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New Cases and Developments

NACUA's Legal Resources staff summarizes current higher education cases and developments and provides the full text of selected cases to members. New cases and developments are archived here for up to 12 months.  Cases provided by Fastcase, Inc.

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Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration; Practice of Higher Education Law; Due Process; Constitutional Issues

Perkins v. University of Nebraska, et al. (D. Neb. Nov. 13, 2017)

Amended Memorandum and Order granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a University of Nebraska (UN) student, alleged that UN deprived him of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment when he was banned from campus following a student altercation that led to Title IX charges against Plaintiff. The court found that Plaintiff could not seek declaratory prospective relief because the deprivations he alleged were moot due to changes in UN’s trespass procedures and appeal process, which allowed Plaintiff’s ban to be lifted while he appealed either in-person or in a telephonic hearing. The court further found that sovereign immunity protected Defendants in their official capacity and qualified immunity protected Defendants in their personal capacity, namely because the rights Plaintiff sought to vindicate were not clearly established and were not clearly deprived from him. The court did not exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remainder of Plaintiff’s state law claims. 

11/21/2017
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Due Process; Constitutional Issues

Wesen v. University of Minnesota (Minn. App. Nov. 13, 2017)

Unpublished opinion affirming Respondent’s student-disciplinary decision. Relator, an undergraduate student who worked as a gallery guard at the Weisman Art Museum on the University of Minnesota (UM)’s campus, alleged that UM violated his procedural due process rights after it disciplined him for stalking another student employee at the museum. In upholding UM’s decision and sanction, which was based on the Relator’s acknowledgment to the Hearing Board that he was “responsible” for the misconduct outlined in the complaint, the Court concluded that UM complied with its procedures and did not deprive  the Realtor of due process because he had notice and an opportunity to be heard. 

11/20/2017
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Contract Administration; Practice of Higher Education Law; Due Process; Constitutional Issues

McKeny v. Ohio University (Oh. Ct. App. Nov. 16, 2017)

Decision affirming summary judgment in favor of the Defendant-Appellee. Plaintiff, a tenure-track assistant professor in the Department of Teacher Education, alleged that Ohio University (OU) breached a contract and deprived Plaintiff of due process when OU declined to award him tenure for lack of sustained scholarship.  The court found that the Plaintiff failed to allege a breach, since the university's tenure policy allowed for reviewers to make subjective determinations about applicants' scholarship, and since Plaintiff was evaluated on this standard, without there being any evidence that the decision was arbitrary, capricious, or made in bad faith. The court also concluded that Appellant failed to provide sufficient evidence of any due process violation. 

11/17/2017
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Retaliation; First Amendment & Free Speech; Faculty & Staff; Due Process; Constitutional Issues

Marmarchi v. Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, et al. (7th Cir. Nov. 7, 2017)

Order affirming Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a doctoral student at the University of Illinois (UI), brought claims against UI, his advisor, and various other UI employees under the First Amendment, due process clause, a number of employment discrimination laws, and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) when he was removed from the doctoral program, purportedly for telling an Associate Dean that he intended to file a “whistleblower complaint” about “fraud by [the] faculties.” The court found that Plaintiff’s alleged facts for his First Amendment retaliation claim were insufficient because he did not specify what he said to the Associate Dean and without more, the court could not determine if Plaintiff had engaged in protected speech. The court also dismissed Plaintiff’s due process claim because Plaintiff did not provide the contract terms that UI violated and further, the process Plaintiff sought under UI’s handbook was discretionary. The court dismissed all of Plaintiff’s other claims because Plaintiff failed to develop them on appeal. 

11/9/2017
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Due Process; Constitutional Issues

Cooper v. Benavides, et al. (E.D. Tex. Nov. 2, 2017)

Memorandum adopting in part the Report and Recommendation of U.S. Magistrate Judge. Plaintiff, an adjunct faculty member at Texas Woman’s University (TWU), brought claims against the President and administrative staff of TWU, both in their official and individual capacities, for procedural and substantive due process violations, governmental taking without just compensation, breach of contract, and conversion, following Plaintiff’s termination.  Applying the “stigma plus infringement test” for alleging procedural due process violations of a protected liberty interest, the court found that Plaintiff sufficiently alleged that the Defendants “made public” stigmatizing allegations underlying her termination, and Plaintiff was denied a name-clearing hearing to restore her damaged reputation. The court allowed Plaintiff to clarify the conduct of Individual Defendants and respond to Defendants’ argument regarding qualified immunity for this claim and Plaintiff’s governmental takings claim. However, the court found that Plaintiff’s procedural and substantive due process claims based on her property interest in future employment failed because Plaintiff did not have a continued expectation of employment at TWU due to her part-time, non-tenure-track, at-will employment contract.

11/7/2017
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Due Process; Constitutional Issues

Martinez v. Maricopa County Community College District (D. Ariz. Oct. 31, 2017)

Order granting Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, an instructor at Phoenix College in Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD), alleged that MCCCD deprived her of due process when the President of Phoenix College suspended her for refusing a direct command to refund students she had charged for course materials, an act that the MCCCD Hearing Committee determined was insubordination. The court found that Plaintiff had a property interest in her continued employment at MCCCD because she was an appointive or tenured-in-fact faculty member. However, the court found that Plaintiff was afforded due process to satisfy constitutional standards because MCCC’s “elaborate procedure richly satisfied federal constitutional standards.”

11/7/2017
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Employee Discipline; First Amendment & Free Speech; Due Process; Faculty & Staff; Constitutional Issues

Board of Trustees of Purdue University, et al. v. Eisenstein (Ind. App. Oct. 30, 2017)

Decision affirming the denial of Appellee’s Motion for Summary Judgment and reversing the denial of Appellant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Appellee, a Purdue University professor, challenged the University’s Policy and Procedures on free speech and due process under sections 1983 and 1985 of the Civil Rights Act after he received a reprimand for retaliating against an individual who filed a complaint against Appellee for repeated anti-Muslim statements in class, on his Facebook page, and on his personal blog. The court found that the Eleventh Amendment protected Purdue University and Appellants in their official capacities from claims brought under sections 1983 and 1985 because Plaintiff did not seek prospective relief.  The court also awarded judgment to Appellants in their individual capacities, concluding that an absolute privilege under Indiana law, that protected statements made in the course of quasi-judicial proceedings, shielded the Appellants from liability. Turning to Appellee’s state law claims, the court found that Appellee did not allege sufficient facts to support his tort claims, and Appellee’s contract claim could not proceed because the Faculty and Staff Handbook on which he based his argument was not part of his employment contract. 

11/2/2017
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Due Process; Constitutional Issues

Walker v. University of Cincinnati College of Medicine (Ohio Ct. Ct. September 29, 2017)

Decision granting Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, a medical student with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), sued the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine (UCCM) for breach of contract, due process violations under section 1983, negligence, negligent supervision, intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), and breach of fiduciary duty after UCCM dismissed him for failure to earn required credits to continue his enrollment. The court rejected all of Plaintiff’s claims by way of the following findings: Defendants exercised professional judgment in their decision to dismiss Plaintiff, illustrated by their adherence to Promotion Board guidelines and consideration of Plaintiff’s medical condition, and therefore did not breach of any contract; the court lacked jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff’s section 1983 claim; Plaintiff’s pure economic loss, in the absence of personal injury or property damage, could not support a negligence claim; Plaintiff’s negligent supervision claim only cited conclusory allegations; actions taken by Defendants could not be construed as “extreme our outrageous” to support Plaintiff’s IIED claim; and the parties’ relationship was purely contractual and therefore carried no fiduciary duties. 

10/27/2017
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