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Brainard v. Western Oregon University

United States District Court, D. Oregon

April 26, 2017

ANTHONY DAVID BRAINARD, Plaintiff,
v.
WESTERN OREGON UNIVERSITY, Defendant.

          Edmund J. Spinney, Of Attorneys for Plaintiff.

          P.K. Runkles-Pearson, Miller Nash Graham & Dunn LLP, Of Attorneys for Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Michael H. Simon United States District Judge.

         Anthony Brainard (“Plaintiff”) brings this lawsuit seeking money damages against Western Oregon University (“the University”), alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that the University deprived him of liberty and property interests without due process of law. Plaintiff originally filed his Complaint in Polk County Circuit Court. The University timely removed the action to this Court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. Before the Court is the University's Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, the University's Motion to Dismiss is granted, and Plaintiff's request for leave to amend is also granted.

         STANDARDS

         A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim may be granted only when there is no cognizable legal theory to support the claim or when the complaint lacks sufficient factual allegations to state a facially plausible claim for relief. Shroyer v. New Cingular Wireless Servs., Inc., 622 F.3d 1035, 1041 (9th Cir. 2010). In evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint's factual allegations, the court must accept as true all well-pleaded material facts alleged in the complaint and construe them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Wilson v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 668 F.3d 1136, 1140 (9th Cir. 2012); Daniels-Hall v. Nat'l Educ. Ass'n, 629 F.3d 992, 998 (9th Cir. 2010). To be entitled to a presumption of truth, allegations in a complaint “may not simply recite the elements of a cause of action, but must contain sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively.” Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011). All reasonable inferences from the factual allegations must be drawn in favor of the plaintiff. Newcal Indus. v. Ikon Office Solution, 513 F.3d 1038, 1043 n.2 (9th Cir. 2008). The court need not, however, credit the plaintiff's legal conclusions that are couched as factual allegations. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009).

         A complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations to “plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief, such that it is not unfair to require the opposing party to be subjected to the expense of discovery and continued litigation.” Starr, 652 F.3d at 1216. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)).

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was a student at the University. Id. at ¶ 2. Plaintiff and student Emily Cantrell had a child together out of wedlock. Id. at ¶ 11. On October 13, 2016, the University sent Plaintiff a “no-contact order, ” which prohibited him from having any further contact with Ms. Cantrell. Id. at ¶ 13. On October 25, 2016, the University sent Plaintiff a notice informing him that a hearing had been scheduled with the University Student Conduct Hearing Committee following allegations that Plaintiff had violated the no-contact order and engaged in stalking Ms. Cantrell. Id. at ¶¶ 15-16. On the same day, Plaintiff also received an “Interim Sanction Notice, ” which prohibited him from entering or remaining on the University's campus. Id. at ¶ 14.

         On November 1, 2016, a hearing was held and Plaintiff appeared and testified. Id. at ¶ 17. Ms. Cantrell did not appear or testify at the hearing. Id. After the hearing, the Committee upheld the allegations against Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 18. The Committee also imposed sanctions, including an indefinite no contact order and deferred suspension. Id. at ¶ 19. Both Plaintiff and Ms. Cantrell appealed the decision. Id. at ¶¶ 20-21. On November 17, 2016, without a further hearing, the Vice President of Student Affairs determined both appeals and modified the sanctions against Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 22. The sanctions ultimately imposed suspended Plaintiff from the University for three years and continued his no-contact order with Ms. Cantrell. Id.

         Plaintiff asserts that he has a liberty interest in his good name, reputation, honor, and integrity, and a property interest in his continued attendance at the University. Id. at ¶¶ 23-24. Plaintiff alleges that the University deprived him of these interests without due process of law. Id. at ¶ 25. Plaintiff's Complaint against the University solely alleges claims under Section 1983.

         DISCUSSION

         The University makes two arguments. First, the University argues that it has sovereign immunity. Second, the University states that it is not a “person” within the meaning of Section 1983. Plaintiff responds that the University has waived its sovereign immunity by removing this lawsuit from state court. Plaintiff also responds that the University is not an “arm of the State” and thus is a proper defendant under Section 1983. In the alternative, Plaintiff requests leave to amend his Complaint to request injunctive relief and add additional claims under state law.

         A. Eleventh ...


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