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Doe v. University of Cincinnati

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

March 28, 2018

John Doe, Plaintiff,
University of Cincinnati, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER


         This matter is before the Court upon Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. (Doc. 30). Plaintiff filed a Response (Doc. 31) and Defendants filed a Reply (Doc. 32).

         Also before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Expedited Discovery. (Doc.4). The materials requested by Plaintiff were provided in anticipation of the hearing on Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction. (See Doc. 16). Therefore, Plaintiff's Motion for Expedited Discovery is DENIED as MOOT.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff John Doe was accused of sexual assault by Jane Roe. Both were students at the University of Cincinnati at the time. After a disciplinary hearing, Defendants University of Cincinnati (“UC”), Aniesha Mitchell, Director of the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards, and Juan Guardia, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, imposed disciplinary sanctions on Plaintiff.

         A full recitation of the facts is set forth elsewhere (Doc. 20), and the Court finds it unnecessary to repeat the same here.

         On November 30, 2016, this Court granted Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction and enjoined Defendants from imposing the one-year suspension on Plaintiff. While Plaintiff brought a number of claims, Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction was focused on Defendants' failure to permit Plaintiff to confront his accuser. Defendants appealed the granting of the injunction. (Doc. 22). While the appeal was pending, Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint (Doc. 24); and Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 30). On September 25, 2017, the Sixth Circuit affirmed this Court's grant of the Preliminary Injunction. John Doe v. University of Cincinnati, 872 F.3d 393 (6th Cir. 2017). A number of arguments made by the parties are no longer valid based upon the Sixth Circuit's ruling in this case and in other cases decided by the Sixth Circuit after the briefing on the Motion to Dismiss was completed.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Motion to Dismiss Standard

         When reviewing a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, this Court must "construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, accept its allegations as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff." Bassett v. National Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 528 F.3d 426, 430 (6th Cir. 2008) (quoting Directv, Inc. v. Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007)). "[T]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain (1) 'enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible, ' (2) more than 'a formulaic recitation of a cause of action's elements, ' and (3) allegations that suggest a 'right to relief above a speculative level.'" Tackett v. M&G Polymers, USA, LLC, 561 F.3d 478, 488 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)). A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009).

         B. Eleventh Amendment

         Defendants argue that Plaintiff's due process claims in Counts I and II are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Count I seeks a declaratory judgment “that the UC Code of Conduct, as applied to John Doe, violates the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution, the Due Course of Law Clause of the Ohio Constitution, and the requirement of the OAC that any hearing process be consistent with the customs of a free society.” Count II is a claim brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Aniesha Mitchell and Juan Guardia (“the Individual Defendants”) in their official capacities for injunctive relief “prohibiting the imposition of, or reporting of, any disciplinary actions under the UC Code of Student Conduct.”

         Eleventh Amendment immunity “bars all suits, whether for injunctive, declaratory or monetary relief, against the state and its departments, by citizens of another state, foreigners or its own citizens.” McCormick v. Miami Univ., 693 F.3d 654, 661 (6th Cir. 2012) (quoting Thiokol Corp. v. Dep't of Treasury, 987 F.2d 376, 381 (6th Cir. 1993)). However, the Eleventh Amendment does not preclude a suit against the Individual Defendants for prospective injunctive relief. See id. at 662 (citing McKay v. Thompson, 226 F.3d 752, 757 (6th Cir. 2000)).

         The Sixth Circuit has held that a request that individual defendants sued in their official capacity be enjoined from reporting any disciplinary actions taken by the university would not require the court to grant any retroactive or compensatory remedy. Doe v. Cummins, 662 Fed.Appx. 437, 444 (6th Cir. 2016). “Rather, the individual defendants would merely be compelled to remove the negative notation from [the plaintiffs'] disciplinary records that resulted from the allegedly unconstitutional disciplinary process.” Id. The Sixth Circuit also held that the plaintiffs' request for a declaratory judgment that the individual defendants violated their constitutional rights in the past was not barred by the Eleventh Amendment because it is ancillary to a prospective injunction designed to remedy a continuing violation of federal law. Id.

         Therefore, to the extent that Plaintiff's requested relief seeks an injunction prohibiting further enforcement of the disciplinary sanction against him or seeks declaratory relief regarding past constitutional violations, Plaintiff's claims ...

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