Faki v. University of Alabama System et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER re 14 Request for Contract Enforcement- For the reasons listed within, the motion is DENIED. Plaintiff will be given leave to amend her complaint to properly name defendant on or before August 10, 2016. Signed by Judge William M Acker, Jr on 8/7/16. (SAC )
2016 Aug-04 PM 03:32
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
BELITA A. BROOKS FAKI,
UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA SYSTEM }
and the UNIVERSITY OF
ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM
COLLEGE OF ARTS AND
CIVIL ACTION NO.
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
On April 18, 2016, pro se plaintiff Belita A. Brooks Faki
filed an amended complaint alleging as its sole cause of action
a claim under section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29
U.S.C. § 794. (Doc. 10).
Now plaintiff has filed
supplemental jurisdiction per 28 U.S.C. § 1367 to enforce a
contract for severance benefits between Faki and defendants.
Defendants filed a response to plaintiff’s motion on
the basis that this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction
given that it is a state agency immune
suit based on
sovereign immunity. (Doc. 15).
In essence, the motion filed by the pro se plaintiff is a
motion to amend her complaint to add this additional contract
claim in an exercise of supplemental jurisdiction per § 1367.
Tannenbaum v. United States, 148 F.3d 1262, 1263 (11th
Cir.1998) (per curiam)) (“Pro se pleadings are held to a less
stringent standard than pleadings drafted by attorneys and will,
therefore, be liberally construed.”).
While an exercise of
supplemental jurisdiction over a pendant state claim rests with
the discretion of the district court, Raney v. Allstate Ins.
Co., 370 F.3d 1086, 1088–89 (11th Cir. 2004), the court must
first determine whether
it has the power to assert subject
matter jurisdiction in this case. Lykins v. Pointer, Inc., 725
F.2d 645, 649 (11th Cir. 1984)
private individuals in federal court against a state unless the
state has consented to be sued or has waived its immunity or
Congress has abrogated immunity. Bd. of Trs. of Univ. of Ala. v.
Garrett, 531 U.S. 356, 363–64, 121 S.Ct. 955, 962, 148 L.Ed.2d
While defendants have clearly waived sovereign
Rehabilitation Act, Garrett v. Univ. of Ala. at Birmingham Bd.
curiam), waiver of sovereign immunity for a state contract claim
is a separate question.
“The test to determine if a state has waived its sovereign
immunity is a stringent one . . . [where] [a] waiver of Eleventh
Amendment immunity must specifically permit suits in federal
court.” Barnes v. Zaccari, 669 F.3d 1295, 1308 (11th Cir. 2012)
In general, “the State of Alabama shall never
be made a defendant in any court of law or equity.” Ala. Const.
Art. I, § 14.
While Alabama has developed several exceptions to
this general prohibition, “defendant boards of trustees are
corporate bodies governing the universities, and there is no
exception to the immunity afforded the State by § 14 that would
permit the trial court to entertain an action against them.”
Vandenberg v. Aramark Educ. Servs., Inc., 81 So. 3d 326, 333
In plaintiff’s motion now before this court, she
moves to add a contract claim against defendants who, as part of
the state university system, are immune from such claims.
Therefore, because this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction,
the motion is DENIED.
Finally, in its response, defendants clarified that they are
solely the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama and
that the pro se plaintiff incorrectly names it as both the
University of Alabama System and as the University of Alabama at
Birmingham College of Arts and Sciences. (Doc. 15 at 1).
a pro se plaintiff’s error is salvageable “the district court
should give the pro se plaintiff an opportunity to amend [her]
complaint instead of dismissing it.” Jemison v. Mitchell, 380 F.
App'x 904, 907 (11th Cir. 2010).
Therefore, plaintiff will be
given leave to amend her complaint to properly name defendant on
or before August 10, 2016.
DONE this 4th day of August, 2016.
WILLIAM M. ACKER, JR.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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