United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Western Division
DAVID PRO'CTOR, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
case is before the court on Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss. (Doc. # 29). After careful consideration, and for
the reasons explained below, the court concludes that the
motion is due to be denied.
August 2011, Plaintiff Ali Amiri began a PhD program in
physics at the University of Alabama (“UA”).
(Doc. # 28 at ¶ 5). In February 2013, Amiri started his
dissertation research at the Center for Materials for
Information Technology (“MINT”). (Id.).
By fall 2015, Plaintiff had enough credentials to graduate
from the PhD program, and he requested to defend his
dissertation. (Id.). However, UA postponed the
dissertation defense (without good reason, according to
Plaintiff), and Plaintiff continued his research until June
2017, a dispute between Plaintiff and the UA administration
erupted concerning Plaintiff's access to UA laboratory
facilities, the details of which are not relevant for
purposes of this motion to dismiss. (Id. at
¶¶ 7-9). Relevant here, however, is Plaintiff's
assertion that a June 20, 2017 letter from the MINT Center
Director confirmed that, as of that date, Plaintiff was an
active UA student working on his dissertation research.
(Id. at ¶ 11). The letter informed Plaintiff
that he was no longer a MINT student because he was not being
supervised by MINT faculty or supported by MINT research
funds, and it instructed Plaintiff to return all MINT
facility keys to the MINT Facility Manager. (Doc. # 7-2 at
2). But, the letter does not state that Plaintiff had been
dismissed from his graduate program at UA. It reads instead,
“Of course, when you again become a MINT student, with
your supervisor's approval you may request access [to
MINT facilities].” (Id.).
days later, on June 29, 2017, Plaintiff received a letter
from the graduate school informing him that “the
graduate school received notification from the Department of
Physics that you have been dismissed from the Doctor of
Science in Physics program.” (Docs. # 28 at ¶ 11;
4 at 36). Pursuant to UA policy, the letter
explained, “departmental dismissal from a degree
program also results in suspension from the Graduate
School.” (Doc. # 4 at 36). As a result, Plaintiff was
not permitted to register for the fall 2017 or any future
semester unless he was first readmitted to the Graduate
School, in a different program. (Id.). The letter
then provided an internet link to the online Graduate
Catalog, which describes the process for readmission.
to Plaintiff, UA claims his dismissal was for academic
reasons, not disciplinary reasons. (Doc. # 28 at ¶ 12).
Plaintiff also claims academic standing is determined at the
end of each semester and, at the end of the spring 2017
semester, he was in good academic standing. (Id.).
He further asserts that UA failed to provide any specific
reasons for his dismissal (academic or otherwise), never
notified him that a dismissal procedure had begun, and held
no hearing regarding his dismissal. (Id. at
¶¶ 10, 12).
claims the manner in which UA dismissed him from his program
violated his right to procedural due process under the
Fourteenth Amendment. He has sued the Board of Trustees of
the University of Alabama for this alleged violation under 42
U.S.C. § 1983, and the Board has moved to dismiss the
Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim.
Standard of Review
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint
provide “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). However, the complaint must include
enough facts “to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Pleadings that
contain nothing more than “a formulaic recitation of
the elements of a cause of action” do not meet Rule 8
standards, nor do pleadings suffice that are based merely
upon “labels and conclusions” or “naked
assertion[s]” without supporting factual allegations.
Id. at 555, 557. “A Rule 12(b)(6) motion
questions the legal sufficiency of a complaint; therefore, in
assessing the merit of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must
assume that all the factual allegations set forth in the
complaint are true.” Mays v. U.S. Postal
Serv., 928 F.Supp. 1552, 1557-58 (M.D. Ala. 1996). In
deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, courts view the
allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party. Watts v. Fla. Int'l Univ.,
495 F.3d 1289, 1295 (11th Cir. 2007). Thus, for the purpose
of resolving Defendant's motion to dismiss (Doc. # 29),
the court treats the facts plausibly alleged in
Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (Doc. # 28) as true.
The court also liberally construes pro se filings, such as
Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. See Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must “state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).
Although “[t]he plausibility standard is not akin to a
‘probability requirement, '” the complaint
must demonstrate “more than a sheer possibility that a
defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. A
plausible claim for relief requires “enough fact[s] to
raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal
evidence” to support the claim. Twombly, 550
U.S. at 556.
considering a motion to dismiss, a court should “1)
eliminate any allegations in the complaint that are merely
legal conclusions; and 2) where there are well-pleaded
factual allegations, ‘assume their veracity and then
determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement
to relief.'” Kivisto v. Miller, Canfield,
Paddock & Stone, PLC, 413 Fed.Appx. 136, 138 (11th
Cir. 2011) (quoting Am. Dental Assn. v. Cigna Corp.,
605 F.3d 1283, 1290 (11th Cir. 2010)). That task is context
specific and, to survive the motion, the allegations must
permit the court based on its “judicial experience and
common sense . . . to infer more than the mere possibility of
misconduct.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. If the
court determines that well-pleaded facts, accepted as true,
do not state a claim that is plausible, the claims are due to
be dismissed. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.
§ 1983 claim alleging a denial of procedural due process
requires proof of three elements: (1) a deprivation of a
constitutionally-protected liberty or property interest; (2)
state action; and (3) constitutionally-inadequate
process.” Grayden v. Rhodes, 345 F.3d 1225,
1232 (11th Cir. 2003). Defendant concedes that it is a state
actor. (Doc. # 29 at 6). But it argues that Plaintiff has
failed to allege facts plausibly supporting the first and
third elements of his claim- that Plaintiff was deprived of a
constitutionally protected liberty or property interest and
that the process UA ...