Radolf v. University of Conn., 3:03CV242(MRK).

Citation364 F.Supp.2d 204
Decision Date30 March 2005
Docket NumberNo. 3:03CV242(MRK).,No. 3:03CV672(MRK).,3:03CV242(MRK).,3:03CV672(MRK).
PartiesJustin D. RADOLF, Plaintiff, v. UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Connecticut

Thomas W. Bucci, Willinger, Willinger & Bucci, Bridgeport, CT, for Plaintiff.

Jane D. Comerford, Farmington, CT, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

KRAVITZ, District Judge.

This case arises out of a bitter dispute between Plaintiff Justin D. Radolf, M.D., a tenured professor, and his colleagues at the University of Connecticut Health Center ("UCHC") and the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. It is regrettable that this dispute has required a judicial resolution. All parties involved originally came together in a common effort to direct their time, energy and passion towards the greater public good — conducting research that may one day find a cure for Lyme disease, a debilitating tick-borne illness that affects many people in Connecticut and beyond. Now, it appears that much of the time, energy and passion of the parties has been redirected towards this destructive, accusation-laden battle. Indeed, the relationships among the parties have deteriorated so much that frankly no court is capable of providing a remedy that truly would heal the parties' wounds and put them all back on track towards realizing their collective goal of improving public health. Yet, the parties remain locked in this bitter fight, and so, a judicial answer appears to be the only one that is available at this time.

Dr. Radolf's First Substituted Complaint [doc. # 18]1 has eight counts (which are a combination of federal and state causes of action), and his Second Substituted Complaint [attached to doc. # 34] has two additional counts (both of which are federal causes of action). Dr. Radolf seeks prospective injunctive relief against the Defendants in their official capacities and monetary damages against the Defendants in their individual capacities. Currently pending before the Court are Defendants' two Motions for Summary Judgment [docs. # 52 & # 55] on all ten of Dr. Radolf's federal and state law claims. For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS summary judgment for the Defendants on all of Dr. Radolf's federal claims and declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Dr. Radolf's state law claims.

I.

Summary judgment is appropriate only when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(b). A genuine issue of fact exists when "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party," and facts are material to the outcome if the substantive law renders them so. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating that no genuine issue exists as to any material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-25, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). If the moving party carries its burden, the party opposing summary judgment "may not rest upon mere allegations or denials," rather the opposing party must "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). The Court must draw all ambiguities and inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505. However, to defeat a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

II.

The basic facts of this case are not in serious dispute. Dr. Radolf joined the faculty of the UCHC as a tenured professor in April 1999 in order to establish the UCHC Center for Microbial Pathogenesis (the "Center") and to serve as its Director. See Defs.' Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement [doc. # 54], at ¶¶ 11-13; Pl.'s Local Rule 56(a)(2) Statement [doc. # 65], at ¶¶ 11-13. Defendant Peter J. Deckers, M.D., is the Executive Vice President for Health Affairs of the UCHC and Dean of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. Defendant Richard Berlin, Ph.D., is Associate Dean for Research Planning and Coordination at UCHC. Defendant Stephen Wikel, Ph.D., is a full professor with tenure in the Department of Physiology at UCHC and the Interim Director of the Center for Microbial Pathogenesis. See Defs.' Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement [doc. # 54], at ¶¶ 1, 6, 7; Pl.'s Local Rule 56(a)(2) Statement [doc. # 65], at ¶¶ 1, 6, 7.

On July 26, 2001, a Special Review Board of the UCHC found that Dr. Radolf had falsified data in two grant proposals submitted to the United States Department of Agriculture and to Connecticut Innovations, Inc. See Defs.' Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement [doc. # 54], at ¶ 16; Pl.'s Local Rule 56(a)(2) Statement [doc. # 65], at ¶ 16. As a result of this finding of academic misconduct, Dr. Radolf was disciplined by the University: a letter of reprimand was placed in his personnel file and he was placed on academic probation for three years. See Defs.' Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement [doc. # 54], at ¶¶ 17-18; Pl.'s Local Rule 56(a)(2) Statement [doc. # 65], at ¶¶ 17-18. By letters dated August 22, 2001 and December 27, 2001, Dr. Deckers informed Dr. Radolf of the procedures by which his grants, contracts, and philanthropic proposals would be thoroughly inspected and reviewed by a committee of faculty members during his academic probation, to ensure compliance with all applicable regulations and the integrity of all research data presented. See Defs.' Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement [doc. # 54], at ¶¶ 17, 20; Pl.'s Local Rule 56(a)(2) Statement [doc. # 65], at ¶¶ 17, 20; see also Defs.' Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement [doc. # 54], at Affidavit of Peter J. Deckers, Attach. 4 (August 22, 2001 letter from Dr. Deckers to Dr. Radolf) & Attach. 5 (December 27, 2001 letter from Dr. Deckers to Dr. Radolf).

Furthermore, in and around October 2001, the Federal Office of Research Integrity ("ORI"), part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, independently began its own investigation of this incident of academic misconduct. See Defs.' Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement [doc. # 54], at ¶ 22; Pl.'s Local Rule 56(a)(2) Statement [doc. # 65], at ¶ 22. Approximately a year and a half later, on March 10, 2003, Dr. Radolf and ORI entered into a Voluntary Exclusion Agreement, in which Dr. Radolf admitted that he had engaged in scientific misconduct involving research supported by the National Institute of Health ("NIH"). Though neither the UCHC nor the Defendants was a party to the Voluntary Exclusion Agreement or involved in its negotiation, they were subject to its requirements. See Defs.' Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement [doc. # 54], at ¶ 159; Pl.'s Local Rule 56(a)(2) Statement [doc. # 65], at ¶ 159. According to the terms of the Voluntary Exclusion Agreement, Dr. Radolf was placed on academic probation for a period of five years (i.e., until March 2008) regarding his participation in certain activities connected to the United States Public Health Service. See Defs.' Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement [doc. # 54], at ¶¶ 155, 158; Pl.'s Local Rule 56(a)(2) Statement [doc. # 65], at ¶¶ 155, 158. As required by ORI, the UCHC submitted to ORI a "Supervisory Plan to Ensure the Scientific Integrity of Dr. Justin Radolf's Research Contribution as Required in the Radolf-ORI Agreement" (the "Supervisory Plan"), which was designed to ensure compliance with all applicable regulations and the integrity of all research data Dr. Radolf presented in grant proposals. See Defs.' Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement [doc. # 54], at ¶ 162; Pl.'s Local Rule 56(a)(2) Statement [doc. # 65], at ¶ 162; see also Defs.' Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement [doc. # 57], at Affidavit of Peter J. Deckers, Attach. 7 (April 4, 2003 letter from Dr. Deckers to Dr. Radolf, with Supervisory Plan attached). The UCHC's Supervisory Plan, which was similar to the UCHC procedures already in place at the time, was reviewed and refined by ORI prior to implementation. See Defs.' Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement [doc. # 54], at ¶ 163; Pl.'s Local Rule 56(a)(2) Statement [doc. # 65], at ¶ 163.

Dr. Radolf continues to be employed as a full professor with tenure at UCHC and he may still work at the Center for Microbial Pathogenesis, though the parties were unclear about that latter fact at oral argument on January 31, 2005. See Defs.' Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement [doc. # 54], at ¶ 8; Pl.'s Local Rule 56(a)(2) Statement [doc. # 65], at ¶ 8. At their core, Dr. Radolf's claims in this lawsuit arise from the actions and decisions of the Defendants in their attempt to navigate the difficult terrain of continuing to employ a tenured professor who was on academic probation imposed by the UCHC and under investigation by the federal government for scientific misconduct, an investigation which eventually resulted in an extended term of academic probation. Additional facts regarding the nature and context of the Defendants' actions and decisions will be presented as necessary in the Court's analysis of each of Dr. Radolf's claims.

III.

The Court turns first to Dr. Radolf's seven federal claims.2 At the outset, the Court notes from the record before the Court and as confirmed at oral argument, that because of Eleventh Amendment state sovereign immunity, Dr. Radolf has wisely abandoned any and all federal claims against Defendants University of Connecticut ("UConn" or the "University") and UCHC, as well as any and all claims for money damages against the Defendants in their official...

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