United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
LYNN WINMILL CHIEF JUDGE
Court has before it Plaintiff's Motion for Partial
Summary Judgment (Dkt. 26), Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment (Dkt. 27), and Defendants' Motion to
Strike (Dkt. 30). The Court heard oral argument on September
21, 2017, and now issues the following decision.
Duffin is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter
Day Saints (“LDS Church”). In 2014-15, he played
on the Idaho State University (“ISU”) men's
tennis team during his freshman year in college. During that
time, Jeff Tingey was the athletic director, Bobby Goeltz was
the head coach of the tennis team, and Nate Gross was a
graduate assistant for the tennis team. Duffin claims that he
was harassed by Goeltz and Gross because of his religion.
Specifically, he states that he was told that his decision to
serve an LDS mission was insane, that he was disparaged
because he would not drink alcohol, that he was harassed
about his sexual orientation, that he was harassed about
whether he watched pornography, had sex with women, or
masturbated, and that two girls were sent to his hotel room
in Las Vegas during a tennis tournament to proposition him
quit the tennis team after he was scratched from an
out-of-state tournament. He then filed his Complaint on May
20, 2016. Based upon stipulated deadlines, the Court entered
a Case Management Order on August 8, 2016. (Dkt. 20). The
order set January 30, 2017 as the dispositive motion
deadline. On January 12, 2017, the parties filed a
stipulation to extend the dispositive motion deadline to July
14, 2017. (Dkt. 21). The Court agreed to the stipulation
because Duffin was out of the District of Idaho for an
extended period of time while serving a two-year mission for
the LDS Church. (Dkt. 22). The parties filed their
cross-motions for summary judgment on July 14, 2017.
judgment is appropriate where a party can show that, as to
any claim or defense, “there is no genuine dispute as
to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). One of the
principal purposes of the summary judgment “is to
isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims . . .
.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
323-24 (1986). It is “not a disfavored procedural
shortcut, ” but is instead the “principal tool[ ]
by which factually insufficient claims or defenses [can] be
isolated and prevented from going to trial with the attendant
unwarranted consumption of public and private
resources.” Id. at 327. “[T]he mere
existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties
will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for
summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). There must be a
genuine dispute as to any material fact - a fact
“that may affect the outcome of the case.”
Id. at 248.
evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party, and the Court must not make credibility
findings. Id. at 255. Direct testimony of the
non-movant must be believed, however implausible. Leslie
v. Grupo ICA, 198 F.3d 1152, 1159 (9th Cir. 1999). On
the other hand, the Court is not required to adopt
unreasonable inferences from circumstantial evidence.
McLaughlin v. Liu, 849 F.2d 1205, 1208 (9th Cir.
cross-motions for summary judgment are filed, the Court must
independently search the record for factual disputes.
Fair Housing Council of Riverside County, Inc. v.
Riverside Two, 249 F.3d 1132, 1136 (9th Cir. 2001). The
filing of cross-motions for summary judgment - where both
parties essentially assert that there are no material factual
disputes - does not vitiate the court's responsibility to
determine whether disputes as to material fact are present.
moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the
absence of a genuine dispute as to material fact.
Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th Cir.
2001)(en banc). To carry this burden, the moving party need
not introduce any affirmative evidence (such as affidavits or
deposition excerpts) but may simply point out the absence of
evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.
Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212 F.3d 528,
532 (9th Cir.2000).
shifts the burden to the non-moving party to produce evidence
sufficient to support a jury verdict in her favor.
Deveraux, 263 F.3d at 1076. The non-moving party
must go beyond the pleadings and show “by her [ ]
affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to
interrogatories, or admissions on file” that a genuine
dispute of material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S.
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
ask the Court to dismiss all of Duffin's claims based
upon Eleventh Amendment immunity, qualified immunity, or
failure to state a claim. The Court will address each of
these arguments below.
Eleventh Amendment Immunity
consent by the State, the Eleventh Amendment bars suits in
federal court against the State or its agencies. Krainski
v. Nevada, 616 F.3d 963, 967 (9th Cir.2010). On more
than one occasion, this Court has previously held that ISU is
an arm of the State of Idaho. Sadid v. Idaho State
University, 837 F.Supp.2d 1166, 1172 (D.Idaho 2011);
Ferguson v. Greater Pocatello Chamber of Commerce,
Inc., 647 F.Supp. 190, 193 (D.Idaho 1985). Neither party
disputes this holding. Thus, the only question here is
whether ISU has consented to this lawsuit.
state waives its Eleventh Amendment immunity if it
‘unequivocally evidence[s its] intention to subject
itself to the jurisdiction of the federal court.'”
Johnson v. Rancho Santiago Community College Dist.,
623 F.3d 1101, 1021 (9th Cir. 2010); citing Hill v. Blind
Indus. & Servs. of Md., 179 F.3d 754, 758 (9th
Cir.1999). “A state may waive its sovereign immunity
through conduct that is incompatible with an intent to
preserve that immunity.” Id. (Internal
citation omitted). Notably, the Ninth Circuit has
“found that state defendants engaged in conduct
‘incompatible with' an intent to preserve sovereign
immunity when they raised a sovereign immunity defense only
belatedly, after extensive proceedings on the merits.”
Id. In Johnson, the Ninth Circuit
determined that the defendant waived Eleventh Amendment
immunity when it participated in discovery, and did not raise
it in its motion to dismiss or motion for summary judgment.
The court noted that “[i]n circumstances like these, we
deem the defendant to have made a tactical decision to delay
asserting the sovereign immunity defense[, ]” and that
“[s]uch tactical delay undermines the integrity of the
judicial system[, ] . . . wastes judicial resources, burdens
jurors and witnesses, and imposes substantial costs upon the
litigants.” Johnson, 623 at 1022 (Internal
quotations and citations omitted).
Defendants did not file a motion to dismiss, but raised
sovereign immunity in their motion for summary judgment.
However, that motion was delayed by stipulation, and thus was
filed more than two years after the events supporting the
allegations in the case. This is significant because
Duffin's claims are likely now barred in state court by
the statute of limitations. See Idaho Code Ann. §
5-219(4) (two-year statute of limitations for personal injury
actions); Knox v. Davis, 260 F.3d 1009, 1012-13 (9th
Cir.2001) (for § 1983 claims, federal courts apply the
forum state's personal injury statute of limitations and
federal law for determining accrual; a § 1983 claim
accrues when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the
injury that forms the basis of the action).
the law in Idaho is well-established that ISU, and presumably
all other state universities, are arms of the state and
protected by Eleventh Amendment immunity. Therefore, there
was no need to develop any factual basis on that issue before
asserting Eleventh Amendment immunity. Allowing Defendants to
assert Eleventh Amendment immunity now would fly in the face
of the Rule 1 admonition that the Court construe and apply
the rules and procedures in a manner that secures the just,
speedy and inexpensive resolution of all disputes. Defendants
initially chose to defend the claims on the merits in federal
court by engaging in discovery, stipulating to extend
deadlines, and waiting until the dispositive motion deadline
to assert Eleventh Amendment immunity. The Court can only
conclude that this was a tactical attempt to deny Duffin his
day in Court. The Court will not allow Eleventh Amendment
immunity to be used that way. Accordingly, the Court finds
that Defendants have waived their sovereign immunity defense,
and will address the claims on the merits.