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Schaffer v. Ogden

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

November 10, 2014



JAY C. ZAINEY, District Judge.

The following motions are before the Court: Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) (Rec. Doc. 27) filed by defendant Arthur Hickham; Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), or in the Alternative for a More Definite Statement (Rec. Doc. 28) filed by defendant Brian Begue; Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) and Motion for Award of Costs (Rec. Doc. 29) filed by defendants H.O. Blackwood, Dennis Donald, Conrad McVea, and C. Barry Ogden. Plaintiff Randall Schaffer has failed to file any opposition to these motions. The motions, scheduled for submission on August 13, 2014, are before the Court on the briefs without oral argument.

I. Background

Before entering into private practice in oral and maxillofacial surgery, plaintiff Randall M. Schaffer, DDS, served as a resident under Dr. John Norman Kent at the Louisiana State University Dental and Medical Center. (Rec. Doc. 26, Amended Comp. ¶ 11). Schaffer claims that during this residency he learned of a defect in an oral prosthesis in which Dr. Kent had a proprietary interest. ( Id. ¶ 12). In addition to allegedly being threatened with dismissal by Kent when raising the issue and attempting to remedy the individual results of this defect in his subsequent private practice, Schaffer also came forward as a witness and consultant in related medical malpractice cases. ( Id. ¶ 13-15). It is the last of these actions that Schaffer claims to have resulted in the Board's eventual revocation of his license, the violations of his rights by the several individuals named in his suit, and the commencement of the present litigation. ( Id. ¶ 15-16).

While some of the facts applying to particular individuals will be examined below in the discussion, the themes of Schaffer's Amended Complaint against those defendants are universal. Allegedly acting on the impetus of protecting Kent, Louisiana State University, and the Patient's Compensation Fund, individuals affiliated with the Louisiana Board of Dentistry-panel members Drs. McVea, Donald, and Blackwood; executive director of the Board, Barry Ogden; private investigator for the Board, Camp Morrison and his firm Camp Morrison Investigations, LLC; counsel for the Board, Brian Begue; and administrative law judge and counsel for the Board, Arthur Hickham-carried out an investigation and hearing that violated Schaffer's due process and equal protection rights. The Board revoked Schaffer's license in September of 2000, but Schaffer contests that the violations are ongoing as the conditions of his license revocation allow him to request review and reinstatement-his three attempts at which (2004, 2007, and 2012) have been denied. More specifically, Schaffer claims that many of these individuals conspired to strip him of his license and have sworn to never let him regain his license by slanderously and falsely accusing him, participating in his case in the face of conflicts of interest, and determining the merits of his case prior to hearings. Schaffer points to the exclusion of certain witnesses and other offered evidence as substantiation of these allegations and notes in some cases a contractual arrangement with the Board as showing a conflict of interest of those involved in the hearings. Schaffer also claims that one of the Board members, McVea, did not afford him a fair hearing due to a religiously-motivated bias, affecting the 2004 and 2007 reinstatement hearings.

Schaffer filed this lawsuit against Brian Begue, Camp Morrison, Camp Morrison Investigations, LLC, C. Barry Ogden, Conrad McVea, Dennis Donald, Herman O. Blackwood, and Arthur Hickham alleging claims for violation of his Fourteenth Amendment due process and equal protection rights brought via 42 U.S.C. 1983, conspiracy to violate those rights, violations of the Sherman Antitrust Act under 15 U.S.C. 1 and 2, and a state law claim for defamation.[1] Plaintiff appears to name all defendants in their individual capacity, as well as naming C. Barry Ogden in his official capacity, and seeks both damages and injunctive relief relating to the reinstatement of his license.

Schaffer argues that Arthur Hickham joined in the conspiracy to deprive Schaffer of his license and acted accordingly "as administrative law judge and attorney for the [Board]" (independent counsel for the Board) by barring the introduction of evidence, witnesses, and documentation that would have allowed for Schaffer's maintenance or reinstatement of his license. Schaffer furthermore alleges that Hickham took on the role of both administrative judge and prosecuting attorney.

Schaffer contests that Begue joined in the conspiracy to deprive Schaffer of his license in Begue's role as general counsel by continuing to participate in the case on the Board's behalf after being instructed to not do so by the Louisiana Supreme Court and by continuing to make plans "to prevent [Schaffer's] re-licensure" with the other defendants named in this suit. Schaffer also accuses Begue of permitting McVea "to enter upon a slanderous anti-Semitic tirade" and also of slandering Schaffer himself.

As to the Board members, including the executive director, C. Barry Ogden, Schaffer alleges that they have never given him and, will never give him, a fair hearing as the result has always been predetermined due to their alleged conspiracy. He claims that they have continued to slander him at the related hearings. Relatedly, Schaffer also accuses board member McVea of making anti-Semitic remarks and acting on religiously-motivated bias at hearings.

Plaintiff filed his initial Complaint on December 9, 2013. (Rec. Doc. 1). The Court issued an Order to show cause for failure to serve on March 20, 2014. (Rec. Doc. 3). Defendant Hickham filed the first motion to dismiss on March 26, 2014. (Rec. Doc. 4). Plaintiff did not file a timely opposition and instead only filed an out-of-time motion for extension of time to file an opposition. (Rec. Doc. 11). The Court granted this motion and reset the submission date on the motion to dismiss filed by Hickham. (Rec. Doc. 15). Defendant Begue also filed a motion to dismiss on May 8, 2014. (Rec. Doc. 19). Schaffer failed to file any opposition to either motion, yet in an abundance of caution, the Court again reset the submission date. (Rec. Doc. 21). Defendants Blackwood, Donald, McVea, and Ogden filed a motion to dismiss on June 19, 2014. (Rec. Doc. 22). Finally, on July 2, 2014, Schaffer sought leave to file an Amended Complaint, which the Court granted and in turn dismissed without prejudice the motions to dismiss. (Rec. Doc. 25).

All defendants who previously filed motions to dismiss refiled and reurged such motions on July 21, 22, and 24, 2014, respectively. (Rec. Docs. nos. 27-29). Plaintiff has filed no opposition or any other responses since that time. The Court now addresses these motions on the merits.[2] This matter has not yet been scheduled for trial.

II. Standard of Review

In the context of a motion to dismiss the Court must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Lormand v. U.S. Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 232 (5th Cir. 2009) ( citing Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308 (2007); Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974); Lovick v. Ritemoney, Ltd., 378 F.3d 433, 437 (5th Cir. 2004)). However, the foregoing tenet is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice. Id. ( citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550, U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

The central issue in a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is whether, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the complaint states a valid claim for relief. Gentilello v. Rege, 627 F.3d 540, 544 (5th Cir. 2010) ( quoting Doe v. MySpace, Inc., 528 F.3d 413, 418 (5th Cir. 2008)). To avoid dismissal, a plaintiff must plead sufficient facts to "state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Id. ( quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949). "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." Id. The Court does not accept as true "conclusory allegations, unwarranted factual inferences, or legal ...

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