United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division
OPINION AND ORDER
HOLMES, III CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court are cross-motions for summary judgement. Plaintiff
Julia Correia filed a second motion (Doc. 22) for partial
summary judgment, a statement of facts (Doc. 22-1), and a
brief (Doc. 23) in support of her motion. Defendant Glenn
Jones filed a response (Doc. 35) in opposition and a
statement of facts (Doc. 36) in support of his response.
Separately, Jones filed a motion (Doc. 32) for summary
judgment, statement of facts (Doc. 33) and brief in support
(Doc. 34) of his motion. Correia filed a response (Doc. 43),
a brief (Doc. 44) in support of her response, and a statement
of facts (Doc. 45). Jones filed a reply (Doc. 48).
alleges federal and state constitutional deprivations
actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Arkansas Civil
Rights Act of 1983. For the reasons set forth below,
Jones's motion for summary judgment will be granted, and
Correia's motion for partial summary judgment will be
August 2000, Henderson State University (“the
University”) hired Plaintiff Julia Correia as a
fulltime faculty member. Correia worked at the University for
over ten years and held various positions during her
employment, but never attained tenured status. Her contract
was renewed on a yearly basis. During the 2013-14 academic
year, Correia managed the Center for Language Proficiency
(“the Center”). (Doc. 45, ¶ 3). Defendant
Dr. Glenn Jones worked at the University as the Chancellor.
Correia and Dr. Jones signed a written employment contract
for the 2013-14 year, and Correia testified that this
contract “would have expired on . . . June 30th.”
(Correia Dep. 232:14-24). Near the end of the 2013-14
academic year, the University Board of Trustees approved a
“proposed budget” for the 2014-15 year. The
budget included an allocation of funding for employee
2014, the University general counsel received a complaint
about “inappropriate activity” occurring within
the Center for Language Proficiency. (Jones Dep. 37:20-22;
Doc. 45, ¶ 19). General counsel notified Dr. Jones of
the complaint. (Jones Dep. 38:11-12). Seeking an independent
examination of the allegations, Dr. Jones contacted Arkansas
State University's internal audit department to
investigate the matter. (Doc. 45, ¶ 20). Following
Arkansas State's investigation, Dr. Jones contacted the
Arkansas Division of Legislative Audit for further
assistance. (Doc 45, p. 9). Correia received formal notice of
the investigation on July 7, 2014 where Dr. Steve Adkinson
notified her that she was being placed on administrative
leave. (Correia Dep. 108:14-17). Correia continued as a paid
at-will employee while on administrative leave. At no time
did Correia and any university faculty member sign a written
contract for the 2014-15 academic year.
the legislative investigation, the auditors uncovered
numerous discrepancies with the Center's expenditures and
records. The findings included improper disbursements,
related-party transactions, violations of procurement laws,
and missing equipment and supplies purchased for the Center.
(Doc. 32-7, pp. 3-4). On July 4, 2014, Correia returned 154
items of media-related equipment to the University. (Doc.
32-7, p. 4). On July 18, 2014, Correia's counsel, Carl
Crow, notified the University that she had discovered
additional items in her possession belonging to the
University and provided a list of sixty-one (61) additional
items. (Doc. 32-11, pp. 6-9). On October 2, 2014, the
University informed Correia that the Center for Language
Proficiency would be closed, and her administrative leave and
employment would terminate on that date. (Correia Dep.
December 16, 2014, the Division of Legislative Audit
published its findings to the Legislative Joint Auditing
Committee. (Doc. 32-7, p. 1; Doc. 32-11). Shortly after, Dr.
Jones circulated an internal email to all faculty and staff
at the University describing the investigation into the
Center and its findings. (Doc. 32-13). The email did not
mention Correia by name but stated, “[t]he director and
assistant director for the Center for Language Proficiency
are no longer employees of the university.” (Doc.
32-13, p. 1). The email further discussed changes which were
to be incorporated into the University's operations in
response to the findings of the audit. (Doc. 32-13). Dr.
Jones included the legislative report as an attachment in his
email, and “encouraged” staff to read it and
discuss any questions with a supervisor. (Doc. 32-13, p. 2).
months after the University notified Correia that her
employment ended, Mr. Crow sent six letters to the
University-one in July 2014, three in December 2014, one in
January 2015, and one in June 2015-inquiring about the
possibility of retrieving personal property. (Doc. 32-11, pp.
2-20). At no time during this correspondence did Plaintiff
request a name-clearing hearing. On August 15, 2017, nearly
three years after her separation from the University, Correia
submitted a request for a name-clearing hearing. (Doc. 45,
¶¶ 69-70). The request states,
I respectfully demand a hearing to clear my good name.
Because of unfounded accusations and actions taken by HSU, my
livelihood was taken and my reputation smeared publicly.
Please respond within five days.
(Doc. 48, p. 7). A week later, on August 22, 2017, Correia
filed suit against Glenn Jones in his official and individual
capacity. Correia alleges that the University terminated her
employment and violated her due process rights in the
process. Correia filed a motion for partial summary judgment
on the issue of a due process violation. Jones moved for
summary judgment on all claims.
party moves for summary judgment, a party must establish both
the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact and that he
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.
R. Civ. P. 56; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986); Nat'l
Bank of Commerce of El Dorado, Ark. v. Dow Chem. Co.,
165 F.3d 602 (8th Cir. 1999). In order for there to be a
genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party must
produce evidence “such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Allison
v. Flexway Trucking, Inc., 28 F.3d 64, 66-67 (8th Cir.
1994) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). Only facts “that might affect
the outcome of the suit under the governing law” need
be considered. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
“[T]he non-movant must make a sufficient showing on
every essential element of its claim on which it bears the
burden of proof.” P.H. v. Sch. Dist. of Kan. City,
Mo., 265 F.3d 653, 658 (8th Cir. 2001) (quotation
omitted). Facts asserted by the nonmoving party “must
be properly supported by the record, ” in which case
those “facts and the inferences to be drawn from them
[are viewed] in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party.” Id. at 656-57. The same standard
applies to cross-motions for summary judgment, with each
party's motion reviewed in its own right and the parties
“entitled to the benefit of all inferences favorable to
them which might reasonably be drawn from the record.”
Wermager v. Cormorant Twp. Bd., 716 F.2d 1211, 1214
(8th Cir. 1983).