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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Campus Police & Relationships with Local Law Enforcement; Campus Police, Safety & Crisis Management

Rankin v. Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, et al. (11th Cir. April 26, 2018)

Unpublished Per Curiam Opinion affirming Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a Georgia State Patrol corporal who attended a Georgia State University (GSU) football game as an off-duty officer, alleged under section 1983 that his arrest by GSU Public Safety Officers for engaging in a physical altercation with a drunk tailgater amounted to false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution. Plaintiff further claimed that the GSU Chief of Police was liable for the officers’ conduct. Concluding that the responding officers did not violate the Fourth Amendment, the court determined that Plaintiff’s arrest was supported by probable cause, reasoning that a reasonable officer viewing the situation from the perspective of the responding officers “would have observed two men in plain clothes fighting on the ground at a crowded tailgate.” Plaintiff’s malicious prosecution claim was similarly dismissed because his arrest warrant was issued with probable cause. The court found Plaintiff’s supervisory liability claim insufficient because his allegations were conclusory and did not allege a causal connection between the actions of the GSU Chief of Police and Plaintiff’s alleged constitutional deprivations.

First Amendment & Free Speech; Equal Protection; Political Activity on Campus; Constitutional Issues; Campus Police, Safety & Crisis Management

Kushner v. Buhta, et al. (D. Minn. April 18, 2018)

Memorandum Opinion and Order granting Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, a lawyer and alumnus of the University of Minnesota Law School (UMLS), brought section 1983 claims against Defendants for First Amendment interference and retaliation, excessive force, disparate treatment under the Equal Protection Clause, procedural and substantive due process violations, unlawful arrest, and conspiracy following his removal from an on-campus lecture and subsequent arrest and partial ban from the campus. In awarding judgment to the Defendants, the court concluded that 1) Plaintiff did not have a First Amendment right to record interactions with the police at a lecture in a UMLS classroom, which was a limited public forum, 2) the university police officers had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff for trespassing, and 3) Plaintiff, as an alumni visitor, did not have a constitutionally-protected interest in accessing the UMLS campus. Specific to Plaintiff’s First Amendment claim, the court found that UMLS’s “Rules of Decorum” for campus events—which prohibited unauthorized video-recording, demonstrations, and disruptive activity—were reasonable and viewpoint-neutral restrictions. The court further found that university police officers did not use unreasonable force in arresting the Plaintiff, nor did the evidence Plaintiff proffered suggest that their actions were motivated by intentional discrimination. Noting that the doctrine of official immunity applied to Plaintiff’s remaining state law claims, the court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction.
Risk Management; Compliance & Risk Management; Distressed & Suicidal Students; Campus Police, Safety & Crisis Management

Regents of the University of California, et al. v. Superior Court of L.A. Cnty. (Cal. March 22, 2018)

Opinion reversing the decision of the Court of Appeal and remanding the case for further proceedings. Respondent represents Katherine Rosen, a student of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) who was stabbed during a chemistry lab by a student who had experienced auditory hallucinations and was later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. At issue was whether UCLA owed a duty of care to protect Rosen from harm. Answering this inquiry in the affirmative, the court recognized that a “special relationship” existed between a university and its students, which carries a duty to protect students from foreseeable acts of violence during curricular activities. The court identified two categories of “factors that may, on balance, justify excusing or limiting defendant’s duty of care”:  (1) factors related to “foreseeability and the related concepts of certainty and the connection between plaintiff and defendant”  and (2) public policy concerns such as moral blame, failure to prevent future harm, burden, and insurance availability.  As to foreseeability, the court opined that violence against students on-campus or during curricular activities was a foreseeable occurrence “that colleges have been equipping themselves to address for at least the past decade,” particularly in the aftermath of the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech.  On remand, the court must determine whether UCLA negligently breached its duty to Rosen and whether various immunity statutes shielded Petitioners from liability.

Student Organizations; Students; Alcohol & Drug Abuse; Campus Police, Safety & Crisis Management

Connolly, et al. v. University of Delaware, et al. (Del. Super. Feb. 28, 2018)

Memorandum Opinion and Order granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiffs are the parents of a University of Delaware student who was killed after he walked in front of a pickup truck after leaving an off-campus sorority social event. At the time of his death, the decease student was grossly impaired from alcohol and drug consumption. Plaintiffs brought a wrongful death claim against Defendants—the University of Delaware (UD), the  sorority that hosted the event and its local chapter (Sorority), the event caterer, and the union and social club that owned the venue—alleging each Defendant owed their son a duty of care, each Defendant breached that duty of care on the night of the incident, and each breach was the proximate cause of their son’s death. Specific to UD, the court held that UD did not assume a duty and in fact, expressly disclaimed any duty towards students participating in off-campus drinking activities sponsored by student organizations. Even if the Court had determined that UD owed a duty to the deceased student and breached that duty, it still would have awarded judgment in favor of UD, since Plaintiffs’ son’s death was “a direct result of his own volitional conduct.”

Disaster Planning & Response; Campus Police, Safety & Crisis Management

Government Accountability Report on Colleges’ Emergency Management and the Dissemination of Resources by Federal Agencies (Jan. 2018)

Study conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to better understand colleges’ awareness of governmental resources related to managing emergencies, such as natural disasters, active shooters, and “violent rallies” on campus. Among the eighteen emergency managers at colleges interviewed for the study, the report found “mixed awareness of federal resources.” The report recommended that the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Education collaborate to identify opportunities to improve their dissemination of emergency preparedness resources to colleges.

Disability Discrimination; Campus Police, Safety & Crisis Management; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity

Snead v. Fla. Agric. & Mech. Univ. Bd. of Trs. (11th Cir. Feb. 21, 2018)

Unpublished Per Curiam Opinion affirming the district court’s denial of Defendant’s Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law. Plaintiff, a campus police officer at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), alleged that FAMU denied him a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when the FAMU declined his requested accommodation to work 8-hour shifts, on account of his high blood pressure, and not the newly implemented  twelve-hour shifts that the new police chief required,. The court found that based on the evidence presented at trial, a reasonable jury could have determined that Plaintiff was entitled to relief under the ADA. Specifically, Plaintiff’s evidence showed that he could perform the “essential functions” of his job – which, according to the “Position Description,” did not include working twelve hours – and that his requested accommodation to revert back to his previous eight-hour shift was reasonable. The court further found that the jury reasonably concluded that FAMU did not meet its burden of showing undue hardship. 

Campus Police & Relationships with Local Law Enforcement; Campus Police, Safety & Crisis Management

Selby v. Bd. of Trs. Of Moraine Valley Cmt. College, et al. (N.D. Ill. Feb 20, 2018)

Memorandum Opinion and Order granting Defendant’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. Plaintiff, who enrolled and attended Moraine Valley Community College (MVCC) for only one semester, alleged under section 1983 and state law that Defendants used excessive force, falsely imprisoned and arrested him, and  maliciously prosecuted him in connection to his removal from a campus workshop by two MVCC police officers. Plaintiff arrived late to the workshop, but stayed because he was required to attend in order to reenroll at MVCC. MVCC officers were dispatched and upon arriving, warned Plaintiff that he would be arrested for criminal trespass if he did not leave the room. Upon his refusal to do so, Plaintiff was arrested and charged with criminal trespass to property, disorderly conduct, and resisting a peace officer. The court dismissed Plaintiff’s false imprisonment and false arrest claims both under section 1983 and state law because the MVCC officers acted with probable cause. The court also dismissed Plaintiff’s false arrest and excessive force claims against the MVCC employee who contacted campus police because he did not take part in the arrest. Last, Plaintiff’s malicious prosecution claim failed because he could not show that termination of the related criminal proceeding was in his favor, since he agreed to perform 80 hours of community service in exchange for the dismissal of his case. 

Campus Police, Safety & Crisis Management

Pearce v. University of Louisville (Ky. App. Feb. 16, 2018)

Unpublished Opinion affirming on direct appeal and reversing and remanding on cross-appeal. Plaintiff was a police officer with the University of Louisville (UL) who appealed the grounds for his termination to the Kentucky Supreme Court, which directed the circuit court to determine if Plaintiff’s hearing complied with state statutory requirements for handling personnel matters involving police officers. On remand, the circuit court again denied Plaintiff’s request for reinstatement and Plaintiff appealed the decision, with UL cross-appealing because Plaintiff’s hearing satisfied both UL’s policies and procedures and the state statute requirements. The court found that deference was due to the hearing officer overseeing the de novo post-termination hearing since Plaintiff’s present appeal was based on the same procedural issues. Reviewing the only issue not previously addressed by the hearing officer, the court found that the timing of Plaintiff’s first hearing did not violate the timeline mandated by state statute because Plaintiff’s request for a continuance evidence that he knowingly waived the sixty-day statutory requirement.