Suppes v. Curators of the Univ. of Mo., WD 80231.

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Writing for the CourtVICTOR C. HOWARD, JUDGE
Citation529 S.W.3d 825
Docket NumberWD 80231.
Decision Date20 June 2017
Parties Galen SUPPES, Appellant, v. The CURATORS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI, Respondent.

529 S.W.3d 825

Galen SUPPES, Appellant,
v.
The CURATORS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI, Respondent.

WD 80231.

Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District.

Opinion filed: June 20, 2017
CORRECTED: June 26, 2017
Motion for Rehearing and/or Transfer to Supreme Court Denied August 1, 2017
Application for Transfer to Supreme Court Denied October 31, 2017


George S. Smith, for Appellant.

Shelly A. Kintzel, Jefferson City, for Respondent.

Before Division Three: Anthony Rex Gabbert, Presiding Judge, Victor C. Howard, Judge and Cynthia L. Martin, Judge

VICTOR C. HOWARD, JUDGE

Galen Suppes appeals the trial court's grant of judgment on the pleadings in favor of the Curators of the University of Missouri (University) on Suppes's declaratory judgment and injunctive relief action challenging the University's procedures for dismissal for cause. The judgment is affirmed.

Factual and Procedural Background

Suppes's pleadings, which are taken as true for the purposes of this appeal, asserted that the University is a body politic created pursuant to the Missouri Constitution and section 172.010.1 It operates a campus in Columbia where Suppes is employed as a tenured full professor in the College of Engineering.

The University has established written procedures for dismissal of tenured faculty for cause found in Collected Rules and Regulations (CRR) 310.060. They require the faculty member be notified in writing of the proposed action for dismissal and the reasons therefore "stated with reasonable particularity." CRR 310.060.B.2.a. The faculty member may request a hearing by the University Faculty Committee on Tenure (FTC). Id. At the hearing, which is recorded, the parties may be represented by counsel, make opening statements, present witnesses and exhibits, cross-examine witnesses, and make statements to the FTC. CRR 310.060.B.5, B.7 & C. Following the hearing, the FTC makes a written, official report by majority vote, with findings of fact as to each count and a recommendation on the whole charge. CRR 310.060.B.9. The FTC's official report is transmitted to the Chancellor, and after giving due consideration to the FTC's report, the Chancellor makes a determination in the matter or may remand it to the

529 S.W.3d 827

FTC for further proceedings. CRR 310.060.B.9 & D.1. The parties may appeal the Chancellor's decision to the President of the University, who may affirm, reverse, or remand the case for further proceedings after reviewing the full record of the case. CRR 310.060.D. The parties may appeal the President's decision to the Board of Curators of the University, where the parties have the right of appearance before a committee of the Board. CRR 310.060.D.3.a & D.3.b.

By letter dated September 2, 2016 (charge letter), Suppes was notified that the University was initiating proceedings under CRR 310.060 to dismiss him for cause. The charge letter included thirty pages of detailed charges and forty-two exhibits. The letter also included a "Notice of Your Right to Hearing" notifying Suppes of his right under CRR 310.060.B to request a hearing before the FTC. By letter dated September 26, 2016, Suppes was notified that the CRR 310.060 proceedings were beginning.

Suppes filed a declaratory judgment action to declare that the University's written procedures for dismissal for cause CRR 310.060 do not meet the statutory requirements of a contested case under the Missouri Administrative Procedures Act (MAPA) and thus do not provide him with due process. He further requested the entry of a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and permanent injunction preventing University from proceeding with dismissal for cause under CRR 310.060.

The University filed its answer and, thereafter, a motion for judgment on the pleadings. It argued that section 536.018 does not require that the University's procedures conform to the requirements of a contested case under the MAPA but that they assure that constitutionally required due process safeguards exist and apply. It further argued that the University's procedures do provide Suppes with such due process.

The trial court granted the University's motion for judgment on the pleadings. This appeal by Suppes followed.2

Standard of Review

"The question presented by a motion for judgment on the pleadings is whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the face of the pleadings." Eaton v. Mallinckrodt, Inc. , 224 S.W.3d 596, 599 (Mo. banc 2007). "The well-pleaded facts of the non-moving party's pleading are treated as admitted for purposes of the motion." Id. The grant of judgment on the pleadings will be affirmed on appeal if the facts pleaded by the petitioner, together with the benefit of all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, show that petitioner could not prevail under any legal theory. Emerson Elec. Co. v. Marsh & McLennan Cos. , 362 S.W.3d 7, 12 (Mo. banc 2012).

Discussion

In his three points on appeal, Suppes challenges the trial court's granting of the University's motion for judgment on the pleadings. He asserts that he pleaded sufficient facts that CRR 310.060 fails to meet the requirements of section 536.018 that the University provide constitutional due process that would otherwise constitute a contested case under the MAPA.

Suppes's arguments involve the interpretation of section 536.018. The primary rule in statutory interpretation is to ascertain

529 S.W.3d 828
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