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Thomas v. University of Mississippi

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division

May 31, 2018

RICHARD KENNETH THOMAS PLAINTIFF
v.
UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI and BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE INSTITUTE OF HIGHER LEARNING DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

         Now before this Court is Defendants University of Mississippi and Board of Trustees of the Institute of Higher Learning's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim [3]. Having considered the matter, the Court finds the motion should be granted.

         Background

         The Plaintiff, Dr. Richard Thomas, is a former professor at the University of Mississippi's Desoto campus. After Defendants terminated his employment, Thomas filed his complaint against the University and the Board itself in this action alleging breach of contract and due process violations.

         Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing they are entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity, and that they are not "persons" under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On May 9, 2018, Thomas moved to amend his complaint by adding several individual defendants employed by the University of Mississippi and the Board. The Court granted Thomas's motion to amend that same day and ordered Thomas to file his amended complaint within seven days. See L.U. Civ. R. 7(b)(2)(stating that a party must file an amended pleading within seven days of entry of the order granting a motion to amend) To date, Thomas has failed to file his amended complaint or respond to Defendants' motion to dismiss. Therefore, the Court will proceed on Defendants' motion.

         Discussion

         Defendants argue that the complaint should be dismissed for two reasons. First, they argue that as "arms of the state" they are entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity from this suit. Thus, they move under Rule 12(b)(1) for this Court to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction. Second, they argue that they are not "persons" for the purposes of § 1983. Therefore, they also make a Rule 12(b)(6) motion for the Court to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim for relief under § 1983. Because, as set forth below the Court finds the motion should be granted on the first ground, it does not consider the second.

         1. 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss Standard

         "When a Rule 12(b)(1) motion is filed in conjunction with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, . . . courts must consider the jurisdictional challenge first." McCasland v. City of Castroville, Tex., 478 Fed.Appx. 860, 860 (5th Cir. 2012) (per curiam) (citing Wolcott v. Sebelius, 635 F.3d 757, 762 (5th Cir. 2011); Moron v. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 27 F.3d 169, 172 (5th Cir. 1994)). This " 'prevents a court without jurisdiction from prematurely dismissing a case with prejudice.' " Id.

         A Rule 12(b)(1) motion allows a party to challenge the Court's subject matter jurisdiction. " '[A] factual attack under Rule 12(b)(1) may occur at any stage of the proceedings, and plaintiff bears the burden of proof that jurisdiction does in fact exist.' " Arena v. Graybar Elec. Co., 669 F.3d 214, 223 (5th Cir. 2012) (quoting Menchaca v. Chrysler Credit. Corp., 613 F.2d 507, 511 (5th Cir. 1980) (citations omitted)).

         The Fifth Circuit has instructed:

A case is properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction when the court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the case. In considering a challenge to subject matter jurisdiction, the district court is free to weigh the evidence and resolve factual disputes in order to satisfy itself that it has the power to hear the case. Thus, under Rule 12(b)(1), the district court can resolve disputed issues of fact to the extent necessary to determine jurisdiction[.]

Smith v. Reg'l Transit Autk, 756 F.3d 340, 347 (5th Cir. 2014) (quotation marks and citation omitted). In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, the Court can consider: "(1) the complaint alone; (2) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record; or (3) the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts." Tsolmon v. United States, 841 F.3d 378, 382 (5th Cir. 2016) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         2. Eleventh Amendment Immunity

         The Eleventh Amendment provides that: "The judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State." U.S. Const, amend. XI; "The Eleventh Amendment strips courts of jurisdiction over claims against a state that has not consented to suit." Pierce v. Hearn Indep. Sch. Dist.,600 Fed.Appx. 194, 197 (5th Cir. 2015) (per ...


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