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Habib Sadid, An Individual v. Idaho State University

March 12, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: B. Lynn Winmill Chief Judge United States District Court



Before the Court is defendants' Motion to Stay (Dkt. 35) and plaintiff's Motion to Strike Reply (Dkt. 47). The Court has determined oral argument would not significantly assist the decisional process and will decide the motion without a hearing. For the reasons expressed below, the Court will deny both motions.


Plaintiff Habib Sadid has filed three lawsuits generally relating to Idaho State University's alleged adverse actions against him. In November 2011, defendants asked the Court to stay this action pending the Idaho Supreme Court's decision in one of the state court actions.

Briefly, the three lawsuits described in the stay motion are as follows: State Lawsuit No. 1. In September 2008, Sadid sued ISU and various university officials in state court. See Sadid v. Idaho State Univ., Case No. 2008-3942-OC. He alleged that the university retaliated against him because of his comments criticizing the administration that had been published in a local newspaper over several years. See Sadid v. Idaho State Univ., 265 P.3d 1144, 1148 (Idaho 2011). He sought damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on the grounds that defendants violated his freedom of speech guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The trial court granted summary judgment in defendants' favor and, in November 2011 -- after defendants filed this motion -- the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. See id.

Federal Lawsuit. Meanwhile, in March 2011, Sadid filed this action against ISU and individual defendants Arthur Vailas and Richard Jacobsen. Here, Sadid alleges a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for denial of his First Amendment, Substantive and Procedural Due Process and Equal Protection rights. He also alleges breach of contract, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Sadid asserts that this action differs in at least one respect from the state lawsuit described above. He says that here, he is focused on his April 2009 speech at a faculty meeting, whereas the state lawsuit focused on earlier speech. See Sadid's Response, Dkt. 37, at 3. Sadid argues that the prior speech -- the speech at issue in the state action -- was protected because he spoke as a private citizen on matters of public concern whereas the speech at issue here -- the April 2009 speech -- "should be protected by the academic freedom exception to the Garcetti analysis." Id. (referring to Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006)); see also id. at 4 ("Plaintiff must have a speedy resolution to his complaint on the new, not previously litigated issue of whether his speech at the April 21, 2009 meeting was protected by academic freedom under the First Amendment.")

In any event, in August 2011, this Court dismissed the claims against defendant ISU, as well as the claims against Vailas and Jacobsen in their official capacity. Sadid is continuing to pursue Jacobsen and Vailas in their individual capacity.

State Lawsuit No. 2. Roughly two weeks after this Court dismissed ISU as a defendant, Sadid filed a second lawsuit against the same defendants (ISU, Vailas and Jacobsen) in state court. He asserted claims for defamation, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress and violation of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Sadid v. Idaho State University, Case No. CV-2011-3455-OC. Defendants indicate that in this lawsuit, Sadid asks the state court to find an "academic freedom exception" for his April 2009 speech for the same reasons asserted here.

At the time defendants filed their original motion, they focused on the first state lawsuit identified above because the Idaho Supreme Court had not yet issued its November 30, 2011 ruling. (The stay motion was filed November 11, 2011). When the Supreme Court did hand down its decision, Sadid pointed out the obvious -- the motion had become moot. Nonetheless, defendants continued to argue that a stay was still advisable. In their reply brief, defendants alerted the Court to a fourth case -- Sadid's appeal of an Industrial Commission case. See Reply, Dkt. 41, at 3. The Industrial Commission determined that ISU terminated Sadid for employment-related misconduct and was therefore ineligible for unemployment benefits. See id. Sadid has appealed that decision to the Idaho Supreme Court. On appeal, Sadid is arguing that the Industrial Commission erred when it concluded that his April 2009 faculty meeting speech fell below a standard of behavior reasonably expected by his employer. Sadid contends that his faculty speech falls within the "academic freedom exception" to Garcetti. See Defendants' Reply, at 3.

Defendants now ask the Court to stay this action until the unemployment case is decided.


1. Motion to Stay ...

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