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Meyers v. Southern Illinois University-Carbondale

July 10, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael J. Reagan United States District Judge


REAGAN, District Judge

A. Introduction and Background

On August 5, 2008, Plaintiff Cal Meyers commenced this action by filing a ten-count complaint against Defendants Southern Illinois University-Carbondale (hereinafter "SIUC") and Dr. John Koropchak, SIUC's Vice Chancellor of Research and Graduate Dean, in his individual capacity (Doc. 2). Meyers's complaint alleges violations of his constitutional right to due process, breach of contract, and various tort claims against both SIUC and Koropchak. The factual background, as provided by Meyers's complaint, is as follows.

On February 15, 2000, Meyers donated $2.5 million to SIUC for the purpose of establishing The Meyers Institute in Interdisciplinary Research in Organic and Medicinal Chemistry (hereinafter "the Institute"). In exchange, SIUC agreed by written contract that Meyers would serve as Director of the Institute until his retirement or death (Doc. 2, Exh. A). But on November 8, 2007, Meyers received written notice from Koropchak that a sexual harassment complaint had been filed against Meyers (Doc. 2, Exh. B). On January 31, 2008, Meyers was informed by Dr. Fernando Trevino that additional complaints had been received, and that Meyers was barred from SIUC grounds until the investigation could conclude (Doc. 2, Exh. C). Yet another letter regarding the allegations was received on April 28, 2008 (Doc. 2, Exh. D). However, none of the memoranda identified Meyers's accusers or the particular dates of the alleged infractions. It further appears that no hearing was ever held.

Ultimately, Meyers filed the above-captioned against alleging that SIUC violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by depriving him of due process as required by the Fourteenth Amendment (Count I) and the Illinois Constitution (Count II). Meyers also seeks a declaratory judgment against SIUC (Count III), alleges that SIUC conspired to violate his due process rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1985 (Count IV), alleges that SIUC breached its contracts with him (Counts V & VI), and raises claims of unjust enrichment and promissory estoppel (Counts VIII & IX). Additionally, Meyers brings a § 1985 action against Koropchak in his individual capacity (Count IV), along with state law claims of defamation (Count VII) and intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count X). Meyers seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, amounting to reinstatement, for the alleged conduct in all counts and money damages for the breach of contract and tort claims (Counts V--X).

Meyers alleges that jurisdiction over Counts I and IV is proper in this federal district court under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and that the Court has supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Defendants challenge these jurisdictional allegations and, on September 25, 2008, filed a motion to dismiss Counts II and V--X pursuant to FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 12(b)(1). Specifically, Defendants argue that the Illinois Court of Claims has exclusive jurisdiction over Meyers's claims (Doc. 8). This is a sovereign immunity defense, however, and while sovereign immunity may require dismissal of a plaintiff's claims, it "does not diminish a court's subject matter jurisdiction."*fn1 Blagojevich v. Gates, 519 F.3d 370, 371 (7th Cir. 2008). Accordingly, the Court construes the Defendants' filing as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.

Having fully reviewed the parties' filings, the Court hereby GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART the Defendants' motion to dismiss.

B. Analysis

Dismissal is warranted under Rule 12(b)(6) if the complaint fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." In making this assessment, the District Court accepts as true all well-pled factual allegations and draws all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor. Tricontinental Industries, Inc., Ltd. v. PriceWaterhouseCoopers, LLP, 475 F.3d 824, 833 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 128 S.Ct. 357 (2007); Marshall v. Knight, 445 F.3d 965, 969 (7th Cir. 2006); Corcoran v. Chicago Park District, 875 F.2d 609, 611 (7th Cir. 1989). Defendants' argument for dismissal of Counts II, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, and X hinges on whether SIUC and Koropchak are entitled to sovereign immunity. If so, they cannot be sued in federal court with respect to the particular claims presented.

The Eleventh Amendment recognizes that each state is a sovereign entity, and "it is inherent in the nature of sovereignty not to be amenable to the suit of an individual without consent." Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1, 13 (1890). By its express terms, the Eleventh Amendment bars federal courts from hearing suits against a state brought by citizens of any other state. U.S.CONST. AMEND.XI.*fn2 However, the United States Supreme Court has consistently held that unconsenting states are immune from suits brought in federal court by their own citizens, as well as those brought by citizens of other states. See Ameritech Corp. v. McCann,297 F.3d 583, 585 (7th Cir. 2002) (citing Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 662-63 (1974)).

Nonetheless, there are narrow circumstances in which a suit can proceed against a state, its agencies, or officials. For instance, a state can waive the protections of the Eleventh Amendment and consent to be sued in federal court. Ameritech Corp.,297 F.3d at 585. Additionally, Congress can use its enforcement powers under the Fourteenth Amendment to abrogate a state's Eleventh Amendment immunity. Id. Furthermore, a suit for prospective injunctive relief (though not money damages) may proceed against state officials in limited circumstances, as outlined in Ex Parte Young, 209 U.S. 124 (1908). See Ameritech, 297 F.3d at 585. Finally, a suit for money damages may proceed against a state official sued in his individual capacity (as opposed to his official capacity) for wrongful conduct attributable to the official himself, "so long as the relief is sought, not from the state treasury but from the officer personally." Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 757 (1999).

The Court now proceeds by analyzing the sovereign immunity question with respect to Meyers's claims as ...

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