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Nwaubani v. Grossman

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

November 25, 2015

CHIDIEBERE NWAUBANI, Plaintiff, Appellant,
v.
DIVINA GROSSMAN, in her official capacity as Chancellor, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and in her individual capacity, et al., Defendants, Appellees

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS. Hon. William G. Young, U.S. District Judge.

Eric Nwaubani on brief for appellant.

Maura Healey, Attorney General, Dierdre Heatwole, Special Assistant Attorney General, General Counsel, and Denise Barton, Assistant Counsel, on brief for appellees.

Before Howard, Chief Judge, Selya and Thompson, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 678

THOMPSON, Circuit Judge.

This appeal arises out of a district court's decision to combine a preliminary injunction hearing with trial under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65(a)(2). We dismiss the appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction.

BACKGROUND

In 2005, Chidiebere Nwaubani (" Nwaubani" ) was hired as the director of the African American Studies Program at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, and then subsequently also appointed as a tenured Associate Professor in the university's History Department.

Over the years, Nwaubani's relationship with the university got rocky. For our purposes, we need not delve too far into these details, but suffice it to say that the crux of the conflict centered on disagreements about Nwaubani's performance as director of the African American Studies Program and on Nwaubani's efforts to get out from under the thumb of the History Department, whose negative annual evaluations in 2006-07 and 2007-08, Nwaubani says, resulted in his being passed over for a promotion to full Professor status in subsequent years. Things came to a head and Nwaubani was placed on unpaid administrative leave on July 10, 2013, and then notified on November 8, 2013 that the university had commenced termination proceedings against him.

This prompted Nwaubani, represented by counsel, to file suit, alleging various causes of action, including claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Nwaubani filed his original complaint on October 11, 2013, but filed on January 28, 2014 an amended complaint and a separate motion for preliminary injunction, requesting that the district court order the ongoing termination proceedings be halted and Nwaubani be reinstated as director of the African American Studies Program.[1] The defendants moved to dismiss this first amended complaint on the ground that it failed to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a).[2] The district court denied the motion without prejudice, and instead directed Nwaubani to amend the complaint to comply with Rule 8.

On March 14, 2014, Nwaubani filed his second amended complaint, along with an amended motion for preliminary injunction (which more or less requested the same relief as the first motion for preliminary injunction). Now here is how the case came to be before us today. The defendants moved to dismiss the second amended complaint on April 18, 2014, again arguing

Page 679

that it still suffered from the same pleading defects, and as such did not comply with Rule 8. They also contended that the claims against some of the defendants should be dismissed on administrative exhaustion grounds. On June 10, 2014, the district court held a hearing on the motion to dismiss, at which Nwaubani's counsel did not show up.[3] By electronic order issued that day, the district court both granted in part and denied in part the motion to dismiss the second amended complaint (on the written briefs, since no hearing was held), and ...


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