United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO
Dennis Saylor IV United States District Judge
an action arising out of plaintiff Joel Mateo's
withdrawal from the University of New Hampshire School of Law
(“UNH Law”) while under investigation for
violating the school's code of conduct. Two years after
withdrawing, Mateo was unable to obtain transfer admission to
other law schools, apparently in part due to the unresolved
conduct issue. He was also denied readmission to UNH Law.
is proceeding pro se. The complaint alleges a claim
for denial of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment,
which the Court will interpret as a claim under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. More specifically, it alleges that defendants
failed to provide Mateo an opportunity to be heard and
deprived him of his liberty interest in pursuing a legal
education and career. The complaint also alleges common-law
claims for defamation, negligent infliction of emotional
distress, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
have moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal
jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). In the
alternative, defendants have moved to dismiss the common-law
defamation claim for failure to state a claim pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), and request a transfer of venue to the
District of New Hampshire pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
following reasons, the motion to dismiss pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction will
be denied; the motion to dismiss the defamation claim will be
granted; and the request for a transfer of venue to the
District of New Hampshire pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1404(a) will also be granted.
otherwise noted, the following facts are undisputed or
presented as stated in the complaint.
University System of New Hampshire (“UNH”) is a
body politic established pursuant to New Hampshire law with
an address of 5 Chenell Drive, Suite 301, Concord, New
Hampshire. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss Ex. A (Provencher
Decl.) ¶ 2). UNH Law, also located in Concord, is a
component institution of UNH. (Id. ¶ 3).
Neither UNH Law nor UNH have campuses in Massachusetts.
(Id. ¶ 4). UNH currently employs thirteen
individuals in Massachusetts: five researchers and eight
adjunct professors who teach online courses. (Id.
Canning is the Assistant Dean of Students at UNH Law. (Compl.
¶ 2). She is, and was at all relevant times, a resident
of New Hampshire. (Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss Ex. B (Canning
Decl.) ¶ 1). She does not own any property in
Massachusetts. (Id. ¶ 2).
Mateo is currently a resident of Massachusetts. (Compl. at
1). In the fall of 2015, Mateo was a student at UNH Law. On
November 5, 2015, he withdrew from UNH Law while under
investigation for violating the school's conduct code.
(Id. ¶ 1). The nature of the alleged violation
is not set forth in the record.
5, 2017, Mateo sent an e-mail to Canning in order to acquire
a letter of good standing for use in transfer applications to
other law schools. (Id. ¶ 2). She responded,
giving him two options. (Id. ¶ 3). He could
seek to have the school resolve the conduct-code issue, after
which it would issue a letter based on its findings.
(Id.). Alternatively, she could write a letter of
current standing, stating that he was ineligible to return to
UNH Law until the pending conduct-code charge was resolved,
and he could submit that letter, along with his own response,
to any prospective law schools. (Id.). He ultimately
elected to proceed with the second option. (Id.
24, 2017, Canning produced the requested letter of current
standing. (Id. ¶ 7). On June 30, 2017, Mateo
applied to Suffolk University Law School in Boston.
(Id. ¶ 8). On July 13, 2017, Canning submitted
the letter of current standing to Suffolk. (Id.
¶ 9). On July 27, 2017, Mateo was denied admission to
Suffolk. (Id. ¶ 10).
August 7, 2017, Mateo informed Canning that he now wished to
pursue the first option-resolution of the pending
conduct-code charge. (Id. ¶ 11). Canning
responded by informing Mateo that he would have to re-enroll
in the UNH Law program in order to trigger that resolution
process. (Id. ¶ 12). On January 16, 2018, Mateo
confirmed his desire to reenroll. (Id. ¶ 16).
However, because it had been more than two years since he had
withdrawn from school, the school informed him that he would
have to reapply with advance standing in order to re-enroll.
(Id. ¶ 17).
March 19, 2018, Mateo submitted his application to UNH Law.
(Id. ¶ 18). His application for admission was
ultimately denied. (Id. ¶ 19). He then applied
to New England Law School in Boston. (Id. ¶
20). UNH Law submitted the same letter of current standing to
New England Law upon his request. (Id. ¶¶
21-22). That application for admission was also denied.
(Id. ¶ 23).
filed the complaint in this action on September 14, 2018. The
complaint alleges claims for violation of 42 U.S.C. §
1983; defamation; negligent infliction of emotional distress;
and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Defendants
have moved to dismiss the claims against them under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction. In
the alternative, defendants have moved to dismiss the
defamation claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to
state a claim, and have requested a transfer of the action to
the District of New Hampshire pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the court has
personal jurisdiction over the defendants. Daynard v.
Ness, Motley, Loadholt, Richardson & Poole, P.A.,
290 F.3d 42, 50 (1st Cir. 2002). In considering a motion to
dismiss under Rule 12(b)(2), the court may employ several
standards to assess whether plaintiff has carried that
burden: the “prima facie” standard; the
“preponderance-of-the-evidence” standard; or the
“likelihood” standard. See Id. at 50-51,
51 n.5; Foster-Miller, Inc. v. Babcock & Wilcox
Canada, 46 F.3d 138, 145-46 (1st Cir. 1995). Where, as
here, the court is called to make that assessment without
first holding an evidentiary hearing, the prima
facie standard is applied. See United States v.
Swiss Am. Bank, Ltd., 274 F.3d 610, 618 (1st Cir. 2001).
Under that standard, the court takes the plaintiff's
“properly documented evidentiary proffers as true and
construe[s] them in the light most favorable to
[plaintiff's] jurisdictional claim.” A Corp. v.
All Am. Plumbing, Inc., 812 F.3d 54, 58 (1st Cir. 2016)
(citing Phillips v. Prairie Eye Ctr., 530 F.3d 22,
26 (1st Cir. 2008)). A plaintiff may not “rely on
unsupported allegations in [its] pleadings.” A
Corp., 812 F.3d at 58 (quoting Platten v. HG Bermuda
Exempted Ltd., 437 F.3d 118, 134 (1st Cir. 2006)).
“Rather, [the plaintiff] must put forward
‘evidence of specific facts' to demonstrate that
jurisdiction exists.” Id. (quoting
Foster-Miller, 46 F.3d at 145). Facts offered by the
defendant “become part of the mix only to the extent
that they are uncontradicted.” Astro-Med, Inc. v.
Nihon Kohden Am., Inc., 591 F.3d 1, 8 (1st Cir. 2009)
(quoting Adelson v. Hananel, 510 F.3d 43, 48 (1st
establish personal jurisdiction, plaintiff must show that the
requirements of the Massachusetts long-arm statute, Mass.
Gen. Laws ch. 223A, § 3, are satisfied, and that the
exercise of jurisdiction is consistent with constitutional
due process. Daynard, 290 F.3d at 52; Intech,
Inc. v. Triple “C” Marine Salvage, Inc., 444
Mass. 122, 125 (2005). Due process requires that a plaintiff
alleging specific personal jurisdiction establish the
existence of three conditions:
First, the claim underlying the litigation must directly
arise out of, or relate to, the defendant's forum-state
activities. Second, the defendant's in-state contacts
must represent a purposeful availment of the privilege of
conducting activities in the forum state, thereby invoking
the benefits and protections of that state's laws and
making the defendant's involuntary presence before the
state's courts foreseeable. Third, the exercise of
jurisdiction must be reasonable.
Copia Commc'ns, LLC v. AMResorts, L.P., 812 F.3d
1, 4 (1st Cir. 2016) (quoting Phillips, 530 F.3d at