Professor loses in federal court due to pleading deficencies

Raj v Louisiana State University, et al, No. 12-30225, (5th Cir. April 19, 2013).

Rai was a professor of biochemistry and obstetrics and gynecology at Louisiana State University (“LSU”) and brought claims for discrimination based on his race, religion, national origin, age, and gender. The district court dismissed under a Rule 12(b)(6) and the 5th Circuit affirmed noting that sovereign immunity bars  claims under state law; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1985. In short, the case is more of an analysis of the pleadings standards in federal court than strong substantive rulings.

Raj is a male over 40 of East Indian origin who alleges his salary was lower than all other professors.  Raj asserts his supervisor pressured him to write a letter of retirement when Raj did not wish to retire, closed his lab, gave away his personal equipment, inconvenienced his research and asserted a large host of other factual claims of discrimination.

The 5th Circuit first ruled that Raj waived his claims against LSU because he did not raise them specifically in his appellate brief. Further Louisiana has 11th Amendment immunity and so does LSU. Raj asserted 1tth Amendment does not bar declaratory and injunctive relief against individual officials; however, Raj failed to name any individual officials and therefore could not overcome the immunity.

Important points for local government attorneys in this case are 1) the district court erred by holding an evidentiary burden for a pleading challenge, but the court nonetheless asserted the pleadings were deficient because they did not connect any of the myriad of complaints to a motive based on a protected class, 2) the analysis of the pleading standards require the pleading connected facts which are more than mere speculation.

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