United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
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.
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.
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
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
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).
Statute of limitations
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.
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.
Plaintiff’s obstruction of justice claim
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