United States District Court, D. New Jersey
WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.
matter arises out of New Jersey Institute of Technology's
decision not to renew Plaintiff Jason Jorjani's contract
as a philosophy lecturer. The matter comes before the Court
on Plaintiffs motion to amend. ECF Nos. 17-18. For the
reasons set forth below, the motion is GRANTED IN PART and
DENIED IN PART.
underlying facts of this matter are set forth in the
Court's March 11, 2019 Opinion, familiarity with which is
assumed. ECF No. 14. In short, in Fall 2017, Plaintiff Jason
Jorjani ("Plaintiff) worked as a contracted philosophy
lecturer at Defendant New Jersey Institute of Technology
("NJIT"). Plaintiff was surreptitiously recorded
making statements regarding the future of European politics
and other controversial topics. On September 19, 2017, the
New York Times ("NYT") published an op-ed
("Op-Ed") containing an edited version of the
recorded conversation ("Recording").
viewing the Op-Ed and Recording-and allegedly knowing it was
heavily edited-Defendants Joel S. Bloom (President of NJIT)
and Kevin J. Belfield (Dean of the NJIT College of Science
and Liberal Arts) sent a faculty- and staff-wide email
condemning the views expressed in the Recording
("B&B Email"). Five days later, NJIT suspended
Plaintiff and launched an investigation. Over the next
several weeks, Defendants Gareth J. Russel (Chair of the NJIT
Biology Department), Andrew Klobucar (Chair of the NJIT
Biology Department), and Neil J. Maher (Chairman of the NJIT
Federated Department of History) (collectively,
"Individual Defendants" and with NJIT,
"Defendants") made statements condemning the views
expressed in the Recording and described in the Op-Ed (with
the B&B Email, "Statements"). On February 13,
2018, Plaintiff learned his employment contract would not be
extended beyond the 2017-2018 school year.
filed suit complaining of First-Amendment retaliation by NJIT
and defamation by the Individual Defendants based on the
Statements. Defendants moved to dismiss the defamation counts
with prejudice pursuant to FRCP 12(b)(6). ECF No. 9. On March
11, 2019, the Court granted Defendants' motion except
that those counts dismissed for lack of malice could be
replead. ECF Nos. 14-15.
April 8, 2019, Plaintiff filed the present motion (1)
informing the Court that Plaintiff would not replead the
defamation counts but (2) seeking leave to add causes of
action for (a) conspiracy to violate First Amendment rights
and (b) tortious interference with a contract and prospective
economic advantage. Mot, ECF No. 17-2 ¶¶ 6-7.
oppose Plaintiffs motion to amend, arguing the proposed
claims are futile. Opp., ECF No. 21. Plaintiff disagrees.
See Reply, ECF No. 22.
Standard of Review
Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) governs motions to amend. At
this stage, "a party may amend its pleadings only with
the opposing party's written consent or the court's
leave." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Leave to amend is
generally granted unless there is: (1) undue delay or
prejudice; (2) bad faith; (3) dilatory motive; (4) failure to
cure deficiencies through previous amendment; or (5)
futility. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962).
The ultimate decision to grant or deny leave is in the
court's discretion. See, e.g., Zenith Radio Corp. v.
Hazeltine Research, Inc., 401 U.S. 321, 330 (1970).
futility analysis on a motion to amend is essentially the
same as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. See In re NAHQ Inc. Sec.
Litig, 306 F.3d 1314, 1332 (3d Cir. 2002). The proposed
amended claim "must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A claim has
facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."
Conspiracy to Violate Plaintiffs Civil Rights (Proposed
proposed second count, Plaintiff alleges Defendants Bloom and
Belfield "conspired together and with others, and
reached a mutual understanding to engage in a course of
conduct, to deprive Plaintiff of... his right[s] to free
association and free speech." Proposed Amended Complaint
("PAC") ¶ 63, ECF No. 17-3. Overt acts include
Bloom and Belfield's September 20, 2017 email