588 F.2d 96 (5th Cir. 1979), 76-3723, Goss v. San Jacinto Jr. College

Docket Nº:76-3723.
Citation:588 F.2d 96
Party Name:Patsy GOSS, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. SAN JACINTO JUNIOR COLLEGE, etc., et al., Defendants-Appellants.
Case Date:January 16, 1979
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Page 96

588 F.2d 96 (5th Cir. 1979)

Patsy GOSS, Plaintiff-Appellee,


SAN JACINTO JUNIOR COLLEGE, etc., et al., Defendants-Appellants.

No. 76-3723.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

January 16, 1979

Rehearing Granted April 13, 1979.

B. Jeff Crane, Jr., Houston, Tex., Stanley D. Baskin, Pasadena, Tex., for defendants-appellants.

Larry Watts, Houston, Tex., David Rubin, Ellen Faith Hanna, Stephen J. Pollak, Richard M. Sharp, Washington, D. C., for plaintiff-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Page 97

Before INGRAHAM, GEE and FAY, Circuit Judges.

INGRAHAM, Circuit Judge:

This case arose out of the non-renewal of the teaching contract of an untenured public junior college instructor. Mrs. Patsy Goss brought suit against San Jacinto Junior College, the Board of Regents, certain administrators and faculty members, and the President, Dr. Thomas Spencer, in his individual capacity, alleging that she was denied renewal of her contract in retaliation for her exercise of First Amendment rights. A jury verdict was rendered and judgment entered in favor of Mrs. Goss and against the junior college and its president. Mrs. Goss was awarded $23,400 in back pay. Finding that the appellants' jurisdictional, constitutional, and evidentiary arguments are without merit, we affirm the entry of judgment.

Mrs. Goss was hired by San Jacinto Junior College in 1966 as an untenured history instructor. She had earned a bachelor of arts degree from Texas Christian University and a master of arts degree from the University of Texas. She was then enrolled in a doctoral degree program at the University of Houston. Her contract with San Jacinto Junior College was renewed annually for six years.

During those six years, Mrs. Goss participated in the formation of a local chapter of the National Faculty Association, the college division affiliate of the National Education Association, and initiated efforts to organize a local chapter of the Texas Junior College Teachers Association. She also campaigned on behalf of her husband, Dr. Allen Goss, in his bid for a seat on the San Jacinto Junior College Board of Regents.

On April 5, 1972, Mrs. Goss was advised in writing by Dr. Spencer that the Board of Regents had voted not to renew her teaching contract for the coming academic year, because of declining enrollment and the poor evaluation of her work. A hearing was convened by the Board of Regents at Mrs. Goss' request, after which the Board affirmed its decision.

Mrs. Goss filed a complaint on November 22, 1972, alleging that the non-renewal of her teaching contract was in retaliation for her exercise of First Amendment rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1970). San Jacinto Junior College reinstated Mrs. Goss in the fall of 1974. The action proceeded to a trial by jury in the summer of 1976. The jury found that Mrs. Goss' contract had not been renewed for the 1972-73 and 1973-74 academic years because of her involvement in teacher associations and/or the Board of Regents election. She was awarded $23,400 in compensatory damages for lost employment.

Appellants contend that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction under both 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (1970) and 28 U.S.C. § 1343 (1970).

Appellants first argue that the amount in controversy is insufficient to support federal question jurisdiction under § 1331(a). Mrs. Goss sought $40,000 in compensatory damages in her complaint. The test of the sufficiency of a pleading for jurisdictional amount is well-established:

(T)he sum claimed by the plaintiff controls if the claim is apparently made in good faith. It must appear to a legal certainty that the claim is really for less than the jurisdictional amount to justify dismissal. The inability of plaintiff to recover an amount adequate to give the court jurisdiction does not show his bad faith or oust the jurisdiction.

Mt. Healthy City Board of Education v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 276, 97 S.Ct. 568, 570, 50 L.Ed.2d 471 (1978), quoting St. Paul Indemnity Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 289-90, 58 S.Ct. 586, 82 L.Ed. 845 (1938). Thus, appellants' assertion of defenses to the amount claimed will not destroy federal question...

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