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Kinavey v. D'Allesandro

September 29, 2010

TERRY KINAVEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SHAUNA M. D'ALLESANDRO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Donetta W. Ambrose Judge, United States District Court

OPINION AND ORDER

SYNOPSIS

In this civil action, Plaintiff avers that she was employed by the Defendant School District to serve a five-year term as Superintendent. After allegations were raised against Plaintiff in connection with a teaching applicant, the School District's Board of Directors ("Board") instructed the Defendant Board Solicitor to investigate the allegations. Then, on September 22, 2009, the Board voted to suspend Plaintiff with pay, and directed the Defendant Board Solicitor to continue to investigate her. Subsequently, on November 17, 2009, the parties participated in a Loudermill hearing.*fn1 On that date, the Board voted to suspend Plaintiff without pay, and also determined that there was a sufficient basis to proceed with charges against her in accordance with the Pennsylvania Public School Code.

Thereafter, on January 12, 2010, the Board began a predeprivation hearing to determine whether Plaintiff should be discharged. At the hearing, Plaintiff was represented by counsel, testified on her own behalf, and also proffered expert witness testimony and documentary evidence.*fn2 Also at the hearing, Plaintiff objected to the Board acting as tribunal and asked for unbiased, independent counsel to determine whether there was any basis for prosecution or discipline; moved for the recusal of certain Board Members, and objected to the Board Solicitor and his associates acting in a prosecutorial role. According to Plaintiff, as of the time of her latest submissions in this litigation, no decision had been made regarding her discharge.

Based on these events, Plaintiff asserts claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. '1983 against the individual members of the Board, the School District, and the Board (collectively, School District Defendants) for violations of due process, as well as a state law claim for breach of contract. In addition, she brings a claim against the Defendant Board Solicitor for breach of fiduciary duty; and a claim against the Defendant Board Solicitor and three individual School Board members for conspiracy.

Presently before the Court are Motions to Dismiss filed by the Defendant Solicitor and the School District Defendants, based on Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the School District Defendants' Motion will be granted without prejudice, to the extent that it addresses Plaintiff's due process claims. Additionally, I will decline to exercise jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law claims, and will thus deny the remainder of the School District Defendants' Motion, and the Defendant Solicitor's Motion, as moot.

OPINION

I. APPLICABLE STANDARDS

In deciding a motion to dismiss, all factual allegations, and all reasonable inferences therefrom, must be accepted as true and viewed in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Colburn v. Upper Darby Twp., 838 F.2d 663, 666 (3d Cir. 1988). A claim is plausible on its face, and not subject to dismissal, "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, U.S. , 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed. 2d 868 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed. 2d 929 (2007)). While "[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement' . it asks for more than a sheer possibility.." Id. at 949. A motion to dismiss will be granted if the plaintiff has not articulated facts sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bangura v. City of Philadelphia, 338 Fed. Appx. 261 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965). Thus, a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65.

II. DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS

A. DUE PROCESS CLAIMS

The School District Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint, inter alia, for failure to state a due process claim in either Count I or II of the Complaint. In response, Plaintiff argues that she has stated a claim, in Count I, regarding the School Board's improper commingling of prosecutorial and adjudicative functions. In particular, Plaintiff contends that the commingling tainted predeprivation procedures, such that she was stripped of the property interest in her employment without due process. In addition, in Count II, she contends that her liberty interests were infringed without due process, when Defendants made disparaging public statements in conjunction with suspending her without pay.

Procedural due process is a flexible concept. Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, 481, 92 S.Ct. 2593, 33 L.Ed. 2d 484 (1972). The fundamental requirements of the Due Process Clause are that a person deprived of property be given an opportunity to be heard "at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner." Armstrong v. Manzo, 380 U.S. 545, 552, 14 L.Ed. 2d 62, 85 S.Ct. 1187 (1965). Predeprivation due process is fulfilled if, before the deprivation, an employee recieves notice of the charges, an adequate explanation of ...


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