United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
JAMES R. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
PENNSYLVANIA STATE EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
E. Jones III United States District Judge
before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(1) and failure to state a claim pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (Doc. 7). For the reasons that follow,
the Court denies the motion. The Court shall stay
adjudication on the remainder of the proceedings pending the
outcome of Ladley et al. v. Pennsylvania State Education
Association, No. CI-14-08552 (Jun. 30, 2015), which is
being litigated in the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster
James R. Williams (“Plaintiff” or
“Williams”) is a public school teacher at West
Middlesex School District. (Doc. 1, ¶ 7). Defendant
Pennsylvania State Education Association
(“Defendant” or “PSEA”) is a
non-profit corporation made up of professional and support
professional employees of school and health entities. (Doc.
1, p. 1). PSEA is an “employee organization” as
defined by 71 P.S. § 575. (Doc. 8, p. 1). Plaintiff is
not a part of the PSEA, but is required to pay a compulsory
union fee known as a “fair share fee” by the
collective bargaining agreement governing his employment.
(Doc. 9, p. 1).
December 2015, Plaintiff filed an objection to the payment of
the fair share fee based on bona fide religious grounds
pursuant to 71 P.S. § 575(e)(2). (Doc. 1, ¶ 13).
Subsection (h) of that same provision requires bona fide
religious objectors to pay the equivalent of a fair share fee
to a “nonreligious charity agreed upon by the nonmember
and the exclusive representative.” 71 P.S. §
575(h). Plaintiff indicated that he wanted his funds to go to
Pennsylvania Foundation for Life. (Doc. 1, ¶ 14). In
February 2016, Defendant accepted Plaintiff's religious
objection as bona fide, but rejected his selection of the
Pennsylvania Foundation for Life. (Doc. 1, ¶ 15).
Defendant suggested other possible charities for Plaintiff
and asked Plaintiff to select one. (Doc. 8, p. 3). Plaintiff
asked for clarification as to why Defendant would not accept
his selected charity. (Doc. 1, ¶ 17). Defendant replied
that it would not donate Plaintiff's payment to the
Pennsylvania Foundation for Life because this charity would
further his religious beliefs. (Doc. 1, ¶ 18). Defendant
again included a list of charities for Plaintiff to choose
from, but communications between the parties ceased after
that. (Doc. 8, p. 3). In July 2016, Defendant adopted
additional procedures to resolve disputes regarding the
selection of a charity. (Doc. 8, p. 3-4). These procedures
include binding arbitration. (Id.).
filed this action on December 22, 2016. (Doc. 1). The claim
is based on the application of the Pennsylvania Fair Share
Fee Law, 71 P.S. § 575 (“§575”).
Plaintiff claims that § 575 violates his rights under
the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the
Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, the Equal
Protection clause of the Pennsylvania Constitution, and due
process under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the
United States Constitution and the Pennsylvania Constitution,
and brings his constitutional claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. (Doc. 1, p. 1-2). Plaintiff also claims that the
binding arbitration agreement in § 575 violates his
rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and finally, that
Defendant has violated his rights under § 575 itself.
(Id.). Defendant filed the instant Motion to
Abstain, Dismiss, or in the Alternative, to Stay the
proceedings on January 27, 2017. (Doc. 7). Plaintiff filed
his brief in opposition to the Defendant's motion on
February, 10, 2017. (Doc. 9). The time for filing a reply has
long passed. See Local Rule 7.7. The Motion is
therefore ripe for our review.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) contends that the
complaint fails to assert a claim upon which relief can be
granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). In
considering the motion, courts “accept all factual
allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any
reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be
entitled to relief.” Phillips v. Cnty. Of
Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting
Pinker v. Roche Holdings, Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374
n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)). To resolve the motion, a court generally
should consider only the allegations in the complaint, as
well as “any matters incorporated by reference or
integral to the claim, items subject to judicial notice,
matters of public record, orders, [and] items appearing in
the record of the case.” Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch.
Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006) (citation and
internal quotation marks omitted).
general, a Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the sufficiency of the
complaint against the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a).
Rule 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint contain a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief, “in order to ‘give the
defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds
upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957) (alteration omitted)).
While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to
dismiss need not contain detailed factual allegations, it
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).
To survive a motion to dismiss, “a civil plaintiff must
allege facts that ‘raise a right to relief above the
speculative level . . . .'” Victaulic Co. v.
Tieman, 499 F.3d 227, 234 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Accordingly, to satisfy
the plausibility standard, the complaint must indicate that
the defendant's liability is more than “a sheer
possibility.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
“Where a complaint pleads facts that are ‘merely
consistent with' a defendant's liability, it
‘stops short of the line between possibility and
plausibility of entitlement to relief.'”
Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).
the two-pronged approach articulated in Twombly and
later formalized in Iqbal, a district court must
first identify all factual allegations that constitute
nothing more than “legal conclusions” or
“naked assertion[s].” Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 564, 557. Such allegations are “not entitled to the
assumption of truth” and must be disregarded for
purposes of resolving a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Next, the district court
must identify “the ‘nub' of the . . .
complaint - the well-pleaded, nonconclusory factual
allegation[s].” Id. at 680. Taking these
allegations as true, the district judge must then determine
whether the complaint states a plausible claim for relief.
“a complaint may not be dismissed merely because it
appears unlikely that the plaintiff can prove those facts or
will ultimately prevail on the merits.”
Phillips, 515 F.3d at 231 (citing Twombly,
550 U.S. at 556-57). Rule 8 “‘does not impose a
probability requirement at the pleading stage, ' but
instead ‘simply calls for enough facts to raise a
reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence
of' the necessary element.” Id. at 234
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
argues it is not a state actor for purposes of § 1983,
and therefore Plaintiff's claims cannot be sustained.
(Doc. 8, p. 6). Defendant also argues that this court should
abstain from exercising jurisdiction in this case pursuant to
the Pullman doctrine because this case presents
issues of state law that may be soon resolved in state court.
See Ladley et al. v. Pennsylvania State Education
Association, No. CI-14-08552 (Jun. 30, 2015). Plaintiff
responds by arguing that Defendant PSEA is a state actor for
purposes of § 1983 and that this court should ...