United States District Court, S.D. New York
OPINION AND ORDER
Vincent L. Briccetti United States District Judge.
Robin Bhattacharya, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 against defendants Rockland Community College and
SUNY Rockland Community College Board of Trustees
(collectively “RCC”); and the Rockland Community
College Adjunct Faculty Association, Local 4896, NYSUT, AFT,
AFL-CIO, and its president, Jerry Borreggine (collectively
“the Faculty Association defendants”), alleging
he was retaliated against for exercising his First Amendment
Rights. Plaintiff also brings several claims under New York
pending are defendants' motions to dismiss the amended
complaint (Docs. ##34, 39), and plaintiff's motion for
leave to file a second amended complaint, and to file a late
notice of claim. (Doc. #49).
following reasons, RCC's motion is GRANTED, the Faculty
Association defendants' motion is DENIED AS MOOT, and
plaintiff's motion is DENIED.
Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
deciding the pending motion, the Court accepts as true all
well-pleaded allegations of the amended complaint and draws
all reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor.
worked as an adjunct professor at RCC from 2009 through May
2015. In April 2015, five days before the final exam in a
course plaintiff was teaching, “a group of about five
students demanded that [plaintiff] provide them with all the
test questions and answers in advance of the final.”
(Am. Compl. ¶ 48). Plaintiff told the students he would
not do so “under any circumstances.”
(Id. ¶ 49).
thereafter, the RCC Division Chair Cathy Roche showed
plaintiff an anonymous letter she received from some of
plaintiff's students, in which they complained about
plaintiff's teaching methods. (Am. Compl. ¶¶
alleges one or more of the students who were behind the
anonymous complaint letter were the same student(s) who had
requested exam questions and answers. In addition, plaintiff
alleges some of these students “were flunking [the]
course because of their own lack of effort as students,
” and that ultimately some of those students did fail
the final exam. (Bhattacharya Dec'l ¶ 33).
explained to Roche that he believed the students who
submitted the anonymous complaint letter were
“undoubtedly one (or more) of” the students who
had asked for the final exam questions and answers. (Am.
Compl. ¶ 52).
to plaintiff, Roche “appeared more concern[ed] that the
students who wanted to cheat made a complaint, than about
their efforts to cheat and their motive to make a false
complaint after [plaintiff] refused to permit the
cheating.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 55).
asked another RCC professor to investigate (the
“investigating professor”) the anonymous
complaint letter. Plaintiff alleges Roche knew the
investigating professor “wished to take over . . . some
or all of [plaintiff's] classes.” (Am. Compl.
a meeting with plaintiff on May 14, 2015, the investigating
professor allegedly told plaintiff “that his standards
were ‘too high, ' noting that [plaintiff] had
taught or was [also] teaching at colleges with higher
academic standards than RCC.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 70).
alleges the investigating professor “did not inquire
about the students who sought to cheat, nor did he have any
response to [plaintiff]'s statement . . . that the
student or students who were likely complaining ‘were
barely passing the class'” because of lack of
effort on their part. (Am. Compl. ¶ 73).
concluded the investigating professor was “condoning
academic dishonesty.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 74). He
alleges the investigation was “a baseless hatchet job
designed to cause [plaintiff's] elimination from RCC for
refusing to engage in academic dishonesty and refusing to
allow cheating on the final examination.”
letter dated August 27, 2015, RCC informed plaintiff his
adjunct teaching contract would “not be continued
beyond the Summer, 2015 term.” (Dranoff Dec'l Ex.
than the anonymous complaint letter at issue, during his
period of employment with RCC, plaintiff had “no
negative reviews from the students or from the
faculty.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 16). Moreover, after
plaintiff told his students about the anonymous complaint
letter, he received “several unsolicited emails”
from students voicing support for him and saying they did not
agree with the complaint letter. (Am. Compl. ¶
deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court evaluates the
sufficiency of the operative complaint under the
“two-pronged approach” articulated by the Supreme
Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679
(2009). First, plaintiff's legal conclusions and
“[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” are
not entitled to the assumption of truth and are thus not
sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss. Id. at
678. Second, “[w]hen there are well-pleaded factual
allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then
determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement
to relief.” Id. at 679.
survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the allegations in the
complaint must meet a standard of “plausibility.”
Id. at 678. A claim is facially plausible
“when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows
the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant
is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.
“The plausibility standard is not akin to a
‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more
than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted