Defendants again move to dismiss for failure to state a claim. (Doc. 55).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         To overcome Defendants' motion, McQueary-Layne must plead plausible claims for relief. See Romero v. City of Grapevine, Tex., 888 F.3d 170, 176 (5th Cir. 2018) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). A claim is plausible if it is pleaded with factual content that allows the Court to reasonably infer that Defendants are liable for the misconduct alleged. See Edionwe v. Bailey, 860 F.3d 287, 291 (5th Cir. 2017) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). The Court accepts as true the well-pleaded facts of McQueary-Layne's complaints and views those facts in the light most favorable to her. See Midwest Feeders, Inc. v. Bank of Franklin, 886 F.3d 507, 513 (5th Cir. 2018).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Defendants argue that they enjoy statutory immunity from McQueary-Layne's state-law claims. (Doc. 55-1). Brown argues, separately, that she enjoys qualified immunity. (Id.). The Court turns first to qualified immunity.

         A. Qualified Immunity

         Qualified immunity protects government officials from civil liability so long as their conduct '"does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known."' Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982)). Because Brown asserts qualified immunity, McQueary-Layne "bears the burden of pleading facts that demonstrate liability and defeat immunity." Shaw v. Villanueva, 918 F.3d 414, 416 (5th Cir. 2019). To meet that burden, McQueary-Layne must allege facts showing that (1) Brown violated a statutory or constitutional right and (2) the right was clearly established at the time of her conduct. See Id. at 417.

         McQueary-Layne points to the Fourteenth Amendment. (Doc. 54 at p. 1). She appears to allege that Brown violated her rights under the Due Process Clause by limiting her access to all of the "evidence" she needed to "defend herself during disciplinary proceedings. (Id. at p. 5). But she fails to identify any opinion clearly establishing those rights. (Id.). Specifically, she fails to show that a hearing "investigator" violates the due-process rights of a hearing participant when the investigator fails to furnish the participant all of the "evidence" the participant deems necessary to "defend herself during the hearing. (Id.). Because she fails to allege that Brown violated a clearly established right, she fails to overcome Brown's qualified-immunity defense. See Shaw, 918 F.3d at ...


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