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Musila v. Lock Haven University

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 9, 2013

ANDREW D. MUSILA, Plaintiff,
v.
LOCK HAVEN UNIVERSITY, et. al., Defendants

Page 385

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 386

For Andrew D. Musila, Plaintiff: Joseph C. Korsak, Blakey, Yost, Bupp & Rausch LLP, York, PA.

For Lock Haven University, Deana Hill, Albert Jones, Deborah Erickson, Barbara Dixon, Linda Koch, Defendants: Keli M. Neary, Office of Attorney General, Harrisburg, PA.

For Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, Sarah Craft, Defendants: Cathleen Kelly Rebar, Patrick T. Duffy, Stewart Bernstiel Rebar, Blue Bell, PA.

OPINION

Page 387

Matthew W. Brann, United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM

I. BACKGROUND

On April 23, 2012, plaintiff, Andrew D. Musila, commenced the above-captioned action. Musila was, at the time of the events in question, and remains, a tenured professor at Lock Haven University (" LHU" ), a named defendant. The other hereinafter named " University defendants" are Deana Hill, the HR Director; Albert Jones, the Director of Social Equity; Deborah Erickson, the Provost; Barbara Dixon, the University President; and Linda Koch the Vice President of Student Affairs. Also named as defendants are the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (" APSCUF" ) and Sara [1] Craft, hereinafter the " Union defendants."

The action is proceeding on an amended complaint filed November 2, 2012, ECF No. 48. The Honorable John E. Jones III,

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to whom this matter was previously assigned, in an order dated October 24, 2012, ECF No. 47, granted the defendants' motions to dismiss, with leave to amend, because the complaint, as originally filed, did not state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The amended complaint is, consequently, plaintiff's second opportunity to persuade the Court as to the merits of his case.

The amended complaint contains four counts. Count I alleges a violation of Musila's procedural and substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against LHU, Hill, Jones, Erickson and Dixon. Count II alleges a conspiracy to violate his constitutional rights, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) against all defendants. Count III alleges a civil conspiracy against all defendants. Count IV alleges a violation of the Pennsylvania Public Employee Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 1101.1201 against LHU and the APSCUF.

On November 15, 2012, the University defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 49. On November 16, 2012, the Union defendants also filed a Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 53. Both motions have been fully briefed and are now ripe for disposition. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will dismiss the amended complaint, with no further opportunities to amend.

II. DISCUSSION:

A. Motion to Dismiss Standard

When considering a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court must view all allegations stated in the complaint as true and construe all inferences in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 104 S.Ct. 2229, 81 L.Ed.2d 59 (1984); Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). However, " the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the [factual] allegations contained in the complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (internal citations omitted). In ruling on such a motion, the court primarily considers the allegations of the pleading, but is not required to consider legal conclusions alleged in the complaint. Kost, 1 F.3d at 183. " Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. At the motion to dismiss stage, the court considers whether plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence to support the allegations in the complaint. Maio v. Aetna, Inc., 221 F.3d 472, 482 (3d Cir. 2000).

A complaint should only be dismissed if, accepting as true all of the allegations in the amended complaint, plaintiff has not pled enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). " Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663-664.

" In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, we must be mindful that federal courts require notice pleading, as opposed to the heightened standard of fact pleading." Hellmann v. Kercher, *4, 2008 WL 1969311 (W.D. Pa. May 5, 2008) (Lancaster, J.). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 " 'requires only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the...claim is and the grounds on which it rests,'" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1964

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(citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)). However, even under this lower notice pleading standard, a plaintiff must do more than recite the elements of a cause of action, and then make a blanket assertion of an entitlement to relief under it. Hellmann, supra. Instead, a plaintiff must make a factual showing of his entitlement to relief by alleging sufficient facts that, when taken as true, suggest the required elements of a particular legal theory. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965. " [W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged -- but it has not " shown" -- " that the pleader is entitled to relief." Iqbal, supra , citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a).

The failure-to-state-a-claim standard of Rule 12(b)(6) " streamlines litigation by dispensing with needless discovery and factfinding." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-27, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 104 L.Ed.2d 338 (1989). A court may dismiss a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) where there is a " dispositive issue of law." Id. at 326. If it is beyond a doubt that the non-moving party can prove no set of facts in support of its allegations, then a claim must be dismissed " without regard to whether it is based on an outlandish legal theory or on a close but ultimately unavailing one." Id. at 327

B. Allegations in the Complaint

Accepting as true all of the allegations in the complaint, and the exhibit attached thereto, the facts are as follows. Musila is, and was at the time of the events in question, a tenured professor at Lock Haven University in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. Musila is an African-American male of Kenyan national origin. Musila is a member of a labor union, the APSCUF. The APSCUF and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education have a collective bargaining agreement, under which Musila is protected. Article 43 of the agreement defines the handling of complaints against faculty members.

In May 2010, a female student accused Musila of sexual harassment. Concurrent to this accusation, Musila also had an outstanding labor grievance against Hill and Jones. Musila asserts that he was required to appear, unrepresented, before two people - Jones, and non-defendant Timothy Keohane, contrary to LHU policy that required a panel without a conflict of interest. [2] Musila objected, ...


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