United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
me is Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's First
Amended Complaint.Dr. Sean Park alleges that Temple
University violated his due process rights provided by 42
U.S.C. § 1983 when it expelled him from its School of
Dentistry. He also contends that the individual
defendants defamed him. Dr. Park also brings breach of
contract and unjust enrichment claims solely against Temple.
For the reasons discussed, Defendants' motion will be
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
2013, Dr. Park voluntarily surrendered his dentistry license
in California and Texas after admitting to billing,
advertising and forgery of documents. Dr. Park subsequently
applied to the Graduate Specialty Program in Periodontology
and Oral Implantology as well as the Masters program in Oral
Biology at Temple University's Kornberg School of
Dentistry (“the Program”). The application
process required an application and interview with four
members of Temple's staff. The Program's application
requested information on professional licenses but did not
inquire about the validity or current status of state
professional licenses held by the applicant. Dr. Park was
accepted into the Program in June 2014. While enrolled in the
Program, Dr. Park practiced with a training permit under
supervising staff licensure.
31, 2016, a patient reported to Temple that Dr. Park had lost
his dental license. On June 2, 2016, Dean Amid Ismail, Dr.
Leona Sperrazza, and Dr. Keisuke Wada questioned Plaintiff
regarding the status of his dental licenses. Dr. Park
disclosed that he had surrendered his licenses to practice
dentistry in California and Texas. He stated that the
surrenders were based on “allegations involving
billing, advertising, and forgery of documents at a dental
practice for which [Dr. Park] had previously worked.”
See Am. Compl. ¶ 33. Dr. Park noted that his
attorney would provide more details and was given until June
8, 2016, to provide the information. On June 6, 2016, Dr.
Park's attorney provided a letter to Dean Ismail
detailing the circumstances of Dr. Park's license
surrender and acknowledging that by surrendering his
licenses, Dr. Park had conceded that he was guilty of the
charges brought against him. See Am. Compl. ¶
15, 2016, Dr. Park received notice that Temple was charging
him with a violation of the University Code of Student
Conduct, Article III, Paragraph C, Section 10 which
prohibits: “Providing false or misleading information,
verbally or in writing, to the university or university
personnel, ” including “ . . . providing false or
misleading information during a disciplinary proceeding or
investigation related to potential policy violations.”
See Am. Compl. ¶ 46. The notice specified that
the charge against Dr. Park was “Failure to inform the
Kornberg School of Dentistry of the voluntary surrender of
[Dr. Park's] license to practice dentistry by the
California Board of Dentistry.” Id. at ¶
Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United
States Constitution protects against state deprivations of
life, liberty, or property without due process of law. As a
graduate student at Temple, a public university, Dr. Park had
a property interest in his continued education and
enrollment. See Palmer ex rel. Palmer v. Merluzzi,
868 F.2d 90, 95 (3d Cir. 1989) (citing Goss v.
Lopez, 419 U.S. 565 (1975)).
evaluating Dr. Park's claims, due process requires
weighing: “(1) the private interests at stake, (2) the
governmental interests at stake, and (3) the fairness and
reliability of the existing procedures and the probable
value, if any, of additional procedural safeguards.”
Palmer, 868 F.2d at 95 (citing Mathews v.
Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319 (1976)). It is quite obvious that
Dr. Park had an interest in remaining as a student at Temple
and equally obvious that Temple had an interest in
maintaining its standards of conduct. The pivotal question
then is whether Dr. Park had a fair hearing as due process
has an established procedure when a student has been charged
with violating the University Code of Student
Conduct. To explain this procedure, I have turned
to the Amended Complaint, an exhibit attached to it, the
plaintiff's brief opposing the motion to dismiss, and a
uncontroverted exhibit provided by the defendants.
violation has been charged, the matter is heard by a
then-appointed panel called the Honor Board. The Board may
make findings and a recommendation to the dean. A review of
the Board's action may be taken to what is called the
Appeal Review Committee. Based on all that he has before him,
the dean makes a decision concerning the student. As will be
shown, that was the procedure that was followed here.
Honor Board hearing held on June 23, 2016, to consider the
charge that Dr. Park had provided false or misleading
information on June 2, Dr. Sperrazza, the Associate Dean for
Patient Care, testified on behalf of Temple and Dr. Park
presented two witnesses. At the end of the hearing, the Honor
Board concluded by majority vote that Park had “more
than likely violated the honor code.” Dr. Park was told
that the Board would discuss a recommended penalty, relay
that recommendation to the Dean and that Dr. Park would be
contacted. The Honor Board ultimately recommended a sanction
of “probation through graduation.” Dr. Park was
not informed of the Honor Board's decision.
on June 26, 2016, Dr. Park received notice of a second Honor
Board hearing. The notice asserted the same violation of the
Conduct Code, providing false or misleading information to
the university or university personnel; however, the
“specification of the charges” provided was more
detailed. Specifically, the notice stated that the hearing
was being convened to address:
Failure to fully and accurately disclose, under direct
questioning by the Dean and Associate Dean for Patient Care
[Dr. Sperrazza] during a formal investigation of a possible
violation of the School of Dentistry's Honor Code, the
specific charges brought against the resident by the Dental
Board of California and the Texas Board of Dental Examiners,
namely that the resident failed to disclose the below
information while stating that the disciplinary charges
against his California dental license related solely to
billing errors committed by his employers. . .
See Am. Compl. ¶ 57. The second hearing was
held on July 1, 2016, before predominantly the same panel who
had participated in the first hearing. Dr. Sperrazza
testified once again, but Dr. Park did not present any
witnesses. By majority vote, the Honor Board found that Dr.
Park had violated the Code of Student Conduct and recommended
to Dean Ismail that Dr. Park be expelled from the Program.
See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 64, 119. Dr. Park was
notified of this decision.
11, 2016, Dr. Park appealed the decision of the Board to the
Appeal Review Committee arguing that there was new evidence
and procedural flaws in the hearing process. On August 12,
2016, Dr. Park received notice that the Appeal Review
Committee had unanimously decided to uphold the Honor
Board's findings. Thus, his appeal was denied.
See Am. Compl. ¶ 101.
considered this information, Dean Ismail decided that Park
should be expelled from the Program and he was expelled.
the school setting, there are two types of dismissals - for
disciplinary purposes and for academic reasons. There is a
significant difference in the procedural safeguards required
when a student has violated valid rules of conduct versus a
student who has failed to meet academic standards. Bd of
Curators of Univ. of Mo. v. Horowitz, 435 U.S. 78, 87-90
(1978). A judgment on academic grounds is by its nature more
subjective and evaluative than the typical factual questions
presented in the average disciplinary decision. Id.
As a result, the procedural requirements for academic
dismissal are far less stringent than the requirements for
the fact-finding proceedings traditionally required in a
disciplinary proceeding. Id.
with Judge Beetlestone's previous thought that Dr.
Park's dismissal was disciplinary in nature. The charges
and hearings held in this case addressed Dr. Park's
failure to disclose relevant information on his application
and, upon further inquiry, to Temple's faculty. The
Complaint alleges that Dr. Park was expelled for violations
of the Student Conduct Code. There was no discussion of his
clinical work or school grades. As a result, I conclude that
Dr. Park was expelled on disciplinary grounds and will apply
the more rigorous standard of review.
Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint may be dismissed for failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) only requires “a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief;” however, the Supreme Court has
stated that there must be “enough facts to state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Bell Atlantic Corporation v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,
570 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
Temple provided Dr. Park with due process, he has not stated
a claim for which I can afford him relief and his First
Amended Complaint must therefore be dismissed.