FROM THE FIFTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF
LAFAYETTE, NO. 20123844 HONORABLE JOHN D. TRAHAN, DISTRICT
G. Clark Mason C. Johnson Erica Schirling Aguillard FORRESTER
& CLARK, L.L.C. COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANTS/APPELLANTS: The
Board of Supervisors of the Louisiana Community and Technical
College Systems Phyllis Dupuis
Arthur Smith, III COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEE: Alicia
Williams, legal successor to Pemella Williams
composed of Billy H. Ezell, Van H. Kyzar, and Jonathan W.
the Board of Supervisors of the Louisiana Community and
Technical College Systems (the Board) and Phyllis Dupuis,
appeal the trial court judgment granting partial summary
judgment to Plaintiff, Pemella Williams,  finding that
Defendants violated Ms. Williams' constitutional right to
procedural due process. Defendants further appeal the trial
court's denial of their motion for summary judgment,
seeking to dismiss all of Plaintiffs claims against them with
prejudice, as well as the trial court's denial of
qualified immunity as to Phyllis Dupuis. For the following
reasons, we affirm the judgment of the trial court in part,
reverse in part, and remand for proceedings consistent
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
matter arose as a teacher/tenure claim after Plaintiff, Ms.
Williams, was presented with a termination letter on July 11,
2011. Plaintiff began her employment with Acadiana Technical
College (ATC) in 1979. ATC came under the jurisdiction of the
Board on July 1, 1999, with a policy that all employees who
were transferred to the employment of the Board on July 1,
1999 would retain all property interests and due process
interests acquired prior to the transfer of jurisdiction.
Phyllis Dupuis was the Regional Director of ATC at all times
to receiving the July 11, 2011 letter, Plaintiff was the
Department Head of Health Occupations at the Lafayette campus
of ATC, as well as acting as a classroom/clinical nursing
instructor. In this role, Plaintiffs job duties included
providing career counseling to students, maintaining program
credentials and licensing requirements, and providing
academic advice to program students. In the fall of 2010,
Plaintiff was made aware that the Louisiana State Board of
Practical Nurse Examiners, which is responsible for
establishing the minimum requirements prospective nurses must
meet before sitting for the national nursing exam, instituted
a new requirement that graduating students must obtain FBI
background clearance before sitting for the exam. Plaintiff
was also made aware that students would be required to
request the FBI clearance at least six months before
attempting to sit for their nursing exam to ensure all
background check results would be timely. Despite this,
Plaintiff failed to inform nursing students set to graduate
in May 2011 of the new FBI background check requirements, as
required by her duties as Department Head.
the Board became aware of Plaintiff s oversight in May 2011,
when Ms. Dupuis began receiving complaints from students who
had not been authorized to sit for the nursing board exams
based upon their lack of FBI background clearance. This
caused repercussions for both the graduating nursing students
and the reputation of ATCs nursing program, as passing
nursing boards is a pre-requisite to employment in the field.
Ms. Dupuis and Plaintiff met several times regarding the
incident, the significance of the incident, and any potential
legal ramifications, as many students had threatened legal
action. Ms. Dupuis also consulted with the Board's legal
counsel, Leo Hamilton, the Board's assistant manager of
Human Resources, Francis Killen, and ATCs manager of Human
Resources, Trevor Menard.
discussions about the incident over the course of May and
June of 2011, Plaintiff received a letter on July 11, 2011,
referencing her termination, though advising her that she
would be paid wages and benefits through July 29, 2011.
Plaintiff requested instead that she be allowed to retire,
which request was granted less than a week later. At that
point, Plaintiff retained an attorney who asserted that she
had suffered a due process violation. ATC determined that the
formal procedures required for termination of employment did
apply and had not been completed. Thereafter, ATC effectively
revoked the July 11, 2011 letter and prepared to conduct the
formal process for termination.
Plaintiff executed Teacher Retirement System of Louisiana
(TRSL) paperwork on July 20, 2011 certifying that she planned
to retire from ATC. She was continued on administrative leave
with pay and full benefits and retained her title as
Department Head until she retired effective August 31, 2011.
Before this chosen retirement date, Plaintiffs attorney sent
a letter to ATC demanding reinstatement, claiming that
Plaintiff was not still employed. On August 25, 2011,
Plaintiff notified ATC by letter from her attorney that she
would retire on September 1, though she reserved her right to
pursue any civil remedies. Plaintiff then filed the instant
suit after her retirement date, claiming unlawful discharge
without due process.
filed a motion for partial summary judgment, requesting a
finding that the actions of Defendants violated her federal
and state constitutional rights to Due Process. Defendants
filed a cross motion for summary judgment, seeking the
dismissal of Plaintiff s claims with prejudice. Following
arguments on the motions, the trial court granted Plaintiffs
motion for partial summary judgment and denied
Defendants' cross motion. It is from this judgment that
Defendants appeal, asserting five alleged errors.
trial court committed legal error in finding that plaintiff
suffered a deprivation of Procedural Due Process Rights when
she was never terminated.
trial [court] committed legal error in failing to recognize
plaintiffs retirement as a knowing and voluntary waiver ...