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

Hackbarth v. University of Texas at Dallas (Tex. App. Jan. 4, 2018)

Memorandum Opinion affirming the trial court’s award of summary judgment to the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD).  Appellant, a former UTD police officer, alleged that UTD retaliated against him under the Texas Whistleblower Act by terminating his employment after the University of Texas System’s Office of Director of Police (ODOP) concluded that Appellant inadequately responded to a domestic violence incident,  improperly handled public records, and failed to accept responsibility for his actions. The court found that Appellant failed to establish a causal link between his termination and the filing of his whistleblower reports, especially since UTD decisionmakers harbored no negative attitudes toward Appellant and adhered to established policies regarding the termination, and since no evidence suggested that similarly-situated employees were treated differently than Appellant. 

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

Mortazavi v. Samford University (N.D. Ala. July 20, 2017)

Memorandum Opinion and Order granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff was practicing the piano at Samford University when an unnamed campus security officer confronted him, ordered him to leave the room “using threatening, derogatory, and offensive language,” seized Plaintiff’s driver's license, and held Plaintiff for approximately thirty minutes while dispatch confirmed Plaintiff’s information. Plaintiff sued Samford and two University officials under a theory of respondeat superior, in addition to asserting conspiracy claims against three University employees. Because Plaintiff failed to identify an official policy by Samford that caused his alleged injuries, the court dismissed his claims against the University. The court also dismissed Plaintiff’s allegation of a conspiracy “to terrorize and frighten” him because a corporate entity cannot conspire with its employees, and its employees cannot conspire among themselves when acting within the scope of their employment.

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

Smith v. Susquehanna University (3d Cir. July 13, 2017)

Non-precedential Opinion affirming the district court’s entry of summary judgment in favor of Defendant-Appellees. Two Public Safety Officers testified that they recovered several drugs and drug paraphernalia from a Susquehanna University student’s dormitory after receiving a report of marijuana odor coming from the room, though the student denied that he possessed any of these items and claimed that the Officers forced their way into his room. During his state criminal prosecution, Plaintiff moved to suppress the evidence as violating the Fourth Amendment, but the judge determined that no state action was involved and that the search was grounded in reasonable belief that illegal activity was being conducted in the room. The student then filed a federal suit against Susquehanna University and the Officers, alleging that the search of his room violated the Fourth Amendment. The Third Circuit affirmed the district court’s conclusion that Plaintiff was precluded from relitigating the question of whether the Officers were state actors in conducting a search of his dormitory room.

Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Students; Title IX; Campus Police & Relationships with Local Law Enforcement; Campus Police, Safety & Crisis Management; Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence

Ross v. University of Tulsa (10th Cir. June 20, 2017)

Opinion affirming the district court’s award of summary judgment to the University of Tulsa. A female student reported that she was the victim of sexual misconduct by a male student at the University. She later learned that two student athletes had informed campus-security officers of alleged sexual misconduct by the same student, but the officers dropped the investigation at the request of the alleged victim. Plaintiff sued the University under Title IX, claiming that the University acted with deliberate indifference when it failed to investigate a prior report of sexual misconduct and when it excluded evidence of that report from the student conduct hearing held in response to Plaintiff’s report. The Tenth Circuit determined that both claims failed as a matter of law. Although the Court acknowledged that a reasonable fact-finder could conclude that dropping the previous investigation was clearly unreasonable, it found that the officers did not have the authority to take corrective action in response to the report. Regarding Plaintiff’s second claim, the University excluded prior reports of sexual harassment based on a reasonable application of university policy, and therefore had not acted with deliberate indifference in doing so. 

Disability Discrimination; Campus Police & Relationships with Local Law Enforcement; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity; Campus Police, Safety & Crisis Management

Meehan v. Loyola University of Chicago (N.D. Ill. June 5, 2017)

Opinion and Order granting in part and denying in part Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, worked as a curator for Loyola University of Chicago. During two separate incidents, Defendant police officers escorted Plaintiff off Loyola's campus and then arrested her for criminal trespass and battery. Plaintiff filed suit against Loyola for alleged disability discrimination and creation of a hostile work environment in violation of federal and state law, as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED). She also brought various state tort law claims against Loyola and the two police officers involved in the incidents, and an independent respondeat superior claim against Loyola. On Motion to Dismiss the IIED, state tort law, and respondeat superior claims, the court found that Plaintiff had sufficiently alleged outrageous conduct to allow that claim to proceed to discovery, rejected Defendants’ one-year statute of limitations defense to Plaintiff’s intrusion of seclusion claim because such claims do not involve publication, and dismissed Plaintiff’s respondeat superior claim as barred by state law.

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

Oliverio v. Butler University (S.D. Ind. May 2, 2017)

Order granting Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment on all claims. After he was arrested for battery, Plaintiff, a student at Butler University, filed suit against the University, the Butler University Police Department, Butler University police officers, and several individual Defendants, asserting a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights under Section 1983 in addition to state law claims. Officers overheard Plaintiff and his girlfriend arguing after attending a party near the University campus and believed they saw Plaintiff hit his girlfriend in the chest. Plaintiff and his girlfriend confirmed that Plaintiff had merely grabbed her hand near her chest, and the charge was eventually dropped. The court concluded that the officers were entitled to summary judgment because they reasonably believed probable cause existed for the arrest. The officer who arrested Plaintiff was entitled to qualified immunity because, although he made a mistake in judgment regarding the battery, the mistake was reasonable and thus probable cause for the arrest existed. The only evidence Plaintiff provided to show any "permanent and well-settled widespread practice" by Butler University of arresting citizens without probable cause was the University's quota requirement for its police officers to issue parking citations and tickets, which was not relevant to the case and failed to support Plaintiff’s allegation. 
Campus Police & Relationships with Local Law Enforcement

Molthan v. Vanderbilt University (M.D. Tenn. Apr. 26, 2017)

Opinion and Order finding that Plaintiff stated a non-frivolous claim for false arrest pursuant to the Fourth Amendment and Section 1983. Plaintiff was removed from a Vanderbilt University computer lab and arrested for criminal trespass after a University employee recognized him from local news reports. The trespass charge was eventually dismissed and Plaintiff was released from jail. He filed a pro se suit against Vanderbilt and the officers, alleging false arrest under the Fourth Amendment in addition to federal and state tort law claims. The court allowed Plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment claim to proceed but dismissed his tort claims as time barred or for failure to state a claim.