Oji v. Auburn University Montgomery

Filing 15

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER directing that: (1) AUM's 9 MOTION to Dismiss is GRANTED based upon Eleventh Amendment immunity, and that all claims against AUM are DISMISSED with prejudice; and (2) Mr. Oji's 13 MOTION to Amend the Complaint is DENIED. Signed by Honorable William Keith Watkins on 6/21/2010. (wcl, )

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT F O R THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA N O R T H E R N DIVISION C H A R L E S OJI, P la in tif f , v. A U B U R N UNIVERSITY MONTGOMERY, D e f e n d a n t. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) C A S E NO. 2:10-CV-364-WKW [W O ] M E M O R A N D U M OPINION AND ORDER B e f o re the court is Defendant Auburn University Montgomery's ("AUM") Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 9), which is accompanied by a Brief in Support (Doc. # 10). Plaintiff C h a rlie Oji filed a Response (Doc. # 12), opposing the motion, and also filed a Motion to A m e n d the Complaint (Doc. # 13). For the reasons to follow, AUM's motion is due to be g ra n te d , and Mr. Oji's motion is due to be denied. I . JURISDICTION AND VENUE T h e parties do not dispute subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1331 a n d 1367; nor do the parties contest personal jurisdiction or venue. There are adequate a lle g a tio n s in support of each. I I . BACKGROUND I n Counts I and II of the Complaint, Mr. Oji alleges that AUM violated his due p ro c e s s and equal protection rights, as protected by the Fourteenth Amendment and e n f o rc e d through 42 U.S.C. 1983. In Count III, Mr. Oji also brings a claim for breach of contract under Alabama law. "[T]he gravamen of Mr. Oji's [C]omplaint is to require A U M to perform [its] legal duty as set forth in the handbook relating to discipline of s tu d e n ts in the Cytotechnology Program at AUM, namely to provide him with a warning c o n c e rn in g his alleged deficiencies and reinstate him in the program." (Doc. # 12, at 2-3.) As relief, Mr. Oji requests reinstatement, monetary damages, costs and attorney's fees. I I I . DISCUSSION A. A U M 's Motion to Dismiss AUM argues that as a state agency, it has immunity from suit under the Eleventh A m e n d m e n t.1 Because AUM is correct, it is not necessary to address AUM's additional g ro u n d s for dismissal. "[A] suit in which the State or one of its agencies or departments is named as the d e f e n d a n t is proscribed by the Eleventh Amendment[,]" unless the state consents to or w a iv e s the immunity. Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 99-100 (1 9 8 4 ). "This jurisdictional bar applies regardless of the nature of the relief sought." Id. a t 100; see also Stevens v. Gay, 864 F.2d 113, 115 (11th Cir. 1989) (The Eleventh A m e n d m e n t bars claims against state agencies for "money damages or prospective in ju n c tiv e relief." (citing Pennhurst, 465 U.S. at 100)). It also applies "regardless of "An assertion of Eleventh Amendment immunity essentially challenges a court's subject matter jurisdiction." Seaborn v. Fla. Dep't of Corr., 143 F.3d 1405, 1407 (11th Cir. 1998). A Rule 12(b)(1) motion may be treated as either a facial or factual challenge to the subject matter jurisdiction. Sinaltrainal v. Coca-Cola Co., 578 F.3d 1252, 1260 (11th Cir. 2009). Here, AUM attacks the sufficiency of the Complaint on its face. In a facial attack, "the court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accepts all well-pled facts alleged by in the complaint as true." Id. 1 2 whether the claim is based on state law or federal law." Flood v. Ala. Dep't of Indus. R e la tio n s , 948 F. Supp. 1535, 1542 (M.D. Ala. 1996) (citing Pennhurst, 465 U.S. a t 910-11). M r. Oji wisely has not disputed that AUM is a state agency. See Harden v. Adams, 7 6 0 F.2d 1158, 1163 (11th Cir. 1985) ("The Alabama Supreme Court has held on at least tw o occasions that state universities . . . are agencies or instrumentalities of the state."). Nor is there any dispute that neither exception to Eleventh Amendment immunity (i.e., s ta te waiver and congressional abrogation) applies in this case. Because AUM is a state a g e n c y, the Eleventh Amendment protects it from all liability under 1983 and state law. Hence, AUM's Motion to Dismiss is due to be granted based upon Eleventh Amendment i m m u n i t y. B. M r . Oji's Motion to Amend the Complaint A m e n d m e n ts to a complaint are governed by Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of C iv il Procedure. Rule 15(a) gives a plaintiff the right to "amend [his] pleading once as a matter of course . . . before being served with a responsive pleading[.]" Fed. R. Civ. P. 1 5 (a ). "For Rule 15 purposes, a motion to dismiss is not a responsive pleading." Coventry First, LLC v. McCarty, 605 F.3d 865, 869 (11th Cir. 2010). When a plaintiff w h o has the right to amend the complaint as a matter of course instead moves for leave to amend, the plaintiff waives his right to amend as a matter of course. See id. This m e a n s that leave of the court must be obtained, although leave should be freely given 3 when justice so requires. See id. at 870; see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). A motion to a m e n d , however, need not be granted when the amendment would be futile. See Bryant v . Dupree, 252 F.3d 1161, 1163 (11th Cir. 2001). A proposed amendment is futile "when th e complaint as amended would still be properly dismissed." Coventry First, 605 F.3d a t 870 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). M r. Oji has not previously amended his Complaint, and AUM has not filed a re s p o n s iv e pleading. Mr. Oji could have amended his Complaint as a matter of course, p u rs u a n t to Rule 15(a). By failing to do so, Mr. Oji's request is governed by Rule 1 5 (a )(2 )'s general precepts. M r. Oji has not submitted a proposed amendment to the Complaint or described the n a tu re of the proposed amendment. Mr. Oji, however, has suggested that the purpose of th e amendment would be to correct pleading deficiencies as to the merits of his claims a g a in s t AUM. (Doc. # 12, at 5.) Importantly, no reason has been offered, and none can b e envisioned, that would save Mr. Oji's claims against AUM from dismissal based upon E le v e n th Amendment immunity, an inquiry that is separate and distinct from the inquiry o n the merits. Mr. Oji's Motion to Amend the Complaint, therefore, will be denied. 4 IV. ORDER A c c o rd in g ly, it is ORDERED that (1 ) AUM's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. # 9) is GRANTED based upon Eleventh A m e n d m e n t immunity, and that all claims against AUM are DISMISSED with p re ju d ic e ; and (2 ) Mr. Oji's Motion to Amend the Complaint (Doc. # 13) is DENIED. A final judgment will be entered separately. D O N E this 21st day of June, 2010. /s/ W. Keith Watkins UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 5

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