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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.

Selected Topics: Constitutional Issues
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Due Process; Retaliation; Constitutional Issues

Robinson v. Wichita State University (D. Ka. Feb. 13, 2018)

Memorandum and Opinion granting-in-part and denying-in-part Defendants’ Motion on the Pleadings.  Plaintiff, former Vice President for Campus Life & University Relations at Wichita State University (WSU), alleged that WSU threatened his employment, demoted him, and terminated his employment in retaliation for initiating Title IX investigations.  Plaintiff also alleged that WSU deprived him of a liberty interest and defamed him when it published statements to third parties about his credentials, financial improprieties, and his termination.   The court allowed Plaintiff’s Title IX retaliation claim to proceed.  Although “[a]n employee cannot engage in protected activity while performing his job duties,” the court reasoned that Plaintiff went above and beyond the scope of his duties by “help[ing] other assert rights under Title IX.”  The court also found that Plaintiff sufficiently alleged that WSU deprived him of a liberty interest without due process, based on purportedly false statements that impugned Plaintiff’s reputation and good name, and allowed this count to proceed both against WSU and the WSU President in his individual capacity.  The court allowed some of Plaintiff’s defamation claims to proceed on similar grounds.

2/15/2018
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First Amendment & Free Speech; Constitutional Issues

College Republications of the University of Washington and Swanson v. Cauce, et al. (W.D. Wash. Feb 9, 2018)

Order granting Plaintiff’s Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). Plaintiffs, the University of Washington (UW) College Republicans and its student president, alleged a First Amendment constitutional challenge to UW’s Safety and Security Protocols for Events Policy, which requires student groups to pay the anticipated costs of security for on-campus events. In awarding the TRO, the court found that Plaintiffs established a substantial likelihood of success on the merits because the policy did not utilize a “definite and objective process.” Specifically, administrators had broad discretion to decide which events were charged for enhanced security and how much based on factors such as the estimated response of others to the content of the speech, the number of police necessary to meet that response, and past protests for or against the controversial speakers. Of particular note, the court said, “Administrators relying on instances of past protests, either for or against a student organization or speaker, will inevitably impose elevated fees for events featuring speech that is controversial or provocative and likely to draw opposition.  Assessing security costs in this manner impermissibly risks suppression of ‘speech on one side of a contentious debate.’” Plaintiffs also sufficiently showed immediacy and irreparable harm and that the balance of equities and the public interest supported entering a TRO. 

2/13/2018
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Sexual Misconduct & Other Campus Violence; Due Process; Equal Protection; Constitutional Issues

John Doe v. Miami University, et al. (6th Cir. Feb. 9, 2018)

Opinion affirming-in-part and reversing-in-part the district court’s grant of Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff was suspended from Miami University (MU) after a hearing panel found him responsible for violating MU’s Student Conduct Regulations. Plaintiff brought Title IX claims against Defendants under theories of erroneous outcome, selective enforcement, deliberate indifference, and hostile environment, and section 1983 claims alleging deprivations of substantive due process, procedural due process, and equal protection. The court found that Plaintiff’s erroneous outcome claim could proceed, reasoning that Plaintiff plead facts to (1) cast “some articulable doubt on the accuracy” of the proceedings and (2) implicate gender bias.  The court also allowed Plaintiff’s equal protection claim to proceed based upon the inferences of gender discrimination and allowed Plaintiff’s procedural due process claim to proceed based on allegations of bias and a lack of access to the evidence.   

2/13/2018
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Constitutional Issues

Williams and Bartunek, as Employees of Arkansas State University v. McCoy (Ark. Jan. 18, 2018)

Order reversing, remanding-in-part, and dismissing-in-part Appellants’ Interlocutory Appeal from an Order denying their Motion to Dismiss. Appellants, who proceed in their official capacities as employees of Arkansas State University (ASU), alleged that sovereign immunity protected them from Appellee’s claims of due process and FOIA violations. The court found that Appellee, who sued Appellants after she was suspended from ASU’s nursing program for violating school policy, did not plead facts sufficient to support a due process claim, and thus failed to trigger an exception under Arkansas law that would have avoided the application of sovereign immunity. The court noted that constitutional due process requirements were satisfied when Appellee was granted notice and a hearing to respond to the school policy violations. The court lacked jurisdiction under an interlocutory appeal to review whether it was appropriate to dismiss Appellee’s FOIA violation claim.  

2/12/2018
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Retaliation; First Amendment & Free Speech; Constitutional Issues

Boglin v. The Board of Trustees of Alabama University, et al. (N.D. Ala. Feb. 6, 2018)

Memorandum Opinion and Order granting Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a senior secretary in the Career Development Services Office at the Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University (AU), alleged that AU retaliated against her by dismissing her for reporting that employees within the department had been manipulating AU’s leave system by filing fraudulent leave and reimbursement requests. The court found that because the Board of Trustees’ authority did not include reinstating her employment, the Ex parte Young exception did not apply, and Individual Defendants were entitled to sovereign immunity. The court further found that Plaintiff’s speech was made pursuant to her professional duties, rather than as a citizen, and its purpose was not to raise matters of public concern. 

2/9/2018
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First Amendment & Free Speech; Constitutional Issues

Roemer v. Booth, et al. (2nd Cir. Jan. 30, 2018)

Order affirming the dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint. Plaintiff, a retired high school science teacher proceeding pro se, brought First and Fourteenth Amendment claims against Columbia University’s General Counsel (GC) and President after they declined his offer to lecture on “the cosmological argument for God’s existence.” When the GC informed Plaintiff that continued efforts to contact University members could be considered harassment, Plaintiff filed an ethics complaint with the New York Attorney Grievance Committee. Upon reviewing Plaintiff’s request for injunctive relief against Defendants, the district court dismissed sua sponte Plaintiff’s Complaint as frivolous. Plaintiff then motioned for the district court judge’s recusal and for default judgment against the University’s President.  The court found Plaintiff’s claims to be without merit and r found no bias by the district court judge in reviewing Plaintiff’s Complaint.  

2/1/2018
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Due Process; Constitutional Issues

Childers v. Florida Gulf Coast University Board of Trustees, et al. (M.D. Fla. Jan. 30, 2018)

Opinion and Order granting-in-part and denying-in-part Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff, a student at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), alleged that Defendants violated his free speech and due process rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments when they suspended him for purportedly posting a “vulgar communication” on a Facebook page. The court found that Defendants raised factual issues that were better addressed at a later stage in the litigation—such as whether Plaintiff’s speech was protected, whether the communication substantially disrupted other students’ abilities to pursue an education in a safe environment, whether FGCU’s interest in protecting students outweighed Plaintiff’s rights under the First Amendment, whether Plaintiff had a fundamental constitutional right to continuing his graduate education, and whether actions taken by Defendants were arbitrary or capricious. The court found that qualified immunity did not protect Defendants in their individual capacities because their monitoring or policing of a private social media page was outside their discretionary authority. Last, the court dismissed Plaintiff’s section 1983 claims because FGCU is a state agency and not a “person” within the meaning of section 1983. 

2/1/2018
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Race and National Origin Discrimination; Discrimination, Accommodation, & Diversity; Equal Protection; Constitutional Issues

Reeves v. Shawnee State University, et al. (S.D. Ohio Jan. 29, 2018)

Order granting Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment. Shawnee State University (SSU) dismissed Plaintiff, an African-American nursing student, from its program for failing his clinical internship at Southern Ohio Medical Center (SOMC). SSU policy precluded Plaintiff from re-enrolling in the program because he had already successfully re-enrolled after failing a first-year course. Plaintiff alleged race discrimination and violation of the equal protection clause under federal and Ohio law by SSU, SSU administrators, SOMC, and two SOMC internship supervisors. The court found that Plaintiff could not establish a prima facie claim of race discrimination against SSU because he could not show that similarly-situated white nursing students were treated more favorably than him. The court also found that qualified immunity protected SSU administrators from Plaintiff’s claims. 

2/1/2018
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