Middlebrooks v. University of Maryland, CIV. A. AW-96-1144.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
Citation980 F.Supp. 824
Docket NumberNo. CIV. A. AW-96-1144.,CIV. A. AW-96-1144.
PartiesDeidra MIDDLEBROOKS, Plaintiff, v. UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND AT COLLEGE PARK, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date23 September 1997

Lisa Alexis Jones, Elmer Douglass Ellis, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Attorney General of State of Maryland and Anne L. Donahue, Assistant Attorney General, Baltimore, MD, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

WILLIAMS, District Judge.

Plaintiff commenced this action against Defendants alleging race and gender discrimination in violation of 20 U.S.C. § 1681 ("Title IX"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000d ("Title VI"), 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. No hearing is deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md.). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

Factual Background

Plaintiff, an African-American female, enrolled in the University of Maryland's Ph.D. Program in Applied Mathematics ("MAPL") in the Fall of 1992, Pl.'s Sec. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 3, 5, and received the Patricia Roberts Ham's Fellowship for minority students. Defs.' Mem. Supp. Summ. J. at 9. MAPL consists of three components: course work, qualifying exams, and a dissertation. Defs.' Mere. Supp. Summ. J. at 3. According to the former chair of the department, the program is difficult to complete, and only forty to fifty percent of students in the program eventually get a Ph.D. Johnson Dep. at 64. Students in the MAPL program are required to pass qualifying exams in three subject areas, with one being a math area and a second being an area to which math can be applied. Kellogg Aff. ¶ 3. At the time of Plaintiff's enrollment in the MAPL program, MAPL students were required to pass three exams by the end of their third year. Id. ¶ 4. This requirement changed in the Spring of 1995, requiring students to pass two qualifying exams by the end of their third year, and a third by the end of their fourth year. Id. ¶ 6; Pl.'s Opp'n Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. at 3 n. 1. Plaintiff agreed to use the new requirements. Defs.' Mem. Supp. Summ. J., Ex. 4 at 5.

Plaintiff took three qualifying exams in August 1994, three qualifying exams in January 1995, one qualifying exam in May 1995, and two qualifying exams in August 1995, Defs.' Mem. Supp. Summ. J. Ex. 4 at 3-10. Plaintiff failed all nine exams. Id. Upon her failure to pass two qualifying exams by the end of her third year, plaintiff was notified in October 1995 of her termination from the MAPL program. Id. at 4; Middlebrooks Aff. ¶ 19.

Plaintiff commenced this action, contending that the termination was motivated by race and gender discrimination. Defendants are the University and the following faculty members, who are named in both their official and individual capacities: Dr. Lin Chao (Zoology Department), Dr. Jeffery Cooper (director of MAPL program during Plaintiff's enrollment), Dr. Bruce Golden (chairman of Operations Research Department during Plaintiff's enrollment), Dr. James Schafer (Mathematics Department), and Dr. Wolfgang Stephan (Zoology Department). Defs.' Mem. Supp. Summ. J. at 4-5; Pl.'s Sec. Am. Compl. ¶ 4.

Discussion
I. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine dispute of material fact and when the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2511, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). While a court must be cautious with summary judgment in discrimination cases because particular states of mind are decisive elements of the claim, the fact that motive is a critical issue does not mean that summary judgment is never appropriate. Ballinger v. North Carolina Agric. Ext. Serv., 815 F.2d 1001, 1005 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 897, 108 S.Ct. 232, 98 L.Ed.2d 191 (1987). The evidence of the non-movant is to be believed and all justifiable inferences drawn in her favor, but a party cannot create a genuine dispute of material fact through mere speculation or compilation of inferences. Runnebaum v. NationsBank of Md., N.A., 123 F.3d 156, 164 (4th Cir.1997) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2513-14, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir.1985)).

In determining whether genuine and material factual disputes exist, the Court has reviewed the parties' respective memoranda and the many exhibits attached thereto, construing all facts, and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). Applying these principles to the record, the Court concludes that summary judgment for Defendants must be granted.

II. Eleventh Amendment1

The Eleventh Amendment bars federal courts from hearing claims brought by a citizen against her own state or another state. See Palotai v. Univ. of Md. College Park, 959 F.Supp. 714, 715 (D.Md.1997). The Eleventh Amendment serves as a block on the exercise of federal jurisdiction over these claims. Biggs, 66 F.3d at 60. The block extends to suits against state agencies, and has been held to protect the University of Maryland. Palotai, 959 F.Supp. at 716 (citing Bickley v. Univ. of Md., 527 F.Supp. 174, 181 (D.Md.1981)).2

Congress has the power, when acting under the authority of the Fourteenth Amendment, to abrogate this immunity by enacting legislation that allows federal courts to hear these claims. Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer, 427 U.S. 445, 452-56, 96 S.Ct. 2666, 2669-71, 49 L.Ed.2d 614 (1976). It is clear that Congress has acted to abrogate the immunity when a state is sued under Title IX or Title VI. Lane v. Pena, 518 U.S. 187, ___, 116 S.Ct. 2092, 2099, 135 L.Ed.2d 486 (1996) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 2000d-7(a)). Therefore, Plaintiff's claims alleging violations of Title IX and Title VI are not barred by the Eleventh Amendment.

However, Congress has not taken such action for § 1981 or § 1983 claims. Thus, Plaintiff's §§ 1981 and 1983 claims against the University, both for equitable and monetary relief, are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. See Coleman v. Univ. of Kan. Med. Center, 1997 WL 457733 at *2 (D.Kan. July 9, 1997) (§§ 1981, 1983); Chinn v. City Univ. of N.Y. Sch. of Law at Queens College, 963 F.Supp. 218, 224 (E.D.N.Y.1997) (§ 1981); Bickley v. Univ. of Md. 527 F.Supp. 174, 181-82 (D.Md.1981) (§ 1983). See also Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida, 517 U.S. 609, ___, 116 S.Ct. 1114, 1124, 134 L.Ed.2d 252 (1996) (type of relief sought is irrelevant as to whether claim is barred by the Eleventh Amendment).

In addition, suits against state officials for damages or retrospective relief are also barred, as they are considered suits against the state. See Feldman v. Bahn, 12 F.3d 730, 732 (7th Cir.1993), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 1014, 115 S.Ct. 571, 130 L.Ed.2d 489 (1994); Hutsell v. Sayre, 5 F.3d 996, 999-1000 (6th Cir.1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1119, 114 S.Ct. 1071, 127 L.Ed.2d 389 (1994); Chinn, 963 F.Supp. at 224-225; Chacko v. Texas A & M Univ., 960 F.Supp. 1180, 1198-99 (S.D.Tex.1997). Thus, Plaintiff's claims against the individual Defendants in their official capacities seeking monetary or retrospective damages are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. However, a suit against a state official sued in his or her official capacity is allowed if the plaintiff seeks injunctive, prospective relief to prevent a violation of federal law. Chinn, 963 F.Supp. at 224-25. Court orders directing a state official to reinstate a plaintiff are considered prospective relief and such claims are not barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Treleven v. Univ. of Minn., 73 F.3d 816, 819 (8th Cir.1996); Kashani v. Purdue Univ., 813 F.2d 843, 848 (7th Cir.), cert denied, 484 U.S. 846, 108 S.Ct. 141, 98 L.Ed.2d 97 (1987); Chinn, 963 F.Supp. at 224-25. Thus, Plaintiff's claims against the individual Defendants in their official capacity seeking reinstatement to the MAPL program are not barred by the Eleventh Amendment.

Finally, state officials who are sued in their personal capacity are not protected by the Eleventh Amendment, regardless of the recovery sought. Egerdahl v. Hibbing Comm. College, 72 F.3d 615, 619 (8th Cir. 1995); Biggs, 66 F.3d at 60; Chinn, 963 F.Supp. at 225. Plaintiff sufficiently specified that she was suing the individual Defendants in both their official and personal capacities. Pl.'s Sec. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 4 ("both their official and individual capacities"). Thus, Plaintiff's claims against the individual Defendants in their personal capacities are not barred by the Eleventh Amendment.

In sum, the Court finds that the following claims are barred by the Eleventh Amendment: 1) All of Plaintiff's § 1981 and § 1983 claims against the University of Maryland; 2) Plaintiff's § 1981 and § 1983 claims against the individual Defendants in their official capacity seeking a declaratory judgment that her constitutional rights were violated; 3) Plaintiff's request that the Court issue an order to purge records of her termination from the University files inasmuch as it is based on § 1981 and § 1983; and 4) Plaintiff's § 1981 and § 1983 claims against the individual Defendants in their official capacity seeking monetary damages. The Court concludes that the following claims are not barred by the Eleventh Amendment, and will consider the rest of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment regarding these claims: 1) All of Plaintiff's Title IX and Title VI claims; 2) Plaintiff's claims against the individual Defendants in their official capacity for reinstatement to the MAPL program; and 3) All of Plaintiff's claims against the individual Defendants in their personal capacity.

III. Gender Discrimination
A. Title IX

Plaintiff brings claims of gender discrimination under Title IX and § 1983. Title IX provides that "[n]...

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