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OKPOR v. RUTGERS

August 23, 2005.

MICHAEL OKPOR, Plaintiff
v.
RUTGERS, THE STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW JERSEY Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: FREDA WOLFSON, Magistrate Judge

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This case is unpublished as indicated by the issuing court.] MEMORANDUM OPINION

Presently before the Court is a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), or in the alternative, a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(b) brought by Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey ("Rutgers" or "Defendant") on the Complaint of Michael Okpor, pro se ("Plaintiff"). Plaintiff seeks relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("§ 1983"), alleging that Defendant's School of Business violated his procedural due process rights, breached an express contract and violated an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. On February 14, 2005, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint to include a civil rights violation under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("§ 1981").*fn1 The Court has considered the parties' papers pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 78, and for the reasons stated below, the Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed in its entirety with prejudice.

I. BACKGROUND

  Plaintiff was a student at Defendant's undergraduate School of Business from fall 1997 until his final dismissal in January, 2002. While attending Rutgers, Plaintiff failed numerous classes, yet consistently requested make-up examinations and late withdrawals from his courses. After the fall 2001 semester, Plaintiff's grade-point average fell below the required 2.0 minimum for the second time, which resulted in Plaintiff's second, and final, dismissal from Rutgers. Plaintiff asserts in his initial Complaint that (1) Defendant violated his procedural due process rights by failing to abide by its own guidelines for withdrawal from classes, (2) Plaintiff had an express contract with Defendant, which Defendant breached by dismissing Plaintiff, and (3) Defendant violated an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing in its contractual relationship with Plaintiff. In his Amended Complaint, without asserting any additional facts, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant "violated the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment, [T]itle VI of the [C]ivil [R]ights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. § 1981." Pl. Am. Compl. at 2.

  A. Procedural history

  Plaintiff commenced an action in the Chancery Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey on or about January 21, 2004.*fn2 See Sponzilli Cert. Ex. A. In his complaint, Plaintiff sought an order compelling Rutgers to allow Plaintiff to retake all the courses that he had failed and to change all of his grades from "F" (fail) to "W" (withdrawal). Id. On March 22, 2004, the state court denied Plaintiff's application for injunctive relief against Defendant. See Sponzilli Cert. Ex. B.

  On March 30, 2004, Rutgers filed and served its answer to Plaintiff's complaint in the state court action. See Sponzilli Cert. Ex. C. On or about March 30, 2004, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint alleging that his "unfair academic dismissal" from Rutgers was "a direct and proximate result of the negligence of the [D]efendant's staff members," and that consequently, Plaintiff "suffered grievous financial loss, anxiety, and depression." Sponzilli Cert. Ex. D. Despite allegations of negligence in his amended complaint, Plaintiff never filed a Notice of Tort Claim with Rutgers, as required by N.J.S.A. 59:1-1, et seq. See Denner Cert. Ex. 4, ¶¶ 4, 5.

  On November 16, 2004, Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint in state court, incorporating his previous claims and adding allegations of breach of contract, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and a claim under New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Statute, N.J.S.A. 56:8-2.*fn3 See Sponzilli Cert. Ex. H. According to Plaintiff, he had an express contract with Rutgers because Plaintiff's payment of tuition fees constituted consideration for Defendant providing an education and a degree. Id. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant breached this contract by dismissing him from the University. Id. Plaintiff further claimed that the "contract" contained an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, which Defendant also breached by expelling him. Id. Lastly, Plaintiff alleged that Defendant's breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing constituted an unconscionable business practice in violation of New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Statute. Id.

  On November 17, 2004, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment in state court. While Defendant asserts that "Plaintiff moved for permission to amend [his complaint] a second time," Def. Br. at 8, it is not entirely clear from the record whether Plaintiff made such motion prior to filing his second amended complaint on November 16, 2004. According to Defendant, Plaintiff's motion to amend his complaint was consolidated with Defendant's motion for summary judgment. See Def. Br. at 8. After hearing oral argument on December 17, 2004, the state court denied Plaintiff's motion requesting leave to amend his complaint for a second time, granted Defendant's motion for summary judgment and dismissed with prejudice all of Plaintiff's claims. See Sponzilli Cert. Ex. G, I. The state court based its dismissal of Plaintiff's claims on Plaintiff's failure to file the 90-day Notice of Tort Claim as required by the Tort Claims Act and failure to file a complaint within the applicable two-year statute of limitations period. See 12/17/04 Tr. (Pl. Opp. Ex. 1) at 53-55. The state court also found that the dismissal of Plaintiff's complaint rendered Plaintiff's motion to amend his complaint moot.*fn4 See id. at 56.

  On January 21, 2005, the state court heard oral argument on Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration of its decision dismissing Plaintiff's claims. While that motion was still pending, Plaintiff filed the instant action in this Court on January 10, 2005, asserting the same allegations and seeking the same relief as made in his state court complaint. See Pl. Compl. Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration was ultimately denied by the state court on January 27, 2005. See Sponzilli Cert. Ex. J.

  On February 14, 2005, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint in this action asserting violations of § 1981. See Pl. Am. Compl. On May 9, 2005, Plaintiff requested that this Court dismiss his § 1983 action without prejudice pending his appeal in the state court. See Pl. 4/27/05 Resp. to Def. Mot. Summ. J. ("Pl. Resp. #1"), ¶ 16.

  On May 19, 2005, Plaintiff filed a second response to Defendant's motion, alleging that Defendant also violated 42 U.S.C. § 1985 and § 1986.*fn5 See Pl. 5/19/05 Resp. to Def. Mot. Summ. J. ("Pl. Br. #2"), ¶ 15. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant racially discriminated against him because he is African-American, and denied him the right to complete his courses. Id. ¶¶ 2, 4. Plaintiff also claims that Defendant's School of Business and Academic Dean Samuel Rabinowitz conspired to deprive Plaintiff of the right to complete his courses because of Plaintiff's race. See Pl. Br. #2, ¶ 4.

  B. Plaintiff's academic history

  Plaintiff transferred to Rutgers University School of Business from Camden Community College in the fall of 1997. See Denner Cert. Ex. 1, ¶ 5. From 1997 through his final dismissal from Rutgers in 2002, Plaintiff asked for eleven grade changes and repeatedly requested late withdrawals from courses and make-up examinations due to his ...


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