United States District Court, D. Minnesota
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
T. Schultz, United States Magistrate Judge
Ogonnaya Vincent Ofor brings this action alleging violations
of his freedom of expression by defendant Capella University
and two professors of that school, along with various
state-law claims related to his failure to graduate. Ofor has
not adequately allege a violation of federal law, and he has
not established that the Court has original jurisdiction over
the state-law claims. Accordingly, this action should be
application to proceed in forma pauperis
(“IFP”) like that filed by Ofor, see ECF
No. 2 will be denied, and an action will be dismissed, when
an IFP applicant has filed a complaint that fails to state a
cause of action on which relief may be granted. See
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii); Atkinson v.
Bohn, 91 F.3d 1127, 1128 (8th Cir. 1996) (per curiam);
Carter v. Schafer, 273 Fed. App'x 581, 582 (8th
Cir. 2008) (per curiam) (“[C]ontrary to plaintiffs'
arguments on appeal, the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e) apply to all persons proceeding IFP and are not
limited to prisoner suits, and the provisions allow dismissal
without service.”). In reviewing whether a complaint
states a claim on which relief may be granted, this Court
must accept as true all of the factual allegations in the
complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in the
plaintiff's favor. Aten v. Scottsdale Ins. Co.,
511 F.3d 818, 820 (8th Cir. 2008). Although the factual
allegations in the complaint need not be detailed, they must
be sufficient to “raise a right to relief above the
speculative level . . . .” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The complaint must
“state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Id. at 570. In assessing the
sufficiency of the complaint, the court may disregard legal
conclusions that are couched as factual allegations. See
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). Pro se
complaints are to be construed liberally, but they still must
allege sufficient facts to support the claims advanced.
See Stone v. Harry, 364 F.3d 912, 914 (8th Cir.
explained in the Court's prior order, see ECF
No. 3 at 2, the factual allegations presented by Ofor in this
proceeding are not entirely clear, and the one-page amended
complaint he recently submitted does not do much to expand
upon those allegations. Ofor contends that he was prevented
by Capella University “from graduating in his chosen
field of study” due to opinions he expressed during his
enrollment at that school. Am. Compl. at 1 [ECF No. 4]. Based
on that skeletal allegation, Ofor claims that Capella
University violated his federal constitutional right to free
expression and breached the contract into which he entered at
the time of enrollment. Id. Ofor also contends that
Capella University's conduct amounts to harassment and
assassination of character, although he intends to raise
these claims in separate state-court proceedings.
Court has original jurisdiction over Ofor's First
Amendment claim under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (“[The
district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil
actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of
the United States”), as that claim arises pursuant to
federal law. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Nevertheless, as Ofor was warned in the Court's prior
order, “[o]nly state actors can be held liable under
Section 1983.” Youngblood v. Hy-Vee Food Stores,
Inc., 266 F.3d 851, 855 (8th Cir. 2001). Capella
University is a private party, not a state actor. The same is
true of the professors of Capella University named as
defendants to this action. And although “[a] private
party who willfully participates in joint activity with the
State or its agents is considered a state actor, ”
id., Ofor does not contend that Capella University
or the defendant professors in any way acted jointly with the
state in the alleged infringement of his right to free
expression. In short, the defendants cannot be held liable
under § 1983 for their alleged misconduct. Ofor's
constitutional claim fails as a matter of law and should be
dismissed with prejudice.
causes of action might perhaps be available to Ofor against
the defendants, such as the claims of breach of contract,
harassment, and defamation mentioned in the amended
complaint. But each of these causes of action arises under
state law, not federal law. Unlike Ofor's constitutional
claim, then, § 1331 cannot supply a basis for the
Court's original jurisdiction over the remaining claims.
Nor can diversity of citizenship, see 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332, as Ofor has not alleged the citizenship of the
parties in either his complaint or amended
complaint.Finally, the Eighth Circuit has made clear
that when all claims in a complaint over which a Court has
original subject-matter jurisdiction have been dismissed
before trial (as this Court recommends here), the court
should decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over any
remaining state-law claims. See Hervey v. County of
Koochiching, 527 F.3d 711, 726-27 (8th Cir. 2008).
Accordingly, the Court recommends that Ofor's remaining
claims be dismissed without prejudice for lack of
on the foregoing, and on all of the files, records, and
proceedings herein, IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED THAT:
matter be DISMISSED as follows:
a. Plaintiff Ogonnaya Vincent Ofor's federal
constitutional claim be DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE for failure
to state a claim on which relief may be granted. See
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).
b. Ofor's state-law claims be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE
for lack of jurisdiction.
Ofor's application to proceed in forma pauperis
[ECF No. 2] be DENIED.