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Suppes v. The Curators of University of Missouri

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Third Division

June 20, 2017

GALEN SUPPES, Appellant,
v.
THE CURATORS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI, Respondent.

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF BOONE COUNTY, MISSOURI THE HONORABLE JEFFREY A. HARRIS, JUDGE

          Before: Anthony Rex Gabbert, Presiding Judge, Victor C. Howard, Judge and Cynthia L. Martin, Judge

          VICTOR C. HOWARD, JUDGE

         Galen Suppes appeals the trial court's grant of judgment on the pleadings in favor of the Curators of the University of Missouri (University) on Suppes's declaratory judgment and injunctive relief action challenging the University's procedures for dismissal for cause. The judgment is affirmed.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Suppes's pleadings, which are taken as true for the purposes of this appeal, asserted that the University is a body politic created pursuant to the Missouri Constitution and section 172.010.[1] It operates a campus in Columbia where Suppes is employed as a tenured full professor in the College of Engineering.

         The University has established written procedures for dismissal of tenured faculty for cause found in Collected Rules and Regulations (CRR) 310.060. They require the faculty member be notified in writing of the proposed action for dismissal and the reasons therefore "stated with reasonable particularity." CRR 310.060.B.2.a. The faculty member may request a hearing by the University Faculty Committee on Tenure (FTC). Id. At the hearing, which is recorded, the parties may be represented by counsel, make opening statements, present witnesses and exhibits, cross-examine witnesses, and make statements to the FTC. CRR 310.060.B.5, B.7 & C. Following the hearing, the FTC makes a written, official report by majority vote, with findings of fact as to each count and a recommendation on the whole charge. CRR 310.060.B.9. The FTC's official report is transmitted to the Chancellor, and after giving due consideration to the FTC's report, the Chancellor makes a determination in the matter or may remand it to the FTC for further proceedings. CRR 310.060.B.9 & D.1. The parties may appeal the Chancellor's decision to the President of the University, who may affirm, reverse, or remand the case for further proceedings after reviewing the full record of the case. CRR 310.060.D. The parties may appeal the President's decision to the Board of Curators of the University, where the parties have the right of appearance before a committee of the Board. CRR 310.060.D.3.a & D.3.b.

         By letter dated September 2, 2016 (charge letter), Suppes was notified that the University was initiating proceedings under CRR 310.060 to dismiss him for cause. The charge letter included thirty pages of detailed charges and forty-two exhibits. The letter also included a "Notice of Your Right to Hearing" notifying Suppes of his right under CRR 310.060.B to request a hearing before the FTC. By letter dated September 26, 2016, Suppes was notified that the CRR 310.060 proceedings were beginning.

         Suppes filed a declaratory judgment action to declare that the University's written procedures for dismissal for cause CRR 310.060 do not meet the statutory requirements of a contested case under the Missouri Administrative Procedures Act (MAPA) and thus do not provide him with due process. He further requested the entry of a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, and permanent injunction preventing University from proceeding with dismissal for cause under CRR 310.060.

         The University filed its answer and, thereafter, a motion for judgment on the pleadings. It argued that section 536.018 does not require that the University's procedures conform to the requirements of a contested case under the MAPA but that they assure that constitutionally required due process safeguards exist and apply. It further argued that the University's procedures do provide Suppes with such due process.

         The trial court granted the University's motion for judgment on the pleadings. This appeal by Suppes followed.[2]

         Standard of Review

         "The question presented by a motion for judgment on the pleadings is whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the face of the pleadings." Eaton v. Mallinckrodt, Inc., 224 S.W.3d 596, 599 (Mo. banc 2007). "The well-pleaded facts of the non-moving party's pleading are treated as admitted for purposes of the motion." Id. The grant of judgment on the pleadings will be affirmed on appeal if the facts pleaded by the petitioner, together with the benefit of all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, show that ...


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