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Schaeffer v. Northern Virginia Community College

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

May 12, 2015



JAMES C. CACHERIS, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Northern Virginia Community College's ("NVCC" or "Defendant") Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim and Subject Matter Jurisdiction. [Dkt. 29.] For the following reasons, the Court will grant the motion.

I. Background

Todd Schaeffer ("Schaeffer" or "Plaintiff") is a former student at NVCC who took several courses from 2006 to 2011. (Def.'s Mem. in Supp. [Dkt. 153-1] at 2.) Beginning in 2007, Schaeffer submitted grade appeals for seven of those courses. ( Id .; see also Compl. [Dkt. 1], Ex. 1, at 17-24.) Pursuant to NVCC's grade appeal policy, he appealed to his professors, the dean, provost, and the president of NVCC. ( Id .; see also Compl., Ex. 1, at 24-30.)

Schaeffer's complaint contains a litany of allegations. First, he alleges that "[a]ppeals, complaints, and grievances processes did not always follow policy manual but discretion of faculty, " and that his "records were altered and not corrected." (Compl. at 1.) He also alleges that "modifications" to NVCC's computer resources rendered him "unable to perform the functions necessary for timely completion of courses." ( Id. ) "Requests for help and extension were wrongfully denied." ( Id. ) Additionally, Schaeffer alleges that a grievance panel was not appointed to hear "grievable matter" related to violations. ( Id. )

As a remedy, Schaeffer seeks $1, 9450.00 as reimbursement for thirteen credit hours, $400.00 in legal expenses, and $350.00 for administrative costs. ( Id. ) "Also, [NVCC] is to provide an official transcript reflecting accurate number of completed credits, correct grade point average (GPA), Bookkeeping and Contract Management (Cum Laude) Certificates with correct graduation dates, and Dean's List standing Spring, Summer, and Fall of 2009." ( Id. )

It is unclear under what legal theory Schaeffer is asserting in his complaint. It appears from the complaint that he is bringing suit under 34 C.F.R. § 21.10 and 34 C.F.R. § 33.2. ( Id. at 1.) NVCC has moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and for failure to state a claim on which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Def.'s Mem. in 1.) Having been fully briefed and argued, this motion is ripe for disposition.

II. Legal Standard

A. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

"It is a principle of first importance that the

federal courts are tribunals of limited subject matter jurisdiction." 13 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 3522. "[S]ubject matter jurisdiction relates to a federal court's power to hear a case, and that power is generally conferred by the basic statutory grants of subject matter jurisdiction, such as 28 U.S.C. § 1331 or 28 U.S.C. § 1332." Holloway v. Pagan River Dockside Seafood, Inc., 669 F.3d 448, 453 (4th Cir. 2012). Section 1331, known as federal question jurisdiction, empowers a federal district court to hear "all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Section 1332, known as diversity jurisdiction, grants a federal district court jurisdiction over "all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between citizens of different states[.]" 28 U.S.C. § 1332. The burden is on the party invoking the court's jurisdiction (typically the plaintiff) to establish subject matter jurisdiction. Allen v. College of William & Mary, 245 F.Supp.2d 777, 782 (E.D. Va. 2003). Dismissal is the only remedy when a federal court finds subject matter jurisdiction lacking. Matthews v. Fairfax Trucking, Inc., No. 1:14cv1219-GBL-IDD, 2015 WL 1906073, at *2 (E.D. Va. Apr. 15, 2015) (citing cases).

A defendant may challenge subject matter jurisdiction through a motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). "[A] defendant may present a facial attack on upon the complaint where the complaint fails to allege facts upon which subject matter jurisdiction may be based." Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). In such a case, the court assumes the truth of all facts alleged by the plaintiff. Id.

Alternatively, a defendant may contend that "the jurisdictional allegations are not true." Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). "In that situation, the presumption of truthfulness normally accorded a complaint's allegations does not apply, and the district court is entitled to decide disputed issues of fact with respect to subject matter jurisdiction." Id. Thus, a district court may go beyond the allegations of the ...

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