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Satcher v. University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Board of Trustees

March 3, 2009

BUFORD T. SATCHER, APPELLANT,
v.
UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS AT PINE BLUFF BOARD OF TRUSTEES, LAWRENCE A. DAVIS, JR., MARY BENJAMIN, WILLIAM WILLINGHAM, EBO TEI, BETTY GRIFFITH, CLIFTON ORR, APPELLEES.



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magnuson, District Judge.

Submitted: December 11, 2008

Before MELLOY and BENTON, Circuit Judges, and MAGNUSON,*fn1 District Judge.

Appellant Dr. Buford Satcher appeals from the District Court's*fn2 grant of summary judgment in favor of Appellee Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas, Pine Bluff ("UAPB"). We affirm.

BACKGROUND

Satcher began teaching in the History Department at UAPB in 1981. He was given tenure in 1987. In 1999, he brought suit against UAPB, alleging that his removal as chairman of his department violated his constitutional rights. The parties agreed to settle the matter early in the discovery process. Defendants in that lawsuit (many of whom were also named as Defendants in this lawsuit) paid Satcher a nominal sum and, along with Satcher, agreed to use their "best efforts to foster and promote a spirit of harmony within the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences." (J.A. at 261.)

Appellee Dr. Ebo Tei was named chairman of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at UAPB in 1999. His ascension to this position gave rise to Satcher's first lawsuit. Satcher blames Tei for all of the problems within the department and essentially contends that Tei had a personal vendetta against him.

Not long after the first lawsuit was settled, things began to unravel. According to Satcher, Tei "consistently worked behind the scenes to place Satcher in the worst light possible to UAPB Administration and characterized Satcher as a troublemaker . . . ." (App't's Supp. Mem. at 9-10.) Appellees take a different view, cataloging Satcher's refusal to comply with or even acknowledge requests from Tei and other UAPB administrators. For example, Satcher was required to file a report after his sabbatical in the fall of 1999. Satcher refused to file the required report and eventually was asked to pay UAPB back the salary he received during his sabbatical. Satcher also refused to provide his curriculum vitae to, or meet with, members of the accrediting team responsible for UAPB's accreditation from the National Council for Accreditation of Teachers Education.

From 2000 to 2003, Satcher's relationship with Tei and with the UAPB administration grew more and more strained. Apparently believing that Tei was out to get him, Satcher began filming his own classes, those of other professors, and even student registration. He refused to attend faculty meetings. Satcher was repeatedly reprimanded for his behavior. In response, he sent letters to Tei and to the administration, accusing them of breaching the settlement agreement. These letters threatened another lawsuit and contained vituperative and insubordinate language. For example, in one letter he called Dr. Tei a "charlatan" and a "hypocrite." (J.A. at 142-46.)

The tension came to a head in the summer of 2003. After Satcher once again refused to provide Tei and the Dean with information they requested, Tei told Satcher that he would not be allowed to teach any classes in the 2003 summer session. Satcher claims that he got complaints from students that no one was teaching the class he was originally scheduled to teach. He then went to the class and started filming the apparent lack of an instructor. UAPB security officers removed Satcher from the classroom. After this incident, Satcher received a letter from the Dean warning him that further class disruptions would result in Satcher's termination. In August, however, Satcher began filming students registering for classes. Once again, UAPB security removed him from the area.

In response to Satcher's behavior, UAPB's Chancellor summoned Satcher to a meeting on August 25, 2003. Satcher did not show up at this meeting. Thereafter, the Dean decided to terminate Satcher's employment. He scheduled a meeting with Satcher for September 12, 2003, and sent Satcher notice of the meeting via certified mail, regular U.S. mail, and hand delivery. The notice informed Satcher that the purpose of the meeting was to "discuss the future of [Satcher's] employment at UAPB." (J.A. at 70, 104-105, 130, 184.) Satcher failed to show up for this meeting.

According to UAPB's employment policy, the first step in terminating the employment of an employee with tenure is an informal meeting. The next step is notice to the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs of the grounds for dismissal. Because of Satcher's failure to attend the informal meeting, the Dean proceeded to prepare the statement of grounds for his dismissal. He sent this statement to the Vice Chancellor and to Satcher. Satcher refused delivery of the statement. The Vice Chancellor then forwarded the Dean's termination recommendation to the Chancellor. The Chancellor accepted the recommendation and sent notice to Satcher that his employment was being terminated for his unwillingness to perform his duties and fulfill his responsibilities to UAPB. The notice advised Satcher that he was entitled to a hearing on his termination. The termination was effective one year from the date of the Chancellor's notice, or October 31, 2004. Rather than seeking a hearing pursuant to UAPB policy, Satcher instead filed this lawsuit.

His Complaint initially claimed violations of the 1st and 14th Amendments, Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983, and state-law claims of breach of contract, outrage, false arrest, and battery. He named as Defendants the Board of Trustees of UAPB, Tei, the Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, and Dean,*fn3 and another individual whose role in the preceding events is less than clear. After motions to dismiss, the only remaining claims were claims against the Board and Tei of 1st Amendment retaliation, procedural and substantive due process violations, ยง 1981 race discrimination, and state-law claims of breach of contract and outrage. The Board and Tei moved for summary judgment, which the ...


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