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James R. Brawner, Iii v. Education Management Corporation

July 27, 2012

JAMES R. BRAWNER, III,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
EDUCATION MANAGEMENT CORPORATION, ART INSTITUTE OF PHILADELPHIA, U.S. CONGRESSMAN CHAKA FATTAH, U.S. SENATOR OLYMPIA SNOWE, PENNSYLVANIA DEP'T OF EDUCATION,: U.S. DEP'T OF EDUCATION, ACICS, AND ACCST, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Slomsky, J.

OPINION

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. INTRODUCTION .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

III. DISCUSSION. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

A. Subject-Matter Jurisdiction under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1).. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

1. Legal Standard: Rule 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject-Matter Jurisdiction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

2. Sovereign Immunity Bars Plaintiff's Claims against the PA DOE, U.S. Congressman Fattah, U.S. Senator Snowe, and the U.S. DOE, and Legislative Immunity Bars Plaintiff's Claims against U.S. Congressman Fattah and U.S. Senator Snowe. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

a. Eleventh Amendment Sovereign Immunity Bars Plaintiff's Claim against the PA DOE. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

b. The Discretionary Function Exception to the Waiver of Sovereign Immunity under the FTCA Bars Plaintiff's Claim of Negligence against U.S. Congressman Fattah, U.S. Senator Snowe, and the U.S. DOE. . . . . . . . . 13

c. Legislative Immunity under the Speech or Debate Clause of the U.S. Constitution Bars Plaintiff's Claim of Negligence against U.S. Congressman Fattah and U.S. Senator Snowe.. . . . . . . . . . . 19

B. Failure to State a Claim under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

1. Legal Standard: Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

2. Plaintiff's Fraud, Negligence, and Breach of Contract Claims are Barred by the Statute of Limitations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22

V. CONCLUSION .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

ii

I. INTRODUCTION

This case involves claims of fraud, negligence, and breach of contract brought by Plaintiff James R. Brawner, III ("Plaintiff"), proceeding pro se, arising from events related to an associate's degree in graphic design he received from the Art Institute of Philadelphia ("the Art Institute") in 1999.

On September 28, 2011, Plaintiff filed an application in this case to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP"). (Doc. No. 1.) On October 6, 2011, the application was granted (Doc. No. 2). On October 17, 2011, the Complaint was filed naming as defendants the Education Management Corporation ("EDMC"), the Art Institute of Philadelphia, United States Congressman Chaka Fattah, United States Senator Olympia Snowe, the Pennsylvania Department of Education ("PA DOE"), the United States Department of Education ("U.S. DOE"), and the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools ("ACICS").*fn1 (Doc. No. 3.) Plaintiff also has brought suit against a defendant identified in the Complaint and subsequent pleadings as "ACCST."*fn2 (Doc. Nos. 3, 16, 17, and 34.)

Presently before the Court are Motions to Dismiss filed by the PA DOE (Doc. No. 5), by the Art Institute and EDMC jointly (Doc. No. 8), by ACICS (Doc. Nos. 22 and 23), by the United States of America on behalf of Senator Snowe and the U.S. DOE (Doc. No. 31),*fn3 and by Congressman Fattah (Doc. No. 32).*fn4 In response, Plaintiff has filed three motions with the same title: "Motion to Continue/Request to Deny Motions to Dismiss."*fn5 (Doc. Nos. 16, 17, and 34.) On January 24, 2012, the Court held a hearing on whether the case should be dismissed.*fn6 (Doc. No. 28.) Upon consideration of the parties' briefs, exhibits,*fn7 and arguments advanced at the January 24, 2012 hearing, and after an independent review of the allegations in the Complaint, Defendants' Motions to Dismiss will be granted and Plaintiff's Complaint will be dismissed in its entirety.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff attended the Art Institute of Philadelphia from 1996 through 1999. (Doc. No. 3 at 5.) The Art Institute is owned and operated by Defendant EDMC. (Id. at 5.) He took classes to earn an associate's degree in graphic design and earned the degree in 1999. (Id.) In 1996, when he made inquiries about attending the school, the school's admissions and sales representatives told him that the school was accredited. (Id.) The representatives also told him that an associate's degree from the Art Institute would be transferable to various undergraduate schools so that Plaintiff could then work toward a bachelor's degree. (Id.) During these conversations, the representatives referred to language in the school's catalogue in support of their statements that an associate's degree from the Art Institute would be transferable to other schools. (Id.) The catalogue has been submitted by Plaintiff with his supplemental exhibits and states as follows:

Pursuit of a Baccalaureate Degree

As part of its College Articulation Program, the schools of the Art Institute International have entered into arrangements with other colleges and universities, which may increase the opportunity for transfer of credits to those institutions. Graduates of The Art Institute of Philadelphia have the opportunity to apply to pursue a four-year baccalaureate degree. Agreements vary by institution and academic major, and are decided by the receiving institution on a course-by-course basis. It is recommended that students request information and an updated list of participating schools as they progress through their programs by contacting the Registrar's Office at The Art Institute of Philadelphia. (Doc. No. 39 at 37.) Plaintiff alleges, moreover, that he was led to believe that upon graduation, he would secure employment with his graphic design degree that would enable him to earn a salary "at the 30,000 mark." (Doc. No. 16 at 13.) Relying on the catalogue and these statements, Plaintiff decided to attend the Art Institute.

While attending the Institute, Plaintiff encountered what he describes as a "shell game" with his coursework. Specifically, he claims:

[A] shell game [was] played with courses between 1997-1998 where [an] administrator would register plaintiff for same class previously taken under different name citing previous course load now defunct under alleged new curriculum. This occurred twice[.] (Doc. No. 3 at 6.) It is unclear whether this "shell game" happened two or three times because Plaintiff alleges elsewhere in the Complaint that these circumstances occurred "2-3 times." (Id. at 5.) Regardless, these classes were recommended to Plaintiff by a student administrator named Michael Santispirit. (Id.) After Plaintiff paid for and successfully completed the courses, Santispirit later informed Plaintiff that the credits from those classes "were defunct and not applicable towards graduation." (Id.)

After graduating from the Art Institute, Plaintiff experienced difficulties with utilizing his degree: he could not transfer his credits to another school, and he could not find employment in graphic design. In relation to these two problems, the Complaint states:

FRAUD - Discovered 9/12/2011 per discovery of new information in 2011 2000-2011 But refused by the Art Institute of Philadelphia and other parties Denied.

All attempts to gather information were blocked/denied.

(Doc. No. 3 at 5.)

In 2000, when Plaintiff decided to transfer his degree for the first time, he tried to obtain "information" from the Registrar of the Art Institute in the form of a list of other schools that would accept credits from his associate's degree. (Doc. No. 3 at 5; Doc. No. 16 at 6.) He claims that he sought the information from "2000-2011" but was consistently denied being given the list he was requesting. (Doc. No. 3 at 5.) In July 2007, Plaintiff again asked the Art Institute for a list of schools to which he could transfer his credits. (Doc. No. 16 at 4.) That same month, Plaintiff received an email response from Adriane Medford, an Art Institute of Philadelphia representative, who told Plaintiff that "the list did NOT EXIST until 2003 and that it was only for high school ...


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