Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Education Law
Abreu v. Howard University
The case involves Pablo Abreu, a student who was expelled from Howard University College of Medicine. Abreu appealed his expulsion, arguing that the university violated his rights under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1972 by refusing to grant him additional opportunities to retake a required examination, in light of his diagnosed test-taking-anxiety disability. The district court dismissed his complaint, applying a one-year statute of limitations and ruling that his claims were time-barred.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit disagreed with the lower court's application of a one-year statute of limitations to Abreu’s ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims. The court pointed to its decision in another case, Stafford v. George Washington University, in which it concluded that a three-year statute of limitations should apply to civil rights claims under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Since Abreu's ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims were also civil rights claims alleging discrimination, the court ruled that the three-year statute of limitations should apply. This made Abreu’s claims timely since he filed the suit less than three years after his expulsion.The court then remanded the case back to the district court for further proceedings on the ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims. However, it affirmed the dismissal of Abreu's contractual claims, agreeing with the district court that Abreu failed to state a claim for breach of contract. View "Abreu v. Howard University" on Justia Law
Wainberg v. Mellichamp
The case involves Dr. Robert H. Wainberg, a tenured biology professor at Piedmont University, who filed a lawsuit against several officers and trustees of the university. He alleged that they conspired to retaliate against him for filing a prior lawsuit and to deter witnesses from participating in that lawsuit, and negligently refused to prevent that conspiracy. The district court dismissed Wainberg’s claims as time-barred, concluding that the statute of limitations ran from the first overt act Wainberg alleged as part of the conspiracy.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit held that under its precedent, each overt act triggers its own statute of limitations. Therefore, Wainberg’s claims arising out of some overt acts were timely. The court vacated the district court’s dismissal and remanded for further proceedings. The court also held that the continuing-violation doctrine, which allows a plaintiff to sue on an otherwise time-barred claim when additional violations of the law occur within the statutory period, did not apply in this case because the alleged violations were not ongoing but were discrete acts, each triggering its own statute of limitations. View "Wainberg v. Mellichamp" on Justia Law
Reid v. James Madison University
In this case, Alyssa Reid, a former faculty member at James Madison University (JMU) in Virginia, was accused of violating JMU’s Title IX policy against non-consensual relationships based on her past relationship with a graduate student. JMU and its officials investigated the accusation and held a hearing, leading to a decision that Reid violated the policy. Reid appealed the decision to JMU’s provost, who denied her appeal. Subsequently, Reid sued JMU and several officials, raising three due process claims under both 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Virginia Constitution, as well as a sex discrimination claim under Title IX.The United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia held that Reid’s claims accrued when the dean made his decision, and thus they were barred by the applicable two-year statute of limitations. Reid appealed this decision, arguing that her claims accrued not when the dean issued his decision, but when the provost denied her appeal.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit agreed with Reid. The court found that Reid did not have a complete and present cause of action until JMU reached a final decision in her Title IX proceedings. The court determined that JMU did not make clear that the dean’s decision was its official position. Rather, JMU’s official position was made clear to Reid when the provost denied her appeal with a “final,” non-appealable decision. Therefore, Reid’s due process and Title IX claims were not barred by the applicable two-year statute of limitations, and the court reversed the district court's dismissal of Reid’s claims and remanded for further proceedings. View "Reid v. James Madison University" on Justia Law
Grossmont Union High School Dist. v. Diego Plus Education Corp.
This is an appeal before the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division One regarding an attorney fees dispute between multiple charter school entities and two school districts. The case arose from a dispute over whether certain charter schools were operating within the geographic boundaries of the Grossmont Union High School District and San Diego Unified School District in violation of the California Charter Schools Act. After a series of litigation and appeals, the charter school entities, which included Diego Plus Education Corporation, Western Educational Corporation, Lifelong Learning Administration Corporation, and Educational Advancement Corporation, were successful in defending their right to operate the schools. They subsequently sought attorney fees pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5. The trial court granted the motion and ordered the school districts to pay attorney fees amounting to $582,927. The school districts appealed this decision. The appellate court conditionally reversed the order for attorney fees and remanded the case, finding that the trial court did not properly evaluate whether the financial burden of private enforcement warranted an award of attorney fees under section 1021.5. The appellate court instructed the trial court to apply the proper legal standard on remand. View "Grossmont Union High School Dist. v. Diego Plus Education Corp." on Justia Law
Doe v. Marysville Joint Unified Sch. Dist.
This case concerns John HR Doe and other Doe plaintiffs, who alleged that William Babcock, a counselor at an elementary school in the Marysville Joint Unified School District, committed sexual misconduct causing them injury and damages. The Doe plaintiffs filed three separate lawsuits against the School District. The first two, filed in state court, were voluntarily dismissed. The third, filed in federal court, also alleged violations of federal law. The School District moved to dismiss the federal court action, claiming immunity under the Eleventh Amendment for most of the claims. The Doe Plaintiffs then voluntarily dismissed their federal court action and filed a third state court action.The School District demurred to the third state court complaint, arguing res judicata based on the plaintiffs' voluntary dismissal of the second action in federal court. The trial court sustained the demurrer and dismissed the complaint, ruling that the dismissal of the federal court action constituted res judicata. On appeal, the Doe plaintiffs contended that the federal court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the claims on the merits because the School District argued Eleventh Amendment immunity. They also argued that California state law controls, under which a second voluntary dismissal does not constitute res judicata.The Court of Appeal of the State of California, Third Appellate District, affirmed the trial court's decision. The appellate court found that the federal court did have subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiffs' claims because it had jurisdiction over the federal law claims, with supplemental jurisdiction over the state-law claims. Moreover, the court held that res judicata applied because federal law determines the claim-preclusive effect of a federal court judgment in a federal question case, and under federal law, a second voluntary dismissal operates as an adjudication on the merits. The court rejected the plaintiffs' argument that California law should control, stating that states must accord federal court judgments the effect that federal law prescribes. As such, the Doe plaintiffs' third state court action was barred by res judicata due to their second voluntary dismissal in federal court. View "Doe v. Marysville Joint Unified Sch. Dist." on Justia Law
Boston Parent Coalition for Acad. Excellence Corp. v. The School Committee of the City of Boston
This case involves the Boston Parent Coalition for Academic Excellence Corp., which challenged the temporary admissions plan for three selective public schools in Boston. The admissions plan was based on students' grade point averages (GPAs), zip codes, and family income, rather than on standardized test scores. The Coalition claimed that the plan had a disparate impact on White and Asian students and violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Massachusetts law.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit found that the Coalition's claim lacked merit. It held that the Coalition failed to show any relevant disparate impact on White and Asian students, who were over-represented among successful applicants compared to their percentages of the city's school-age population. The court also found that the Coalition failed to demonstrate that the plan was motivated by invidious discriminatory intent. It pointed out that the Plan's selection criteria, which included residence, family income, and GPA, could hardly be deemed unreasonable.The court noted that any distinction between adopting a criterion (like family income) notwithstanding its tendency to increase diversity, and adopting the criterion because it likely increases diversity, would, in practice, be largely in the eye of the labeler. It emphasized that the entire point of the Equal Protection Clause is that treating someone differently because of their skin color is not like treating them differently because they are from a city or from a suburb.The court also rejected the Coalition's appeal of the district court's denial of its motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), which sought relief from the judgment based on newly discovered evidence that some members of the School Committee harbored racial animus. The court found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion, as the Coalition had failed to show that the newly discovered evidence was of such a nature that it would probably change the result were a new trial to be granted.The court therefore affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Boston Parent Coalition for Acad. Excellence Corp. v. The School Committee of the City of Boston" on Justia Law
Campbell v. Career Development Institute
Ricardo Campbell, a student of the Career Development Institute, Inc., was dismissed from its vocational nursing program. Following his dismissal, Campbell filed a writ under section 1094.5 of the Code of Civil Procedure. The trial court denied the petition, stating that the Institute's policies did not necessitate a hearing. In response, Campbell appealed this decision, with the Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellate District Division Eight, vacating the previous judgment for reconsideration in light of a recent Supreme Court ruling on the doctrine of fair procedure.The Court of Appeal noted that the Institute's student handbook and school catalog outlined student discipline procedures, but did not require a hearing or any other opportunity for students to be heard before being dismissed. Campbell was dismissed following an incident reported by three nurses at his clinical placement, which was followed by a letter from the Institute's director of nursing stating that Campbell had been dismissed. The Institute also claimed that this was not the first problem it had with Campbell, although the dismissal letter only mentioned the said incident.The trial court had previously ruled that because the Institute was not a state actor and Campbell did not argue that a statute required the Institute to provide hearings, the Institute could only be subject to administrative mandamus if its own rules and regulations required hearings. The court concluded that Campbell was not entitled to relief under section 1094.5 as the Institute's procedures did not require it to provide hearings.The Court of Appeal remanded the case for the trial court to consider whether the doctrine of fair procedure applies and, if so, whether Campbell was entitled to more process under this doctrine. The Court of Appeal advised that if the court finds Campbell was entitled to a hearing, it must address the merits of his petition. The Court of Appeal vacated the judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Campbell v. Career Development Institute" on Justia Law
Delta Charter v. Sch Bd Concordia Prsh
This case involves Delta Charter Group, Inc. (Delta), a public charter school operating within Concordia Parish in Louisiana. The case has its roots in a 1965 lawsuit against the Concordia Parish School Board for operating segregated schools in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court approved a desegregation plan, but the Board has yet to achieve unitary status, and Delta, which had intervened in the ongoing desegregation case, was required by a 2013 consent order to comply with the Board's desegregation decree. A second consent order in 2018 outlined a race-based enrollment process for Delta, giving the highest enrollment preference to black students.Four years later, Delta moved to discontinue the race-based enrollment process, arguing that it was unconstitutional. The district court declined to modify the order under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5), which allows courts to modify or dissolve a consent decree if applying it prospectively is no longer equitable. Delta failed to show a significant change in factual conditions or in law that would justify modification. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court, stating that Delta had forfeited any argument that the district court had abused its discretion by failing to adequately brief the argument on appeal. The court did not offer any opinion on the underlying constitutional merits, as Delta had forfeited any available argument that the district court should have applied Rule 54(b) and that it had abused its discretion in denying relief under Rule 60(b)(5). View "Delta Charter v. Sch Bd Concordia Prsh" on Justia Law
Forth v. Laramie County School District
Plaintiff-Appellant Gracie Ann Forth appealed the grant of summary judgement entered in favor of Defendant-Appellee Laramie County School District Number 1 (“LCSD1”) on Forth’s claim under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”). Forth alleged that while she was a student at Johnson Junior High School (“JJHS”), a school within LCSD1, one of her seventh-grade teachers, Joseph Meza, sexually abused her over several years beginning in 2014. Forth alleged principals at JJHS had actual notice that Meza posed a substantial risk of abuse and were deliberately indifferent to these risks, thereby violating Title IX. On LCSD1’s motion, the district court concluded LCSD1 did not have actual notice Meza posed a substantial risk of abuse before it learned that Forth had reported him to the police. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded after review, that the district court erred in finding Forth failed to establish such notice by LCSD1 during the period before LCSD1 learned of her police report, and erred in concluding LCSD1 (in lacking such notice) was not deliberately indifferent during that period. The summary judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for the district court to address in the first instance. View "Forth v. Laramie County School District" on Justia Law
Ex parte Morgan, et al.
Dr. William Morgan, Dr. Carol Zippert, Morris Hardy, Leo Branch, Sr., and Carrie Dancy, each of whom is or was a member of the Greene County Board of Education ("the Board"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Greene Circuit Court to enter a summary judgment in their favor on the individual-capacity claims asserted against them by Dr. Rhinnie B. Scott. Scott had been an employee of the Board for over two decades. For most of that time, she served as "Vocational Director." During the 2007-2008 school year, Scott was asked by the president of the Board at that time, Elzora Fluker, to serve as "Acting Principal" at Greene County High School ("GCHS"). During a search for a school principal in the 2010-2011 school year, Scott was tapped to serve as "Instructional Leader" for GCHS in addition to her regular function of Vocational Director. The purpose of such designation was for Dr. Scott to serve as the leader of the school until a principal was selected. At the time of that decision, the period of time of the designation was thought to be only a few weeks at most. Problems arose, however, with the selection, and Dr. Scott ended up having to serve in the position for the entire 2010-2011 school year. Scott filed a grievance with the Board in 2014 concerning her claim that she had not been compensated for her service as "Instructional Leader," which she deemed to be service as the de facto acting principal, at GCHS during the 2010-2011 school year. Additionally, Scott presented a claim that she had been "underpaid by approximately $1,664.00" each year since 2007 because, she asserted, the Board had "inadvertently reduc[ed] the annual pay for the Vocational Director." The Board denied Scott's grievance claims. Because Scott conceded that no genuine issues of material fact remained to be decided with respect to her individual-capacity claims against the Board members, the Board members were entitled to summary judgment concerning those remaining claims. Therefore, the Supreme Court granted the Board members' petition for a writ of mandamus. View "Ex parte Morgan, et al." on Justia Law