Cuesnongle v. Ramos, No. 82-1904

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore CAMPBELL, Chief Judge, ALDRICH; BAILEY ALDRICH
Citation713 F.2d 881
Docket NumberNo. 82-1904
Decision Date10 August 1983
PartiesHis Excellency Vincente CUESNONGLE, et al., Plaintiffs, Appellees, v. Hector RAMOS, Secretary of the Department of Consumer Affairs of Puerto Rico, Defendant, Appellant.

Page 881

713 F.2d 881
His Excellency Vincente CUESNONGLE, et al., Plaintiffs, Appellees,
v.
Hector RAMOS, Secretary of the Department of Consumer
Affairs of Puerto Rico, Defendant, Appellant.
No. 82-1904.
United States Court of Appeals,
First Circuit.
Argued May 2, 1983.
Decided Aug. 10, 1983.

Gerardo Mariani, Asst. Sol. Gen., Dept. of Justice, San Juan, P.R., with whom Miguel Pagan, Acting Sol. Gen., Dept. of Justice, San Juan, P.R., was on brief, for defendant, appellant.

Luis R. Davila-Colon, San Juan, P.R., with whom Hans H. Hertell, David C. Indiano, and Law Offices of Hertell & Davila, San Juan, P.R., were on brief, for plaintiffs, appellees.

Before CAMPBELL, Chief Judge, ALDRICH, Circuit Judge, and BONSAL, * District Judge.

BAILEY ALDRICH, Senior Circuit Judge.

As in Surinach v. Pesquera de Busquets, 1 Cir., 1979, 604 F.2d 73, this is a suit seeking

Page 882

to have declared unconstitutional an action taken by the Secretary of the Department of Consumer Affairs of Puerto Rico (DACO), established by Law No. 5 of April 23, 1973, 3 L.P.R.A. Secs. 341a-341v, as an improper entanglement between church and state. In Surinach the matter of religion was conceded; the issue was the degree of interference, which we found excessive. Here there is no question that there was interference; the issue is religion. Plaintiffs seeking First Amendment protection are Universidad Central de Bayamon (UCB) and various individual officers and representatives thereof. Incorporated under the laws of the Commonwealth, UCB is a co-educational, private, non-profit, liberal arts Catholic University, conducted under the auspices of the Order of Dominican Fathers. The facts having been stipulated, the district court ordered summary judgment for plaintiffs, and the Secretary appeals.

It appears that at the beginning of the academic year in August, 1980, certain non-teaching employees of UCB went on strike and were actively supported by some of the students. As a result, some classes were abruptly interrupted, the institutional order of UCB was at times disrupted, and disciplinary action was brought against certain students, resulting in suspensions. Among the factors contributing to the discontent of some students were the closing of courses and the absence of some professors, but "the main determining factor was the students' solidarity toward the striking employees." Although classes were to have commenced on August 16, they did not begin until August 25, when the academic program began without further incidents. After the strike ended, some students filed complaints against UCB before the Commonwealth's Council of Higher Education, claiming that the University had incurred violations in breach of contract, and, thus, of its license. These complaints were dismissed by the Council. Thereafter, in November, 1980, some of these students, along with others, filed similar complaints before DACO, alleging breach of contract.

The averments of breach of contract in the complaints to DACO were that UCB had violated its contractual commitments in 1) changing twice the date for the first day of classes of the first semester for the academic year 1980-81; 2) closing several sections of courses and ordering a new program of classes; 3) discharging twelve employees; 4) the reduction of student services; 5) the administrative substitution of professors; 6) the denial of a petition for the celebration of a student assembly; 7) the hiring of allegedly non-qualified professors; 8) the suspension of students for disciplinary reasons; 9) an alleged lack of adequate library and student center facilities; 10) refusing to reimburse the registration fees after the students voluntarily withdrew from their courses during the month of November, 1980; 11) violating its own by-laws in regard to disciplinary procedures; and 12) charging a $40 fee for activities allegedly not held.

When the complaints came on for hearing, UCB challenged DACO's jurisdiction on First Amendment grounds, and, upon being overruled, withdrew from the proceedings. Evidence was then presented on behalf of the complainants. Thereafter DACO dismissed the complaints of those students who had assisted the strikers, saying they had brought their troubles upon themselves, but decided in favor of one Montfort, who had not participated. DACO found,

* * *

5. Due to labor related problems at the beginning of classes, several class sections at the "Universidad Central de Bayamon" were closed due to lack of professors, causing several problem to the students, especially to those candidates for graduation.

6. Complainants were affected by the aforementioned problems in the following manner:

A. Froilan Montfort Seijo

Registered in five (5) classes or 15 credits. Two of his classes were cancelled, one of them being statistics 202, a graduation requisite. He attended classes during the first month, but there were no professors in the classroom.

....

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Student Froilan Montfort Seijo who was not suspended, tried to withdraw his registration, but was advised not to do so by the Registrar's Office, where he was told about a prompt normalization of the situation.

Continuing, after taking note that prior complaints to the Commonwealth's Council of Higher Education had been dismissed on the ground that UCB had not violated the By Laws for the Issuing of Licenses for Post-Secondary Private Education Institutions, with the comment that no complaint of contract violation or request for return of fees had been made there, DACO ruled that Montfort, "having paid his registration fees, expected to be rendered some particular services," and ordered the fee's return for breach of contract.

This case is not Surinach. UCB is not similar to a parochial school, with all that that implies. One has only to read the learned language of Mr. Justice Negron Garcia in the case of Academia San Jorge v. Aponte Rosario, 1980, 110 D.P.R. 193, 196, 204 (concurring opinion) to observe the vital differences. UCB is a separately incorporated institution, whose certificate states that its "objectives and purposes to take place, promote or realize are the creation and operation of institutions dedicated to university education, under the direction of its Board of Directors, ..." and is affiliated with the Church, rather than operated by it. Rather than being an arm of the Church, its catalogue states, under the heading

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS

Bayamon Central University is a private, nonprofit co-educational, liberal arts institution denominationally affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, and the Dominican Order, but hierarchically independent of any ecclesiastical or religious structure. The University is at the same time ecumenical in concept, and welcomes students of all denominations and faiths.

RELIGIOUS ACTIVITIES

The University is affiliated with the Catholic Church but seeks students with a variety of religious backgrounds. A Chaplain of the University and the Dean of Students are in charge of the religious activities of the student body. Regular masses are held daily in the Catholic Church of the Dominican Order adjoining the campus.....

Attendance at religious services is optional .... Students of other faiths are encouraged to attend services wherever they desire.

This is different from a true parochial school, which not...

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13 practice notes
  • Cuesnongle v. Ramos, No. 85-1068
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • October 3, 1985
    ...that the decisions which prompted DACO's actions were "totally unrelated to any religious aspects of UCB's mission." Cuesnongle v. Ramos, 713 F.2d 881, 884 (1st We noted, however, that there was a possible infringement upon UCB's free speech rights, insofar as there exists a "zone of First ......
  • Asociación De Educación v. García-Padilla, No. 06-1146.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • April 11, 2007
    ...which, in proper circumstances, must include not only students and teachers, but their host institutions as well." Cuesnongle v. Ramos, 713 F.2d 881, 884 (1st Cir. 1983). In the 1950s, the Supreme Court defined the right to academic freedom in a series of decisions limiting the reach of sta......
  • Bangor Baptist Church v. State of Me., Dept. of Educ., Civ. No. 81-0180-B.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Court (Maine)
    • December 20, 1983
    ...case. Defendants claim a right to close46 schools which plaintiffs assert are "pervasively sectarian" institutions, Cuesnongle v. Ramos, 713 F.2d 881, 883 (1st Cir. 1983),47 in order to protect the state's interest in the compulsory education of Maine children. Without a doubt the closing o......
  • Asociacion De Educacion Privada v. Garcia Padilla, No. CIV. 03-1213(HL).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • December 13, 2005
    ...Rico, Inc., 385 F.3d at 89 (Torruella dissenting); Alinovi v. Worcester Sch. Comm., 777 F.2d 776, 789 (1st Cir.1985); Cuesnongle v. Ramos, 713 F.2d 881, 884 (1st Cir.1983); Gay Students Org. of Univ. of New Hampshire v. Bonner, 509 F.2d 652, 658 (1st In the instant case, plaintiffs (a nonpr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
13 cases
  • Cuesnongle v. Ramos, No. 85-1068
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • October 3, 1985
    ...that the decisions which prompted DACO's actions were "totally unrelated to any religious aspects of UCB's mission." Cuesnongle v. Ramos, 713 F.2d 881, 884 (1st We noted, however, that there was a possible infringement upon UCB's free speech rights, insofar as there exists a "zone of First ......
  • Asociación De Educación v. García-Padilla, No. 06-1146.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • April 11, 2007
    ...which, in proper circumstances, must include not only students and teachers, but their host institutions as well." Cuesnongle v. Ramos, 713 F.2d 881, 884 (1st Cir. 1983). In the 1950s, the Supreme Court defined the right to academic freedom in a series of decisions limiting the reach of sta......
  • Bangor Baptist Church v. State of Me., Dept. of Educ., Civ. No. 81-0180-B.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Court (Maine)
    • December 20, 1983
    ...case. Defendants claim a right to close46 schools which plaintiffs assert are "pervasively sectarian" institutions, Cuesnongle v. Ramos, 713 F.2d 881, 883 (1st Cir. 1983),47 in order to protect the state's interest in the compulsory education of Maine children. Without a doubt the closing o......
  • Asociacion De Educacion Privada v. Garcia Padilla, No. CIV. 03-1213(HL).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • December 13, 2005
    ...Rico, Inc., 385 F.3d at 89 (Torruella dissenting); Alinovi v. Worcester Sch. Comm., 777 F.2d 776, 789 (1st Cir.1985); Cuesnongle v. Ramos, 713 F.2d 881, 884 (1st Cir.1983); Gay Students Org. of Univ. of New Hampshire v. Bonner, 509 F.2d 652, 658 (1st In the instant case, plaintiffs (a nonpr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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