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Omar Ally v. Temple University

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

September 26, 2019




         Plaintiff Jonathan Ally filed a complaint alleging Temple University and several of its employees violated the Constitution and Title IX. He further alleges Defendants committed acts of defamation, fraud, and obstruction of justice. Pending now is the Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss the complaint. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.

         I. FACTS [1]

         Plaintiff formerly attended Temple University. On February 25, 2014, while he was a student, Plaintiff got locked out of his off-campus apartment and had to spend the night at a friend’s apartment. The friend he stayed with then pressured him into having sex and sexually assaulted him.

         In March 2014, Plaintiff reported the incident to Temple employee Rachael Stark, who escorted him to another employee, Donna Gray, to formally report the assault. According to the Complaint, Temple did not properly investigate Plaintiff’s report. Stark also advised Plaintiff that he could go to Disability Services to request incompletes in two of his classes, Spanish and Biochemistry. But Plaintiff did not receive the requested incomplete in Spanish; instead, he was accused of plagiarism on his final and denied the ability to file a grievance challenging the professor’s accusation.

         At a later point, Plaintiff also reported the assault to Temple detective Jim Rago and raised concerns that the University is racist and sexist. Shortly after filing this report, Plaintiff was fired from his research job on campus. Soon thereafter, he was expelled from Temple. Defendants claim he was expelled based on bad behavior, which Plaintiff says is a misrepresentation that has harmed his ability both to succeed at other universities and to find jobs. Plaintiff met with Temple’s Title IX Coordinator after the expulsion to report his experiences. The Department of Education conducted an investigation, which concluded in June 2018 and found no wrongdoing.


         In order to survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “Threadbare” recitations of the elements of a claim supported only by “conclusory statements” are insufficient. Id. at 683. Plaintiff’s allegations must rise above mere speculation. Zavala v. Wal Mart Stores Inc., 691 F.3d 527, 542 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545).


         A. Statute of limitations

         The events that underly all of Plaintiff’s claims occurred in 2014, over five years ago. This raises some statute of limitations concerns. Turning first to the constitutional claims, Plaintiff alleges Defendants violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. He thus brings suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 borrows its statute of limitations from the forum state’s personal injury law. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 275–76 (1985). Pennsylvania personal injury claims are bound by a two-year statute of limitations. 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5524(7); Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 190 (3d Cir. 1993). Because all of the events giving rise to Plaintiff’s constitutional claims occurred more than two years ago, they are all time barred.[2]

         Plaintiff’s Title IX claims suffer an identical fate. The same two-year statute of limitations from state personal injury law applies in the Title IX context too, meaning the claims are untimely. Bougher v. Univ. of Pittsburgh, 882 F.2d 74, 78 (3d Cir. 1989). Likewise, any action for fraud must also be brought within two years. 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5524(7). Finally, any defamation action for libel or slander under Pennsylvania law must be made within one year. 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5523(1); In re Philadelphia Newspapers, LLC, 690 F.3d 161, 174 (3d Cir. 2012). All of these claims are thus barred by their statutes of limitations.

         B. Plaintiff’s obstruction of justice claim

         Plaintiff’s only remaining claim is his allegation that Defendants obstructed justice by denying him access to his university email account after he was expelled, which Plaintiff says prevented him from accessing important evidence against the university. For support, Plaintiff cites to 18 U.S.C. § 1514, a statute which allows government attorneys (or in some instances, the court on its own) to request temporary restraining orders and protective orders to protect victims or witnesses in federal criminal cases from harassment. But no private cause of action exists for a Plaintiff to bring an obstruction of justice claim, under either the cited federal law or state law. See Sarpolis v. Tereshko, 26 F.Supp. 3d 407, 418–19 (E.D. Pa. 2014) (collecting cases); Pelagatti v. Cohen, 536 A.2d 1337, 1342 (Pa. Super. 1987). See also Zastrow v. Houston Auto Imports ...

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