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Gasparik v. Stony Brook University

July 2, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lindsay, Magistrate Judge


Before the court, on referral from District Judge Sandra J. Feuerstein, is the defendant's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 56. For the reasons set forth herein, the undersigned recommends that the motion be granted.


Pro se plaintiff Tibor Gasparik ("Gasparik"), a self-described registered Republican with conservative views, filed the complaint in this action against the defendant, Stony Brook University ("SUNY"), alleging pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985 and 1986 that it violated his federal constitutional rights to free speech and to free association. Compl. at ¶¶ 1, 27-28. The undisputed facts are set forth below in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Blackman v. New York City Transit Authority, No. CV 06-4714, 2007 WL 1774638, at * 3 (2d Cir. June 21, 2007).


Gasparik began his employment with SUNY in April 1985. Compl. at ¶ 6, Def.'s 56.1 Statement at ¶ 1. Plaintiff was employed by SUNY as a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Earth and Space Sciences under a series of temporary grants received by SUNY from the National Science Foundation. (See letters regarding the plaintiff's temporary employment with SUNY annexed as Ex. C. to the Pack Declaration). Upon expiration of the last grant, the research project on which the plaintiff had been working was terminated and his employment with SUNY ended. Toward the end of his employment, Gasparik chose not to apply for positions which might have allowed him to continue his employment as a professor with SUNY because he "wasn't personally encouraged to apply." (Gasparik Dep. at 74). According to the plaintiff, while he was employed at SUNY, he was subjected to a series of hostile actions because of his political affiliation and ideology and was forced to look elsewhere for employment. Compl. at ¶ 8.

Following the termination of his employment, the plaintiff took steps to establish a career in secondary school education and to this end undertook a course of study at SUNY. Id. at ¶ 13. According to the plaintiff, he was promised a position at Ralph G. Reed Middle School in Central Islip following completion of all requirements and satisfactory performance as a student teacher between March and May 2005. Id. at ¶ 14. Plaintiff alleges that despite SUNY's promise to expedite the certification process following his completion of all requirements, SUNY instead purposefully delayed the process resulting in the loss of this employment opportunity. Id. at ¶¶ 14-15. Plaintiff further alleges that in June 2005 he posted a website that summarized his dealings and alleged persecution by SUNY. In response, SUNY removed plaintiff's name from the list of faculty members posted on the departmental website and ordered that he vacate his office in the Department. Id. at ¶ 17.

Based on these factual allegations, the plaintiff claims that SUNY has discriminated against him in hiring, retention and promotion, and subjected him to a hostile work environment based on his political affiliation and ideology. Id. at ¶¶ 29, 31-32. Plaintiff further alleges that SUNY violated his right to free speech by removing his name from the list of faculty members and ordering him to vacate his office.

I. Legal Standards


The court must liberally interpret the complaint of a pro se plaintiff. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21, 92 S.Ct. 594, 595 (1972); Williams v. Smith, 781 F.2d 319, 322 (2d Cir. 1986). Taking into consideration the plaintiff's lack of legal training, the court "holds the complaint to 'less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Roberts v. Internal Revenue Service, No. 06 Civ. 1518 (VM), 2006 WL 3873161, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 28, 2006), quoting Boddie v. Schnieder, 105 F.3d 857, 860 (2d Cir. 1997). Nevertheless, pro se status "does not exempt a party from compliance with relevant rules of procedural and substantive law." Traguth v. Zuck, 710 F.2d 90, 95 (2d Cir. 1983) (citations omitted).

A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

To begin with, the court addresses the defendant's challenge to this court's subject matter jurisdiction. SUNY's threshold contention is that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction under the doctrine of Eleventh Amendment immunity. The Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution provides:

The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, ...

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