Law School Case Brief
Gunasekera v. Irwin - 748 F. Supp. 2d 816 (S.D. Ohio 2010)
A tenured public employee is entitled to oral or written notice of the charges against him, an explanation of the employer's evidence, and an opportunity to present his side of the story before his or her employment is terminated. This relatively minimal pre-termination requirement is coupled with a more extensive post-termination process.
Dr. Gunasekera's filed a complaint alleging that Dennis Irwin et. al (Irwin) violated the Due Process Clause in two ways by suspending his Graduate Faculty Status without notice and an opportunity to be heard and by denying him a name-clearing opportunity after the suspension. In response to Dr. Gunasekera's Complaint, Irwin filed a Motion to Dismiss. Irwin’s Motion was based on four grounds: (1) sovereign immunity barred some of Dr. Gunasekera's claims; (2) Dr. Gunasekera waived his § 1983 claims by filing a defamation action in the Court of Claims; (3) Irwin et. al were entitled to qualified immunity with regard to all claims for money damages; and (4) Dr. Gunasekera's claims for equitable relief failed to allege a due process violation upon which relief could be granted.
Was Dr. Gunasekera deprived of due process by the university?
The Court held that Dr. Gunasekera alleged enough to establish a property interest in his graduate faculty status. On remand, university officials' allegations did not create a genuine issue of material fact regarding the professor's property interest. The court was not convinced that the professor had waived his due process rights, and since no pre-deprivation hearing was offered to him, there was no dispute as to the constitutional inadequacy of the suspension process.
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