United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
C. WILLIAM HELM, Plaintiff,
TRACY EELLS, EDWARD HALPERIN, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
THOMAS B. RUSSELL, District Judge.
This matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss. (Docket #5). Plaintiff has responded (Docket #10). Defendants have replied. (Docket #15). This matter is now ripe for adjudication. For the foregoing reasons, Defendants' motion to dismiss (Docket #5) will be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
This action arises out of Plaintiff Dr. C. William Helm's termination from the University of Louisville School of Medicine. Helm was a clinician, teacher, and researcher in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology from 2000 to 2010. At all relevant times, Defendant Dr. Edward Halperin was the Dean and Defendant Dr. Tracy Eells was the Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs.
Helm's termination followed allegations that Helm took ideas for his research on ovarian cancer from research performed by two other doctors, Dr. Douglas Taylor and Dr. Cicek Gercel-Taylor. These allegations were made by Dr. Lynn Parker, the Director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology, in a memorandum to Eells. The allegations came as Helm was in the process of being reviewed for promotion from Associate Professor, an untenured position, to Professor, a tenured position.
The University of Louisville School of Medicine has enacted a Research Misconduct Policy. It requires research misconduct, which includes "taking another person's ideas without giving appropriate credit, " to be reported to the Research Integrity Ombudsperson. (Docket #10). Helm argues Eells and Halperin did not report the alleged plagiarism to the Ombudsperson or keep the allegations confidential, as required by the Research Misconduct Policy. (Docket #1-15). Instead, Eells and Halperin discussed the plagiarism allegations with administration officials, other doctors, and legal counsel for the University of Louisville.
Helm claims he has been deprived of his liberty and property interest without due process. Helm also claims the Defendants "violated the express terms of 42 U.S.C. § 241, 42 U.S.C. § 289b, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 42 C.F.R. 93 et seq, " and "KRS 522.010 et seq. " (Docket #1).
Although Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, both parties have presented substantial evidence and matters outside the pleadings. Accordingly, the Court will treat Defendants' motion as a motion for summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d); Song v. Elyria, 985 F.2d 840, 842 (6th Cir. 1993).
Summary judgment is proper if the moving party can establish that the "pleadings, depositions, answer to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, a court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). "[N]ot every issue of fact or conflicting inference presents a genuine issue of material fact." Street v. Bradford & Co., 886 F.2d 1472, 1477 (6th Cir. 1989). The test is "whether the party bearing the burden of proof has presented a jury question as to each element in the case." Hartsel v. Keys, 87 F.3d 795, 799 (6th Cir. 1996). The plaintiff must present more than a mere scintilla of evidence. To support this position, he must present evidence on which the trier of fact could find for the plaintiff. See id. ( citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986)). Mere speculation will not suffice to defeat a motion for summary judgment: "[t]he mere existence of a colorable factual dispute will not defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment. A genuine dispute between the parties on an issue of material fact must exist to render summary judgment inappropriate." Monette v. Electronic Data Systems Corp., 90 F.3d 1173, 1177 (6th Cir. 1996).
As an initial matter, the Court will address Helm's statutory claims before turning to his § 1983 claim. In his complaint, Helm alleged the Defendants "violated the express terms of 42 U.S.C. § 241, 42 U.S.C. § 289b, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 42 C.F.R. 93 et seq, " and "KRS 522.010 et seq. " (Docket #1). The Defendants argue that, with the exception of Helm's § 1983 claim, none of these statutes create a private cause of action. (Docket #5, 15). Helm responds he is "not claiming such private right of action" for any statutes except his § 1983 claim and the other statutes merely provide "context" for his claims. (Docket #10). Therefore, the Court turns to Helm's claims that the Defendants violated his due process rights in violation of § 1983.
In addressing Helm's § 1983 claim, the Court will first discuss (I) whether Helm has a protected liberty or property interest which supports a § 1983 claim. After finding that Helm has a protected property interest, the Court will order (II) the parties to brief the issue of whether Helm's ...