United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
PATRICK MICHAEL DUFFY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Matthew Heath's
objections to United States Magistrate Judge Jacquelyn D.
Austin's report and recommendation (“R &
R”) (ECF Nos. 27 & 26). The Magistrate Judge
recommends denying Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary
injunction (ECF No. 5). For the reasons stated herein, the
Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge's recommendation
and denies Plaintiff's motion.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
the parties have no objections, the Court, finding no clear
error, adopts the background set out in the R & R. The
Court briefly summarizes and supplements that factual and
procedural background as relevant.
entered into a contract with Defendant College of Charleston
on July 1, 2015, to be the head coach of the men's
baseball team for five years. Plaintiff's contract
provided that he could be terminated for “Just Cause,
” such as violating school or athletic conference
rules, failing to perform job responsibilities, or violating
the terms of the contract. The contract provided that if the
athletic director initiated a termination for Just Cause, the
director would notify Plaintiff, provide him an opportunity
to respond, and submit a final recommendation to the College
president. Plaintiff would have an opportunity to contest the
recommendation, and the President would then make a final
summer of 2017, the College investigated Plaintiff's
performance and conduct. On June 14, 2017, the College's
Athletic Director, Matt Roberts, notified Plaintiff of the
initiation of Just Cause termination procedures. On June 16,
Plaintiff objected that he had not been afforded a hearing to
respond to the allegations of misconduct. On June 19,
Plaintiff submitted a response to the notice. On June 23,
Roberts submitted his final recommendation to Defendant
College President Glenn McConnell. On June 28, Plaintiff
objected to the recommendation and reiterated his request for
a hearing. On June 30, President McConnell rendered a final
decision to terminate Plaintiff.
suit was initiated on July 7, when Plaintiff filed a
complaint asserting a deprivation of his constitutional due
process rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On July
11, Plaintiff moved for a preliminary injunction to enjoin
Defendants from violating Plaintiff's constitutional
rights and to order a hearing with the opportunity to be
represented by counsel, present evidence, and call and
cross-examine witnesses. On August 30, the Magistrate Judge
issued an R & R recommending that the Court deny
Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction.
Plaintiff filed objections on September 13, and Defendants
replied on September 25. Plaintiff filed a sur-reply on
October 3, and Defendants filed a response on November 1.
Accordingly, this matter is now ripe for review.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court.
The R & R has no presumptive weight, and the
responsibility for making a final determination remains with
the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71
(1976). Parties may make written objections to the R & R
within fourteen days after being served with a copy of it. 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). This Court must conduct a de novo
review of any portion of the R & R to which a specific
objection is made, and it may accept, reject, or modify the
Magistrate Judge's findings and recommendations in whole
or in part. Id. Additionally, the Court may receive
more evidence or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge
with instructions. Id. A party's failure to
object is taken as the party's agreement with the
Magistrate Judge's conclusions. See Thomas v.
Arn, 474 U.S. 140 (1985). Absent a timely, specific
objection-or as to those portions of the R & R to which
no specific objection is made-this Court “must
‘only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on
the face of the record in order to accept the
recommendation.'” Diamond v. Colonial Life
& Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir.
2005) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's
seeking injunctive relief must show (1) he is likely to
succeed on the merits; (2) he is likely to suffer irreparable
harm in the absence of preliminary relief; (3) the balance of
equities tips in his favor; and (4) that the injunctive
relief he seeks is in the public interest. Winter v.
Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008).
The Magistrate Judge based her recommendation to deny the
injunction on her finding that Plaintiff had not established
that he is likely to succeed on the merits of his procedural
due process claims.
Objections One, Two, and Four
first objection is that that Magistrate Judge misapplied
Cleveland Board of Education v. Loudermill, 470 U.S.
532 (1985), in determining that an adequate post-termination
remedy exists for Plaintiff in the form of a claim for breach
of contract in state court. Plaintiff's second objection
is that the Magistrate Judge failed to apply the correct
legal standard for determining when an adequate
post-termination remedy exists for a public employee in a
breach-of-contract action in state court. Plaintiff's
fourth objection is that the Magistrate Judge erred in
relying on Burch v. North Carolina Department of Public
Safety, 158 F.Supp.3d 449 (E.D. N.C. 2016). All three
objections require the Court to examine whether Plaintiff has
an adequate post-termination remedy through a state court
action, such as a claim for breach of contract.
Loudermill, the Magistrate Judge found that the
College had provided Plaintiff with “oral or written
notice of the charges against him, and an opportunity to
present his side of the story, ” id. at 546,
before termination because Plaintiff submitted an objection
to the notice on June 16, a response with objections on June
19, and objections to Roberts' recommendation on June 28,
all before President McConnell rendered his termination
decision on June 30. Relying on Loudermill's
direction that pre-termination procedures “need not be
elaborate” when an employee is afforded adequate
post-termination procedures, id. at 545, the
Magistrate Judge ...