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Magee v. Hamline Univ.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

February 19, 2014

ROBIN K. MAGEE, Plaintiff,
v.
HAMLINE UNIVERSITY, DONALD LEWIS, JON DOE, JANE ROE, and TRUSTEES OF THE HAMLINE UNIVERSITY, MINNESOTA, Defendants

Page 968

Albert T. Goins, Sr., GOINS LAW OFFICES, LTD., Minneapolis, MN; Damon L. Ward, WARD LAW GROUP, Minneapolis, MN, for plaintiff.

Maurice G. Jenkins, JACKSON LEWIS LLP, Southfield, MI; V. John Ella, JACKSON LEWIS LLP, Minneapolis, MN, for defendants.

OPINION

Page 969

JOHN R. TUNHEIM, United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

This case is the second federal lawsuit to arise out of the termination of Robin Magee from her position as a law professor at the Hamline University School of Law. Magee brings claims for violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 as well as numerous state statutory and common law claims against Defendants Hamline University, Trustees of the Hamline University, and Donald Lewis, the law school's dean at the time of Magee's termination, (collectively, " Hamline" ). Hamline moves to dismiss on the basis that claims asserted by Magee in this litigation which were not alleged in the first litigation are barred by the doctrines of res judicata and claim splitting. Because the Court finds that Magee's sole

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federal claim is barred by res judicata, it will dismiss that claim. With regard to the remaining state law claims, the Court will decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over those claims and will remand them to state court.

BACKGROUND[1]

I. MAGEE I

Plaintiff Robin Magee was a tenured law professor at Hamline University School of Law. (Notice of Removal, Ex. B (" First Am. Compl." ) ¶ 1, May 15, 2013, Docket No. 1.)[2] In July 2011, Hamline terminated Magee following Magee's criminal conviction for misdemeanor tax law violations. (First Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 48-49, 116.)

On April 15, 2011, Magee filed her initial complaint in federal court against Hamline as well as Saint Paul Police Officer David Titus. (Civ. No. 11-949 (" Magee I " ) Compl., Apr. 15, 2011, Docket No. 1.) Magee's complaint brought claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Hamline and Titus alleging that they had acted in concert to violate Magee's constitutional rights. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 19-24.) Specifically, Magee alleged that Titus had conspired with Hamline to have Magee terminated in retaliation for the exercise of her First Amendment rights because she had published an editorial in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press critiquing the Saint Paul Police Department, to which Titus had responded, accusing Magee of " race baiting" and " cop-hating." ( Id. ¶ ¶ 10-11.) The § 1983 claim was the only federal claim included in Magee's complaint. The complaint also included state law claims for intentional interference with contract and breach of contract against Hamline. ( Id. ¶ ¶ 25-31.)

Titus and Hamline moved to dismiss Magee's complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (Civ. No. 11-949, Def. Titus' Mot. to Dismiss, Apr. 20, 2012, Docket No. 20; Civ. No. 11-949, Hamline Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss, Apr. 20, 2012, Docket No. 24.) Magee then requested leave to amend her complaint and filed a copy of her proposed amended complaint. (Civ. No. 11-949, Mot. to Amend, May 11, 2012, Docket No. 32.; Civ. No. 11-949, Ex. (" Proposed Am. Compl." ), May 14, 2012, Docket No. 36.) The proposed amended complaint included almost one hundred new factual allegations, added the Saint Paul Police Federation (" SPPF" ) as a defendant, alleged claims for violation of § 1983 and intentional interference with a contract against the SPPF (Proposed Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 124-32) and asserted new causes of action for intentional interference with a contract against Titus and promissory estoppel, breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, and defamation against Hamline ( id. ¶ ¶ 133-52).

On October 15, 2012, United States Magistrate Judge Arthur J. Boylan issued an Order and Report and Recommendation on Magee's motion to amend and defendants' motions to dismiss. (Civ. No. 11-949, Order and R& R, Oct. 15, 2012, Docket No. 56.) The Magistrate Judge granted Magee's motion to amend to the extent it sought to add the factual allegations in the Proposed Amended Complaint, but denied the motion in all other respects. ( Id. at 25.) The Magistrate Judge also recommended that the Court grant defendants'

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motions to dismiss Magee's § 1983 claims and decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims. ( Id. at 25-26.)

The Court affirmed the Magistrate Judge's order and adopted the R& R. Magee v. Trs. of the Hamline Univ., Minn. ( Magee I ), Civ. No. 11-949, 957 F.Supp.2d 1047, 2013 WL 1332031 (D. Minn. Mar. 29, 2013). The Court concluded that the Magistrate Judge correctly denied Magee's motion to amend her complaint, because her proposed § 1983 claim against SPPF and her additional state law claims failed to state a claim, and amendment would therefore be futile. [WL] at *10-11. The Court additionally found that even if Magee's proposed state law claims were not futile, the Court would decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over them. [WL] at *11.

The Court also adopted the Magistrate Judge's recommendation to dismiss Magee's § 1983 claims for failure to state a claim. [WL] at *3-7. The Court concluded that Magee failed to adequately allege that Titus was acting under color of state law at the time of the alleged constitutional violations, for purposes of imposing § 1983 liability. [WL] at *3-6. Because Magee's allegations failed to establish that Titus (the officer with whom Hamline allegedly conspired) was not a state actor within the meaning of § 1983, the Court found that Hamline could not have been acting under color of state law when it allegedly violated Magee's constitutional rights. [WL] at *7.

The Court dismissed Magee's § 1983 claims against all defendants with prejudice. [WL] at *12. The Court subsequently declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Magee's remaining state law claims, and dismissed those claims without prejudice. [WL] at *7-9, *12. Magee appealed the Court's dismissal order to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. (Civ. No. 11-949, Notice of Appeal to Eighth Circuit, Apr. 29, 2013, Docket No. 79.) The appeal has been fully briefed, and oral argument was heard on February 12, 2014, but the Eighth Circuit has not yet reached a decision.

II. MAGEE II

After the Court dismissed Magee's claims in Magee I, Magee filed a new complaint in Minnesota state court (" Magee II " ). (Notice of Removal, Ex. A.) Magee later amended her state court complaint to add additional claims. (First Am. Compl.) The first amended complaint names Hamline University, Trustees of Hamline University, Donald Lewis in his individual capacity, and Jon Does and Jane Roes as defendants. (First. Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 2-5.) Magee's first amended complaint alleges violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count I), intentional interference with employment contract (Count II), breach of employment contract (Count III), violations of the Minnesota Human Rights Act (" MHRA" ) (Count IV), aiding and ...


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