Eastland Court of Appeals holds violation of internal policies does not automatically equate to constitutional violation

John Doe v. University of North Texas Health Science Center, et. al., 02-19-00321-CV, (Tex. App – Fort Worth, April 2, 2020)

This is a due process/due course of law case involving enrollment in medical school where the Fort Worth Court of Appeals affirmed the granting of the University’s plea to the jurisdiction.

“John Doe” was enrolled in medical school when he took a leave of absence after being questioned about failing to submit the paperwork for his fourth-year rotation. Doe asserts the University was required to reenroll him the following year as part of a leave-of-absence agreement. The University considered him dismissed from the program. When the University did not reenroll him, he sued, pro se.   Doe asserted he was entitled to some form of hearing and opportunity to explain matters before the University decided not to reenroll him. The University filed a plea to the jurisdiction, which was granted. Doe appealed.

Since this is an academic setting, certain deference is given to school administrators, especially when it comes to professional judgment calls. What process is due depends on the circumstances and is a flexible standard. However, the standard is set by the constitution, not by the institution’s internal policies. Simply because an institution violates one of its own procedural rules or even a perceived agreement outside of the rules does not automatically equate to a constitutional violation. After reviewing the record, the court held he was given the proper level of constitutionally required notice and opportunity to respond. As a result, the plea was properly granted.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel consists of Chief Justice Sudderth,  Justices Gabriel and Bassel. Memorandum Opinion by Justice Bassel. Docket page with attorney information can be found here.


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