United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
J. BARBIER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is a Motion to Dismiss (Rec. Doc.
18) filed by Defendants, Alejandros Perkins, in his
official capacity as Chair of the Board of Supervisors for
the Louisiana System; John L. Crain, in his individual and
official capacity as President of Southeastern Louisiana
University; James Smoot; Jay Artigues; and Justin Bice
(collectively “Defendants”). Plaintiff, Chloee
Holden, opposes the motion (Rec. Doc. 21). Defendants filed a
reply (Rec. Doc. 24), and Plaintiff filed a sur-reply (Rec.
Doc. 28). Having considered the motion and legal memoranda,
the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the
motion should be GRANTED.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
litigation arises from Plaintiff’s removal from the
Southeastern Louisiana University volleyball team and
Southeastern’s decision not to renew Plaintiff’s
athletic scholarship. Plaintiff received an athletic
scholarship to play volleyball at Southeastern for the
academic year starting August 2016 and running through May
2017. The scholarship was renewed for the August 2017 through
May 2018 academic year. In Fall 2017, Plaintiff alleges that
she and other teammates scheduled a meeting with Athletic
Director, Jay Artigues, to discuss Coach Smoot Carter’s
alleged “emotionally abusive conduct.” Shortly
thereafter, Artigues notified Plaintiff that she was being
removed from the team and that her volleyball scholarship was
not being renewed for the following academic year. On
November 1, 2017, Artigues sent an email to Plaintiff’s
mother notifying her of the school’s decision and
indicating that the decision was final. Plaintiff
subsequently requested an appeal with Justin Bice, but her
request was denied.
November 7, 2018, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendants in
the 21stJudicial District Court for the Parish of
Tangipahoa. Defendants removed the suit to federal court.
Defendants now seek dismissal of Plaintiff’s federal
claims under Rule 12(b)(6).
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must
contain “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.
R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). The complaint must “give the
defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds
upon which it rests.” Dura Pharm., Inc. v.
Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 346 (2005) (internal citations
omitted). The allegations “must be simple, concise, and
direct.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(d)(1).
Rule 12(b)(6), a claim may be dismissed when a plaintiff
fails to allege any set of facts in support of his claim
which would entitle him to relief.” Taylor v. Books
A Million, Inc., 296 F.3d 376, 378 (5th Cir. 2002)
(citing McConathy v. Dr. Pepper/Seven Up Corp., 131
F.3d 558, 561 (5th Cir. 1998)). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must plead enough facts to
“state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible when the
plaintiff pleads facts that allow the court to “draw
the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Id. A court must accept
all well-pleaded facts as true and must draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Lormand v. U.S.
Unwired, Inc., 565 F.3d 228, 232 (5th Cir. 2009);
Baker v. Putnal, 75 F.3d 190, 196 (5th Cir. 1996).
The court is not, however, bound to accept as true legal
conclusions couched as factual allegations. Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678. “[C]onclusory allegations or legal
conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions will not
suffice to prevent a motion to dismiss.”
Taylor, 296 F.3d at 378.
ARGUMENTS AND DISCUSSION
Plaintiff’s Due Process Claims
alleges that Defendants violated the Due Process Clause of
the United States Constitution by failing to provide adequate
notice and a hearing concerning the non-renewal of her
athletic scholarship. (Rec. Doc. 1-1 at 6). Defendants argue
that Plaintiff’s due process claim must be dismissed
because her petition fails to establish the existence of a
sufficient property interest necessary to trigger the right
to notice and a hearing under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Rec.
Doc. 18-1 at 8). Specifically, Defendants assert that there
is no recognized property interest in the renewal of an
athletic scholarship. (Rec. Doc. 18-1 at 5). Defendants
contend that because Plaintiff was timely notified that her
scholarship would not be renewed for the following year, she
had neither a reasonable expectation nor a property interest
in its renewal. (Rec. Doc. 18-1 at 7). Defendants emphasize
that “the Fifth Circuit has never recognized that the
failure to renew a college student’s athletic
scholarship is the type of property right which warrants due
process notice and a hearing.” (Rec. Doc. 18-1 at 7).
argues in opposition that she adequately states a claim for
denial of her due process rights, asserting that
Defendants’ focus on the distinction between the
cancellation of an existing scholarship and the non-renewal
of a scholarship is flawed. (Rec. Doc. 21 at 7). First,
Plaintiff argues that because Plaintiff did not violate
Southeastern’s Student-Athletic code of conduct or fail
to meet the academic requirements, she had a reasonable
expectation that her scholarship would be renewed for the
2018-19 academic year. (Rec. Doc. 21 at 4-5). Second,
Plaintiff contends that she has an established liberty
interest in her higher education, and courts outside of this
circuit have found that students have a protected interest in
funds provided through scholarships. (Rec. Doc. 21 at 5-6).
Finally, Plaintiff argues that “irrespective of any
constitutionally-provided right to procedural due process,
the terms of [Plaintiff’s] scholarship itself …
absolutely guaranteed the hallmarks of procedural due process
– notice and an opportunity to be heard prior to any
adverse action.” (Rec. Doc. 21 at 7).
reply, Defendants assert that Plaintiff fails to point to any
jurisprudential support for her assumption that she has a
liberty or property interest in a collegiate education or an
athletic scholarship. (Rec. Doc. 24 at 2). Defendants first
argue that Debra P. v. Turlington does not support a
finding of an implied property interest in the renewal of an
athletic scholarship. (Rec. Doc. 24 at 2-3). Thus,
Plaintiff’s expectation that her athletic scholarship
would be renewed for the August 2018-May 2019 academic year
does not amount to a protected property interest. (Rec. Doc.
24 at 2-3). In response to Plaintiff’s assertion that
she has an established liberty interest in her higher
education, Defendants emphasize that Plaintiff was not
expelled or prevented from transferring to another school to
play volleyball. (Rec. Doc. 24 at 3-4). Rather, she was
invited to return to Southeastern despite her
removal from the team. (Rec. Doc. 24 at 4). Defendants also
assert that the scholarship funds do not amount to a property
interest because there was no deprivation of funds for the
August 2017-May 2018 academic year. (Rec. Doc. 24 at 4-5).
Finally, Defendants argue that even accepting as true
Plaintiff’s allegation that Defendants failed to