United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort
KAREN S. HEAVIN, Plaintiff,
KENTUCKY STATE UNIVERSITY, and LUCIAN YATES III, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
Gregory F. Van Tatenhove United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendants Kentucky State
University and Lucian Yates III's Motion to Dismiss. [R.
4.] Plaintiff Karen S. Heavin seeks damages under various
theories of liability against Kentucky State University (KSU)
and the Provost of KSU after the termination of her
employment at the University. However, Ms. Heavin's
claims against the official defendant is barred by sovereign
immunity. For the reasons stated below, Defendants'
Motion will be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
being a math instructor for KSU since 2007, Karen Heavin was
appointed as a tenure track assistant professor for a term
from August 13, 2018 through May 13, 2019. [R. 1 at 1-2.] On
February 13, 2019, the provost of KSU, Dr. Lucian Yates, and
the Human Resources Director of KSU met with Ms. Heavin to
inform her that her appointment as a tenure track assistant
professor was being terminated. Id. at 2. KSU
informed Ms. Heavin that her appointment would terminate on
November 12, 2019, which was a notice of almost months before
termination was final. Id. Ms. Heavin claims that
Dr. Yates ordered KSU representatives to escort Ms. Heavin to
her office following the meeting, where she was instructed to
remove all of her personal belongings, and escort her out of
her office. Id. at 3. Thereafter, Ms. Heavin
submitted a grievance in regards to her termination pursuant
to such policy in the KSU Faculty Handbook, which was denied
by KSU Executive Vice President. Id. at 3-4. After
Ms. Heavin received the denial of the grievance, she appealed
it to the President of KSU, who did not render a decision on
the matter. Id. at 4.
25, 2019, Ms. Heavin sued the Kentucky State University and
Dr. Lucian Yates III. [R. 1.] In her complaint, she seeks
compensatory and punitive damages for violations of 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, state-law breach of contract, and violation of
the Fair Labor Standards Act. Id. Count I applies to
all defendants, while Counts II-III allege liability only for
Kentucky State University. Id. at 4-7.
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) provides that a defendant
may assert lack of subject-matter jurisdiction as a defense.
A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) is different from a
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) because it challenges
the Court's power to hear the case before it. When
jurisdiction is challenged under this rule, the burden is on
the plaintiff to prove that jurisdiction exists. RMI
Titanium Co. v. Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 78 F.3d 1125,
1134 (6th Cir. 1996). In answering this question, the Court
is “empowered to resolve factual disputes” and
need not presume that either parties' factual allegations
are true. Id.
motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the
sufficiency of a plaintiff's complaint. In reviewing a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court “construe[s] the
complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff,
accept[s] its allegations as true, and draw[s] all inferences
in favor of the plaintiff.” DirecTV, Inc. v.
Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007) (citation
omitted). The Court, however, “need not accept as true
legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences.”
Id. (quoting Gregory v. Shelby County, 220
F.3d 433, 446 (6th Cir. 2000)). The Supreme Court explained
that in order “[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct.
1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). See also Courier
v. Alcoa Wheel & Forged Products, 577 F.3d 625, 629
(6th Cir. 2009).
contends that the Court has no subject matter jurisdiction
over KSU because the official defendant enjoys sovereign
immunity against all claims asserted by Ms.
Heavin. [R. 4 at 20.] When jurisdiction is
challenged under this rule, the burden is on the plaintiff to
prove that jurisdiction exists. RMI Titanium Co. v.
Westinghouse Elec. Corp., 78 F.3d 1125, 1134 (6th Cir.
1996). In answering this question, the Court is
“empowered to resolve factual disputes” and need
not presume that either parties' factual allegations are
true. Id. Generally, the Eleventh Amendment bars
suits against states and state agencies in federal court
unless a state legislature has waived immunity or has
consented to being sued in federal court. Will v. Mich.
Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66 (1989);
Grinter v. Knight, 532 F.3d 567, 572 (6th Cir.
2008). The Eleventh Amendment protects states against all
types of claims, “whether for injunctive, declaratory
or monetary relief.” Thiokol Corp. v. Dep't of
Treasury, State of Mich., Revenue Div., 987 F.2d 376,
381 (6th Cir. 1993); see also McCormick v. Miami
Univ., 693 F.3d 654, 661 (6th Cir. 2012).
are three exceptions to Eleventh Amendment immunity. First,
Congress may abrogate a state's immunity pursuant to its
Fourteenth Amendment powers, see Alden v. Maine, 527
U.S. 706, 756, 119 S.Ct. 2240, 144 L.Ed.2d 636 (1999).
Second, a state may waive its immunity. See Sossamon v.
Texas, 563 U.S. 277, 284-85, 131 S.Ct. 1651, 179 L.Ed.2d
700 (2011). And third, a state's waiver may be
invalidated under the exception found in Ex Parte
Young, 209 U.S. 123, 28 S.Ct. 441, 52 L.Ed. 714 (1908).
For this sovereign immunity analysis, it is important to note
that Ms. Heavin seeks monetary and injunctive relief
[see R. 1 at 8], which places only the Ex Parte
Young exception in question.
Ex parte Young, individuals who are "officers
of the state" who are violating or threatening to
violate the Federal Constitution "may be enjoined by a
Federal court of equity from such action." 209 U.S. at
155-56. Claims brought under Ex Parte Young cannot
provide "retroactive relief," but can only provide
prospective relief. Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v.
Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 106, 104 S.Ct. 900, 79 L.Ed.2d
67 (1984). A "court may enter a prospective suit that
costs the state money . . . if the monetary impact is
ancillary, i.e., not the primary purpose of the suit."
Boler v. Earley, 865 F.3d 391, 413 (6th Cir. 2017).
Put another way, "a suit by private parties seeking to
impose a liability which must be paid from public funds in
the state treasury is barred by the Eleventh Amendment."
Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 663, 94 S.Ct. 1347,
39 L.Ed.2d 662 (1974). To make the determination of whether
the relief sought is prospective or retroactive, the Court
looks at whether "money or the non-monetary injunction
is the primary thrust of the suit." S & M
Brands, Inc. v. Cooper, 527 F.3d 500, 510 (6th Cir.
2008). It follows that injunctive relief pursuant to the
Ex Parte Young exception is only available against
the state officers and not the state itself. Lawson v.