United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
SUNNY W. GOLLOWAY, Plaintiff,
THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF AUBURN UNIVERSITY, JAY JACOBS, DAVID BENEDICT, RICH MCGLYNN, SCOTT DUVAL, and JEREMY ROBERTS, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KEITH WATKINS CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the court is the Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge (Doc.
# 33), to which Plaintiff Sunny Golloway filed objections
(Doc. # 34). The court has conducted an independent and
de novo review of those portions of the
Recommendation to which objection is made. See 28
U.S.C. § 636(b).
Magistrate Judge recommended that Defendants' motion to
dismiss (Doc. # 9) be granted in its entirety. Mr. Golloway
challenges this conclusion, alleging that each count of his
complaint should be allowed to go forward. Because the
Magistrate Judge properly applied the law to the facts of
this case, the Recommendation will be adopted (and Mr.
Golloway's objections overruled) in large part. However,
because Mr. Golloway alleged sufficient facts for his claim
of tortious interference to survive 12(b)(6) scrutiny, the
Recommendation will be rejected as to Count 5 of the
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
jurisdiction is exercised pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
The parties do not contest personal jurisdiction or venue.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure tests the sufficiency of the
complaint against the legal standard articulated by Rule 8 of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 8 provides that
the complaint must include “a short and plain statement
of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). When evaluating a motion
to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court must take the
facts alleged in the complaint as true and construe them in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Resnick v.
AvMed, Inc., 693 F.3d 1317, 1321-22 (11th Cir. 2012).
The court need not, however, accept mere legal conclusions as
true. Id. at 1325.
survive a 12(b)(6) motion, 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)). The complaint is facially plausible when “the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id.
the Magistrate Judge already spelled out the facts and
procedural history of this case, the analysis starts at the
crux of the matter: Does Mr. Golloway's operative
complaint survive 12(b)(6) scrutiny?
Counts 1 & 2: Claims against the Board of Trustees of
Golloway objects to the Magistrate Judge's conclusion
that his claims against the Board are due to be dismissed on
sovereign-immunity grounds. It is beyond dispute that
Alabama's state universities, including their boards of
trustees, are instrumentalities of the state. E.g.,
Harden v. Adams, 760 F.2d 1158, 1163 (11th Cir.
1985); Rigby v. Auburn Univ., 448 So.2d 345, 347
(Ala. 1984). Moreover, the Magistrate Judge properly
determined that the relief sought by Mr. Golloway does not
fall into the exception for injunctive relief carved out by
Ex parte Young. See Ala. State Univ. v.
Danley, 212 So.3d 112, 129 (Ala. 2016). Contrary to Mr.
Golloway's objection, his case does not seek “a
liquidated, certain amount” such that his relief can be
couched as injunctive in nature. (Doc. # 34 at 3.) Rather,
because Mr. Golloway could only receive his claimed damages
after a judicial finding that he was terminated without
cause, his claim does not fall within the Ex parte
Young “ministerial act” exception.
Danley, 212 So.3d at 126; see also Woodfin v.
Bender, No. 1150797, --- So.3d ----, 2017 WL 1192891, at
*8 (Ala. March 31, 2017) (holding that “legitimate
dispute” as to whether backpay was required entitled
defendant to sovereign immunity). Therefore, the Magistrate
Judge properly recommended dismissal of Mr. Golloway's
claims against the Board.
Count 3: Defamation
Golloway objects to the recommended dismissal of his
defamation claim, arguing that Defendant Jay Jacobs's
statement that he was terminated “with cause”
constituted defamation per se. It did not.
“The first element of a cause of action in defamation
is a false statement.” Tidwell v. Winn-Dixie,
Inc., 502 So.2d 747, 748 (Ala. 1987). Mr. Jacobs's
statement, “I regret to announce that earlier today I
dismissed Auburn head baseball coach Sunny Golloway with
cause, ” does not meet this threshold requirement.
(Doc. # 32 at 77.) Auburn University dismissed Mr. Golloway
“with cause” rather than “without
cause”-the manner of termination is undeniable,
regardless of whether cause actually existed. Because Mr.
Jacobs's statement truthfully described the nature of the
firing, the Magistrate Judge properly recommended dismissal.
Cf. McCarver v. PPG Indus., Inc., 552 ...