Hayes v. Cape Henlopen School District, Civ. A. No. 4019.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Delaware)
Writing for the CourtCALEB M. WRIGHT
Citation341 F. Supp. 823
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 4019.
Decision Date11 April 1972
PartiesRuth HAYES and William J. Hayes, Plaintiffs, v. CAPE HENLOPEN SCHOOL DISTRICT et al., Defendants.

341 F. Supp. 823

Ruth HAYES and William J. Hayes, Plaintiffs,
v.
CAPE HENLOPEN SCHOOL DISTRICT et al., Defendants.

Civ. A. No. 4019.

United States District Court, D. Delaware.

April 11, 1972.


341 F. Supp. 824
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
341 F. Supp. 825
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
341 F. Supp. 826
Nicholas H. Rodriguez, of Schmittinger & Rodriguez, Dover, Del., for plaintiffs

James M. Tunnell, Jr., and Joseph C. Kelly, of Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell, Wilmington, Del., for defendants.

OPINION

CALEB M. WRIGHT, Chief Judge.

This case is one of an increasing number of cases commenced in the federal courts under § 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, now 42 U.S.C. § 1983 concerning the propriety of the dismissal of an individual employed by a governmental entity. After discovery by both parties, the case is presently before the Court on the defendants' motion for summary judgment against both plaintiffs. Jurisdiction is based on 28 U.S.C. § 1343(3).

The plaintiff, Ruth Hayes, was employed by the defendant Cape Henlopen School District (District) and its predecessor, the Lewes Special School District, as a secretary for eleven years.1

341 F. Supp. 827
During April 1970, she was notified by the Board of Education of the District (Board) that her contract of employment would not be renewed for the subsequent year. The plaintiff, William J. Hayes, Ruth Hayes' husband, was also employed by the District during the 1969-70 school year. Prior to the 1969 consolidation which resulted in the formation of the District, Mr. Hayes had been employed by the Rehoboth School District, one of the merged school districts. After the merger, he became chairman of the negotiations committee for the Cape Henlopen Department of Classroom Teachers which represented the teachers of the District in negotiations with the Board to establish a professional contract covering salaries, fringe benefits and other matters relative to their employment

The defendant, R. Robert Mercer (Mercer) was the Superintendent of Schools for the District during the 1969-70 school year, and the other individual defendants were and are members of the Board. Each of the individual defendants has been sued individually and in his official capacity.

The plaintiffs challenge the Board's decision not to renew Ruth Hayes' employment contract as violative of her constitutional rights to procedural and substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Alleging that the defendants' failure to renew Ruth Hayes' contract was motivated by their "spiteful and revengeful attitude" toward William Hayes as a result of his participation in the Board-teacher contract negotiations, Mr. Hayes claims that his right to freedom of speech was infringed. Mr. Hayes prays damages for violations of his First Amendment rights and the accompanying emotional stress and strain. Mrs. Hayes seeks reinstatement, back pay and restoration of any benefits to which she would have been entitled had her contract been renewed, as well as compensatory and punitive damages for injury to her professional reputation and earning capacity, for expenses incurred, and for emotional stress, pain and suffering.

The defendants' motion for summary judgment is predicated upon several contentions. Initially, they claim that as a government entity the District is immune from suit under § 1983. Arguing that the plaintiffs were offered an opportunity for a hearing before the Board and declined, the defendants claim that the plaintiffs are precluded from seeking relief in federal court by their failure to exhaust available state remedies. In response to Ruth Hayes' claim based upon an alleged deprivation of procedural due process, the defendants raise two contentions: first, absent an asserted abridgement of explicitly recognized constitutional right such as a first amendment right, the Constitution does not mandate that Mrs. Hayes be entitled a hearing to determine the reasons for her non-retention; and second, even if a hearing is constitutionally required, the Board did, in fact, provide an opportunity for a hearing for Mrs. Hayes, but that she failed to avail herself of the procedures provided. The defendants assert that absent an abridgement or infringement of rights explicitly protected by the Constitution, Mrs. Hayes has no right to substantive due process which has been violated even if the decision not to renew her contract is without reason or wholly unsupported by fact. Further, they maintain that the reasons given for non-retention are abundantly supported on the record. Finally, they characterize the plaintiffs' allegations that Mrs. Hayes was not retained as a result of her husband's negotiating activities as completely unsubstantiated in fact on the basis of the depositions and affidavits submitted to date.

THE FACTS

In the 1969-70 school year Mrs. Hayes was employed under a one year contract by the District as secretary to Mr. Frederick D. Thomas, principal of the Savannah Road and Dupont Avenue Elementary Schools. Her previous employment in

341 F. Supp. 828
the Lewes Special School District was on a similar basis, and she had no tenure

At its regular meeting on April 20, 1970, the Board decided not to reappoint Mrs. Hayes on the recommendation of Mr. Mercer. Notification of this decision was transmitted to Mrs. Hayes on April 21, 1970 in a letter signed by Mr. Mercer. The letter stated "your record of attendance coupled with apparent personal problems have undoubtedly contributed to a quality of work that has not measured up to an acceptable level."

Subsequent to receipt of this letter, on June 23, 1970, the plaintiffs' attorney wrote to Mr. Mercer and requested that Mrs. Hayes be afforded a hearing before the Board at which the reasons for her non-retention should be detailed. On July 13, 1970, the Board granted the plaintiff's request and scheduled a hearing for July 29, 1970. Mr. Hayes was present at the July 13th Board meeting and aware of the fact that some action had been taken and a hearing tentatively scheduled for the 29th of July. However, Mr. Hayes testified that he was under the impression that notice of the proposed hearing would be sent to his wife's attorney and procedures finalized through him. Regardless of the exact status of the plaintiff's knowledge of the July 29th meeting, the plaintiffs' attorney was not informed concerning the hearing until he received a telephone call from the Board's attorney on July 24, 1970. Citing the lack of adequate notice for sufficient presentation of his client's case, counsel for plaintiff requested a postponement of the hearing. To rectify any insufficiency in the notice provided plaintiffs' attorney and accommodate his request for time for adequate preparation, the Board rescheduled the hearing for August 5, 1970.

Upon receiving notice of the rescheduled hearing, plaintiffs' counsel promptly advised the Board that the proposed date was unsatisfactory because the Hayes were leaving August 2, 1970 for Florida to visit Mrs. Hayes' critically ill father. In light of the Hayes' trip to Florida, and a subsequent business trip of Mr. Hayes, plaintiffs' counsel requested a postponement of the hearing until the end of August. Since the two previously proposed hearings had been scheduled on Wednesday evenings, the evening of Wednesday, September 2, 1970 was suggested by plaintiffs as a possible alternative date. On July 31, 1970 by telephone and letter, counsel for the defendants advised the plaintiffs' attorney that the Board was unwilling to further protract the matter and would deny the postponement. In late August, after receiving a second request to reschedule the August 5th hearing, the Board reiterated its decision refusing a third hearing date, and thereafter, the instant litigation was commenced.

IMMUNITY OF DEFENDANTS

The defendants' initial argument is that as a government entity, the District is immune from suit under the Civil Rights Act.

In accordance with the Supreme Court's discussion in Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 81 S.Ct. 473, 5 L.Ed.2d 492 (1961) of the scope of the civil action created by Section 1983, numerous lower courts have held that a school board is not a "person" within the meaning of Section 1983, and therefore, that the section does not create a cause of action for damages against a school district. See Harvey v. Sadler, 331 F.2d 387 (9th Cir. 1964), and Martin v. Davison, 322 F.Supp. 318 (W.D.Pa.1971). Although lower courts are divided concerning whether the Monroe ruling precludes suit against a school board or district for injunctive relief, compare Harkless v. Sweeny Independent School District, 427 F.2d 319 (5th Cir. 1970) cert. denied 400 U.S. 991, 91 S.Ct. 451, 27 L. Ed.2d 439 and Gouge v. Joint School District No. 1, 310 F.Supp. 984 (W.D. Wis.1970) with Patton v. Bennett, 304 F.Supp. 297, 299 (E.D.Tenn.1969), this District has ruled, and recently affirmed, an affirmative answer to the question. Shellburne, Inc. v. New Castle County, 293 F.Supp. 237, 240-241 (D. Del.1968); Conway v. Alfred I. DuPont

341 F. Supp. 829
School District, 333 F.Supp. 1217 (D. Del.1971); and Mathias v. New Castle County Vocational Technical School District, C.A. 4073 (D.Del. September 22, 1971). Thus, this action shall be dismissed in both injunctive and damage aspects against the District.2

In addition, insofar as the plaintiffs' suit against the individual defendants for damages seeks to obtain a judgment for which the District would be liable, it must fail. The doctrine established by the Monroe decision, that Section 1983 was not designed to redress an individual's deprivations at the expense of the public fisc, cannot be circumvented in this indirect fashion. Bennett v. Gravelle, 323 F.Supp. 203 (D.Md.1971), and Mathias, supra.

The defendants further argue that the suit must be dismissed as against the Board. However, the plaintiffs have not made the Board a party, but rather, have sued the members of the...

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32 practice notes
  • Monell v. Department of Social Services of City of New York, No. 407
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • March 8, 1976
    ...court) (Frank A. Kaufman, J.), aff'd mem., 409 U.S. 904, 93 S.Ct. 223, 34 L.Ed.2d 168 (1972); Hayes v. Cape Henlopen School District, 341 F.Supp. 823, 829 (D.Del.1972); O'Brien v. Galloway, 362 F.Supp. 901, 905 (D.Del.1973); Hahn v. Ingram, 362 F.Supp. 982, 985 (D.Del.1973); Veres v. County......
  • Thompson v. Burke, No. 75-1365
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • June 1, 1977
    ...Cir. 1973) (en banc ), cert. denied, 417 U.S. 908, 94 S.Ct. 2604, 41 L.Ed.2d 212 (1974), and Hayes v. Cape Henlopen School District, 341 F.Supp. 823, 829 (D.Del.1972). Despite the fact that most of the authorities cited in footnote 7 of Strickland, deal with actions of school boards, the pr......
  • Curran v. PORTLAND SUPER. SCH. COMMITTEE, ETC., Civ. No. 75-27-SD.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Court (Maine)
    • July 18, 1977
    ...of the City of New York, supra at 264-67; Muzquiz v. City of San Antonio, supra at 500-01; Hayes v. Cape Henlopen School District, 341 F.Supp. 823, 829 (D.Del.1972); Patton v. Conrad Area School District, 388 F.Supp. 410, 417 (D.Del.1975). See The Supreme Court, 1972 Term, 87 Harv.L.Rev. 1,......
  • Wood v. Strickland 8212 1285, No. 73
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 25, 1975
    ...359 F.Supp. 825, 834 (D.C.Nev.1973); Boyd v. Smith, 353 F.Supp. 844, 845—846 (ND Ind.1973); Hayes v. Cape Henlopen School District, 341 F.Supp. 823, 829 (D.C.Del.1972); Schreiber v. Joint School District No. 1, Gibraltar, Wis., 335 F.Supp. 745, 748 (ED Wis.1972); Endicott v. Van Petten, 330......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
32 cases
  • Monell v. Department of Social Services of City of New York, No. 407
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • March 8, 1976
    ...court) (Frank A. Kaufman, J.), aff'd mem., 409 U.S. 904, 93 S.Ct. 223, 34 L.Ed.2d 168 (1972); Hayes v. Cape Henlopen School District, 341 F.Supp. 823, 829 (D.Del.1972); O'Brien v. Galloway, 362 F.Supp. 901, 905 (D.Del.1973); Hahn v. Ingram, 362 F.Supp. 982, 985 (D.Del.1973); Veres v. County......
  • Thompson v. Burke, No. 75-1365
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • June 1, 1977
    ...Cir. 1973) (en banc ), cert. denied, 417 U.S. 908, 94 S.Ct. 2604, 41 L.Ed.2d 212 (1974), and Hayes v. Cape Henlopen School District, 341 F.Supp. 823, 829 (D.Del.1972). Despite the fact that most of the authorities cited in footnote 7 of Strickland, deal with actions of school boards, the pr......
  • Curran v. PORTLAND SUPER. SCH. COMMITTEE, ETC., Civ. No. 75-27-SD.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Court (Maine)
    • July 18, 1977
    ...of the City of New York, supra at 264-67; Muzquiz v. City of San Antonio, supra at 500-01; Hayes v. Cape Henlopen School District, 341 F.Supp. 823, 829 (D.Del.1972); Patton v. Conrad Area School District, 388 F.Supp. 410, 417 (D.Del.1975). See The Supreme Court, 1972 Term, 87 Harv.L.Rev. 1,......
  • Wood v. Strickland 8212 1285, No. 73
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 25, 1975
    ...359 F.Supp. 825, 834 (D.C.Nev.1973); Boyd v. Smith, 353 F.Supp. 844, 845—846 (ND Ind.1973); Hayes v. Cape Henlopen School District, 341 F.Supp. 823, 829 (D.C.Del.1972); Schreiber v. Joint School District No. 1, Gibraltar, Wis., 335 F.Supp. 745, 748 (ED Wis.1972); Endicott v. Van Petten, 330......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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