The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo
Presently before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Doc. 9) filed by Defendants East Stroudsburg University and Robert Dillman. This is the second action filed by Plaintiff relating to disciplinary proceedings commenced against her while she was a student at East Stroudsburg University ("ESU"). In the prior action, Plaintiff obtained preliminary injunctive relief from this Court which enjoined Defendants from preventing Plaintiff from finishing the 2010 spring semester at ESU. Defendants subsequently appealed the matter to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Ultimately, the Third Circuit determined that the matter was moot and remanded the case back to this Court "with a direction to dismiss." Following the mandate of the Third Circuit, the prior action was dismissed on February 15, 2011. Plaintiff, after her attempt to vacate the dismissal and re-open the prior case was denied by this Court and the Third Circuit, proceeded to file this action, which is predicated on the same set of facts as the previously dismissed case. Defendants have now moved to dismiss the action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Because Plaintiff has not demonstrated that the Court can resolve this dispute in light of the Third Circuit's mandate to dismiss the prior action, the case will be dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
As set forth in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, this is the second action filed by Plaintiff Julie Coulter against ESU and Robert Dillman for their alleged denial of her constitutional rights. (Doc. 1, "Am. Compl.", ¶ 15.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants denied her due process when she was suspended from ESU prior to the completion of the administrative disciplinary hearing process. (Id.)
The facts relevant to the instant motion to dismiss are as follows: Plaintiff commenced the initial action on or about April 25, 2010 after she was informed that she would not be allowed to complete the 2010 spring semester at ESU. (Coulter v. East Stroudsburg Univ., No. 10-CV-877, Doc. 1.) On May 3, 2010, this Court held a hearing on Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction. (Am. Compl., ¶ 16.) Two days later, on May 5, 2010, the Court granted Plaintiff's motion. (Id. at ¶ 17.) Defendants subsequently filed a Notice of Appeal with the Third Circuit from the May 5, 2010 Order granting Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction. (Id. at ¶ 18.)
On December 3, 2010, the Office of the Clerk for the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit sent the parties a letter indicating concern that the appeal was moot because Plaintiff had taken her final exams and completed the spring 2010 semester. (Pl.'s Br. Opp'n Mot. Dismiss, Ex. A.) In response, Plaintiff "concur[red] that the matter [was] moot." (Id. at Ex. B.) Accordingly, on January 3, 2011, the Third Circuit:
ORDERED and ADJUDGED that the appeal taken by appellant-defendant be, and is hereby, moot, it is further ORDERED and ADJUDGED that this matter be remanded to the District Court with a direction to dismiss. United States v. Munsingwear, Inc., 340 U.S. 36, 39 (1950). (Defs.' Br. Supp. Mot. Dismiss, Ex. C.)
Following the mandate of the Third Circuit, this Court, on February 15, 2011, dismissed Plaintiff's case. (Id. at Ex. D.) Plaintiff subsequently sought to vacate the dismissal and re-open her case, but her request was denied because she failed to cite "authority for the proposition that a trial court can contravene the direct and explicit mandate of an appellate court." (Id. at Ex. E.) Plaintiff then sought permission to appeal the denial of the motion to vacate and reopen the case, but the Third Circuit denied Plaintiff's request on October 5, 2011. (Am. Compl., ¶¶ 24-25.)
Plaintiff next commenced the instant action asserting similar claims*fn1 against the same Defendants arising out of the same set of facts that were previously dismissed by the Court. (Id.) Specifically, Plaintiff asserts that she always intended to pursue her claims against Defendants for compensatory damages, attorneys' fees, and costs "regardless of the improvident dismissal of her case by the Court of Appeals." (Id. at ¶ 27.) Thus, Plaintiff asserts that she is entitled to pursue her claims for damages sought in the initial action. (Id.)
Defendants have now moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In particular, Defendants argue that: (1) there is no case or controversy in light of the Third Circuit's order for this Court to dismiss the original action; (2) Plaintiff may not relitigate the lack of subject-matter jurisdiction; and (3) Plaintiff was not a prevailing party entitled to recover attorneys' fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. (Defs.' Br. Supp. Mot. Dismiss.) Defendants' motion has now been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.
1. Lack of Subject-Matter Jurisdiction
Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, dismissal of an action is warranted when the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over the case. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1). A "district court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction when the controversy becomes moot." Goodman v. People's Bank, 209 F. App'x 111, 113 (3d Cir. 2006). 12(b)(1) motions may take one of two forms: a facial attack to the sufficiency of the pleading or a factual attack. See Democracy Rising PA v. Celluci, 603 F. Supp. 2d 780, 788 (M.D. Pa. 2009). A factual attack involves a claim "that the court in fact lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, no matter what the complaint ...