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WALKER v. UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH
October 13, 1978
Joseph H. WALKER, Plaintiff,
UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH, Wesley W. Posvar, Joseph A. Dutton, Myron Skrabut, and Charles Graham, Defendants
The opinion of the court was delivered by: ZIEGLER
This is a civil action for compensatory and punitive damages against the University of Pittsburgh and four of its administrators, including Wesley W. Posvar, the Chancellor of the University. Presently before the court is a motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim against the Chancellor upon which relief can be granted.
Joseph H. Walker was employed as a campus police officer by the University of Pittsburgh from September 9, 1974 until his discharge on June 30, 1976. Plaintiff contends that he was discharged for exercising his First Amendment rights after he authored a memorandum concerning possible ways of increasing the efficiency of the University police department.
He further avers constitutional transgressions when he was denied formal grievance procedures allegedly accorded employees of similar rank.
Following meetings with defendants Dutton and Skrabut, and unsuccessful attempts to require submission of the discharge to the grievance procedures, Walker secured an appointment with Dr. Edward Bozin, an assistant to the Chancellor. Dr. Bozin advised plaintiff that the grievance procedures were inapplicable, and the Chancellor was unable to meet with him.
Plaintiff asserts five claims against all defendants:
(1) Count I alleges violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1988 in that the dismissal constituted retaliation for exercise of First Amendment rights;
(2) Count II alleges violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in that plaintiff was dismissed without due process of law;
(3) Counts III and V allege that defendant breached an employment contract with plaintiff; and
(4) Count IV alleges the tort of wrongful discharge.
We hold that plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and the complaint against the Chancellor must be dismissed.
Section 1983 of 42 U.S.C. provides that a citizen, whose constitutional rights have been violated, may sue a state official for redress.
However, unless the official has actual knowledge of and acquiesced in the constitutional deprivation, personal liability does not attach. Hampton v. Holmesburg Prison Officials, 546 F.2d 1077 (3d Cir. 1976); Goode v. Rizzo, 506 F.2d 542, 550 (3d Cir. 1974), Rev'd on other grounds, 423 U.S. 362, 96 S. Ct. 598, 46 L. Ed. 2d 561 (1976). A state official is immune from liability under § 1983 unless:
(H)e knew or reasonably should have known that the action he took within his sphere of official responsibility would violate the constitutional rights of the (plaintiff), or . . . he took the action with the malicious intention to cause a deprivation of constitutional rights or other injury to the (plaintiff). Wood v. Strickland, 420 U.S. 308, 322, 95 S. Ct. 992, 1001, 43 L. Ed. 2d 214 (1975).
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