United States District Court, D. Maryland
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW United States District Judge.
pending and ready for resolution in this civil rights action
are: (1) motions to dismiss filed by Defendants University of
Maryland University College (“UMUC”), the Office
of Financial Aid at UMUC (the “Financial Aid
Office”), Javier Miyares, Julie Lindenmeier,
Clairbourne Patty, Terrence Cooper, and Lynette O’Leary
(collectively, the “Defendants”) (ECF Nos. 26;
(2) a motion filed by Plaintiff Michael Osei
(“Plaintiff”) to set a rule upon Defendants to
serve court documents upon Plaintiff by both e-mail and
postal mail (ECF No. 33); (3) Plaintiff’s motion in
limine to preclude references to other cases Plaintiff
brought against universities and educational entities and for
leave to file terminating sanctions against Defendants (ECF
No. 35); and (4) Plaintiff’s motion for leave to file a
surreply (ECF No. 36). The issues have been briefed, and the
court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local
Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, Defendants’
motions to dismiss the complaint will be granted.
Plaintiff’s remaining motions will be denied.
is originally from Ghana and immigrated to the United States
to pursue educational opportunities. (ECF No. 1 ¶¶
11-14). In the fall of 2014, UMUC accepted Plaintiff’s
application for admission “to pursue courses toward a
degree for Master of Science in Biotechnology with [a]
specialty in Bioinformatics . . . which is mostly an online
program.” (Id. ¶ 15). Plaintiff enrolled
in graduate-level classes in the Fall 2014 semester and
received federal student financial aid. He also enrolled
in two graduate-level courses in the Spring 2015 semester and
received federal student aid. (Id. ¶ 17).
the spring months, Plaintiff apparently requested additional
financial aid. On March 12, 2015, Plaintiff e-mailed
officials at the United States Department of Education
inviting them to “immediately intervene in a
financial aid matter ongoing with the Financial Aid
Department of [UMUC] that will cause irreparable damages to
his right to his continued educational interests and undue
financial burdens.” (ECF No. 1-1, at 7 (emphasis in
original)). In a subsequent March 23 e-mail to UMUC
employees and Department of Education officials, Plaintiff
explained his complaint:
Budget increase is what I requested for the Spring
2015 semester . Instead, Mr. Stever of UMUC moved my
not-as-of yet [S]ummer 2015 refund to [S]pring 2015,
According to Ms. Lindenmeier, such movement of funds from
[S]ummer 2015 to Spring 2015 is not right since
‘[S]ummer 2015 is not yet here.’ I agree. The
record shows that I did not initially ask for movement of my
summer aid but a budget increase which is what is
right if student-lender needs additional funds.
(Id. at 11). On April 1, Plaintiff submitted a
budget increase request for additional federal student
financial aid due to extenuating circumstances. Ms.
Lindenmeier informed Plaintiff by e-mail that decisions on
such requests are given typically ten days after the
Financial Aid Office receives the student’s completed
appeal. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 20).
April 20, Plaintiff e-mailed Ms. Lindenmeier: “To
reduce my own high educational costs and time, I hereby
cancel my budget increase request entirely and
withdraw my appeal. Hence, you can now disregard my appeal
and cancel it.” (ECF No. 1-1, at 1 (emphasis in
original); see ECF No. 1 ¶ 21). Ms. Lindenmeier
sent to the UMUC Office of the Registrar a memo dated April
Please accept this notice of violation of the Code of Student
Conduct, UMUC Policy 151.00. We submit that [Plaintiff]
violated UMUC Policy 151.00 Section III.N.
While a student of UMUC, [Plaintiff] submitted documentation
from the City of Philadelphia and Plick and Associates,
Forensic Engineers to be used to increase his cost of
attendance and request additional federal aid. We confirmed
that the information was not [Plaintiff’s] and the
documentation  was forged.
For the reasons set forth above, [Plaintiff] has violated the
Code of Student Conduct 151.00 Section III.N. We request
that this situation is reviewed and a decision is made if the
student can continue to study with UMUC. Given the severe
nature of the student’s behavior and the ongoing risk
to UMUC, I recommend the sanction of expulsion.
No. 1-1, at 3; see ECF No. 1 ¶ 23).
Subsequently, on May 14, Mr. Patty in the Office of the
Registrar wrote to advise Plaintiff that he would be charged
with a student conduct violation for submitting false
documentation to the Financial Aid Office related to his
request for additional financial assistance. (See
ECF Nos. 1-1, at 2; 1 ¶ 22). Upon receipt of Mr.
Patty’s notice, Plaintiff sent an e-mail on May 15
requesting that UMUC “dismiss and/or withdraw [the]
code violation [charge] as MOOT given . . . that [Plaintiff]
voluntarily cancelled or withdrew his request for
not-yet-decided funds.” (ECF No. 1-1, at 4;
see ECF No. 1 ¶ 24). According to Plaintiff, he
sent additional e-mails requesting that UMUC dismiss or
withdraw the disciplinary action. (See ECF No. 1
to Plaintiff, UMUC informed him that a disciplinary hearing
was scheduled on July 28 to resolve the student conduct
charge against him. (Id. ¶ 30). On July 21,
Plaintiff e-mailed Dr. Marie Cini, the Provost of UMUC,
regarding the student conduct charge against him in order
“to ensure that he  exhausted internal remedies . . .
before proceeding to federal court.” (Id.
¶ 33). On the same day, Plaintiff alleges, Mr. Patty
informed him that the hearing remained scheduled for July 28.
Furthermore, he informed Plaintiff that Ms. Lindenmeier was
no longer employed at UMUC, and that Ms. O’Leary would
serve in her place. (Id. ¶ 34). Defendants
assert, and Plaintiff does not challenge, that Plaintiff did
not participate in the July 28 hearing. Plaintiff was
expelled from UMUC for his student conduct violations in
August 2015. (ECF No. 26-1, at 3).
proceeding pro se, filed the complaint in the United
States District Court for the District of New Jersey on July
28, 2015. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff seeks money damages and
injunctive relief. Several weeks later, the action was
transferred to this court. (ECF Nos. 16; 17). Plaintiff moved
for emergency injunctive relief on September 2 (ECF No. 24),
which the court denied (ECF No. 25). Shortly thereafter,
Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to
state a claim. (ECF Nos. 26; 27). Plaintiff was provided with
a Roseboro notice, which advised him of the pendency
of the motion to dismiss and his entitlement to respond
within 17 days. (ECF Nos. 28; 29); see Roseboro v.
Garrison, 528 F.2d 309, 310 (4thCir. 1975)
(holding that pro se plaintiffs should be advised of
their right to file responsive material to a motion for
summary judgment). Plaintiff responded in opposition, and
Defendants replied. (ECF Nos. 30; 34). Plaintiff also moved
to set a rule upon Defendants to serve court documents upon
Plaintiff by both e-mail and postal mail. (ECF No. 33). In
addition, he moved in limine to preclude references
to other cases Plaintiff brought against universities and
educational entities and for leave to file terminating
sanctions against Defendants. (ECF No. 35).Finally, he moved
for leave to file a surreply. (ECF No. 36).
Standard of Review
purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) is to test
the sufficiency of the complaint. Presley v. City of
Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir.
2006). A complaint need only satisfy the standard of Rule
8(a), which requires a “short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “Rule 8(a)(2)
still requires a ‘showing, ’ rather than a
blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief.” Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 n.3 (2007).
That showing must consist of more than “a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action” or
“naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual
enhancement.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (citations omitted).
stage, all well-pleaded allegations in a complaint must be
considered as true, Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S.
266, 268 (1994), and all factual allegations must be
construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
See Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176
F.3d 776, 783 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing Mylan
Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134
(4th Cir. 1993)); Brockington v. Boykins,
637 F.3d 503, 505-06 (4th Cir. 2011). In
evaluating the complaint, unsupported legal allegations need
not be accepted. Revene v. Charles Cnty.
Comm’rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir.
1989). Legal conclusions couched as factual allegations are
insufficient, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, as are
conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to
actual events. United Black Firefighters v. Hirst,
604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979); see also
Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th
Cir. 2009). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not
permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of
misconduct, the complaint has alleged, but it has not
‘show[n] that the pleader is entitled to
relief.’” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679
(quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). Thus, “[d]etermining
whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will
. . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing
court to draw on its judicial experience and common
pro se pleadings are liberally construed and held to
a less stringent standard than pleadings drafted by lawyers.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976));
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Even
when pro se litigants are involved, however, the
court cannot ignore a clear failure to allege facts that
support a viable claim. Weller v. Dep’t of Soc.
Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990).
lengthy, meandering six-count complaint does not clearly
identify distinct causes of action asserted by
Plaintiff. As best the court can discern, Plaintiff
asserts claims of: violations of the False Claims Act
(“FCA”), 31 U.S.C. § 3729 et seq.,
and Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965
(“HEA”), 20 U.S.C. § 1070 et seq.
(Count I); violations of the United States Constitution and
civil rights statutes, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and
1986 (Counts II and III); discrimination on the basis of race
in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
(“Title VI”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et
seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count IV); libel,
slander, defamation, and false light (Count V); and breach of
contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and
negligence (Count VI). As a threshold matter, in his response
to the pending motion to dismiss, Plaintiff does not directly
challenge all of Defendants’ specific legal
contentions; rather, he repeats many of the same conclusory
allegations and arguments in his opposition brief that
appeared in the complaint.
The HEA and 34 C.F.R. § 668.16
center of Plaintiff’s case is his apparent contention
that UMUC wrongfully pursued charges of student conduct
violations against him, ultimately leading to his expulsion
in August 2015. Defendants maintain, and Plaintiff does not
dispute, that the disciplinary action resulted from
Plaintiff’s submission of fraudulent documents in
support of his request for additional financial aid. Nowhere
in the papers does Plaintiff deny submitting false financial
aid documentation; rather, his claims stem from his
allegation that UMUC lacked authority to impose disciplinary
sanctions. The parties agree that Plaintiff was given notice
of the student conduct charges against him and a hearing was
scheduled on this matter. (ECF Nos. 1 ¶¶ 30-35;
1-1, at 2, 3). He did not attend the July 28 hearing, and
UMUC expelled Plaintiff the following month. Plaintiff
challenges the validity of the hearing “on grounds of
lack of jurisdiction in violation of his constitutional due
process which prevents [UMUC] from adjudicating a
‘Title IV of HEA matter’ as a student conduct
code matter.” (ECF No. 1 ¶ 36). This appears to be
the crux of Plaintiff’s argument - that the HEA and its
regulations preclude UMUC from disciplining Plaintiff for
submitting fraudulent documentation as part of a financial
contention, however, is without merit. Title IV of the HEA
established several types of student aid programs
administered by the Department of Education, each with the
aim of fostering access to higher education. See Career
Coll. Ass’n v. Duncan, 796 F.Supp.2d 108, 113
(D.D.C. 2011), aff’d in part, rev’d in part
sub nom. Ass’n of Private Sector Colleges &
Universities v. Duncan, 681 F.3d 427 (D.C. Cir. 2012).
Defendants argue that although “postsecondary
institutions are required to report financial aid fraud,
waste, and abuse, neither the HEA nor any related regulations
control whether a postsecondary institution may impose
discipline for violations of that institution’s [c]ode
of [s]tudent [c]onduct.” (ECF No. 26-1, at 10);
see 34 C.F.R. § 668.16. Moreover, “the
HEA neither expressly nor impliedly provides Plaintiff with
a private right of action” to enforce its aims. Moy
v. Adelphi Inst., Inc., 866 F.Supp. 696, 705 (E.D.N.Y.
1994); (see ECF No. 1 ¶ 30 (“[T]here is
no private right of action by a student against a school or a
[s]chool against a student under Title IV of [the]
HEA.”)). Accordingly, Plaintiff’s HEA claim
will be dismissed.
the complaint, Plaintiff includes assertions of
constitutional violations and violations of federal civil
rights statutes. Even assuming arguendo that
Plaintiff’s claims do not fail due to sovereign
immunity and qualified immunity, he nonetheless has failed to
provide factual allegations in support of his conclusory
claims sufficient to withstand Defendants’ motion to
dismiss. Plaintiff asserts claims of discrimination under
Title VI and § 1981. Under Title VI, no person shall
“be excluded from participation in, be denied the
benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any
program or activity receiving Federal financial
assistance” because of the person’s race, color,
or national origin. 42 U.S.C. § 2000d. To state a claim
under Title VI, a plaintiff must allege facts that show the
defendant intentionally discriminated against him on the
basis of race, color, or national origin, and that defendant
receives federal financial assistance. Alexander v.
Sandoval, 532 U.S. 275, 280 (2001). Section 1981
provides, in pertinent part, that “[a]ll persons within
the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same
right in every State and Territory to make and enforce
contracts . . . as is enjoyed by white citizens[.]” 42
U.S.C. § 1981(a). The statute broadly defines the term
“make and enforce contracts” as “the
making, performance, modification, and termination of
contracts, and the enjoyment of all benefits, privileges,
terms, and conditions of the contractual relationship.”
42 U.S.C. § 1981(b). To state a claim under § 1981,
a plaintiff must establish “purposeful, racially
discriminatory actions that affect at least one of the
contractual aspects listed in § 1981(b).”
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