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Podems v. University of Alaska

United States District Court, D. Alaska

November 21, 2016

UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA, et al., Defendants.



         Andrew Michael Podems, a resident of Newton, New Jersey, appearing pro se, filed a complaint under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the University of Alaska, Anchorage (“UAA”) and three individuals employed by UAA.[1]


         Podems Complaint arises out of his enrollment as a student in UAA. According to Podems he had been unlawfully denied a copy of his college transcript because he refused to pay a tuition bill he claims was not due. According to Podems UAA refused to grant him a fair hearing prior to initiating collection action through Cornerstone Credit Services. Podems further alleges that he was forced to pay the bill in order to receive a copy of his transcript, which was necessary for him to obtain his teaching certification.

         Podems seeks actual damages in the amount of $1, 600, 000, and punitive damages in the amount of 2, 000, 000.


         The payment of a filing fee or any portion thereof not withstanding, this Court is required to dismiss a case at any time that the Court determines that the Complaint “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted.”[2] As presently constituted, Podems' Complaint is deficient.

         In determining whether a complaint states a claim, the Court looks to the pleading standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). Under Rule 8(a), a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”[3] “[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require ‘detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.”[4] Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), including the rule that complaints filed by pro se plaintiffs are to be liberally construed, according plaintiff the benefit of any doubt, and dismissal should be granted only where it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can plead no facts in support of his claim that would entitle him or her to relief.[5]

         This requires the presentation of factual allegations sufficient to state a plausible claim for relief.[6] “[A] complaint [that] pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a defendant's liability . . . ‘stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'”[7] Further, although a court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in a complaint, a court need not accept a plaintiff's legal conclusions as true.[8]“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”[9]

         This action is brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress, except that in any action brought against a judicial officer for an act or omission taken in such officer's judicial capacity, injunctive relief shall not be granted unless a declaratory decree was violated or declaratory relief was unavailable. For the purposes of this section, any Act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia shall be considered to be a statute of the District of Columbia.

         Normally the Court would apply this section to this matter. However, in this particular case, it is apparent from the Complaint and the matters of which the Court may take judicial notice, that Podems is not entitled to relief in this Court under two principles: subject-matter jurisdiction and the doctrine of res judicata.

         A court always has a duty to examine its own subject-matter jurisdiction.[10] Under the doctrine of res judicata, this Court is precluded from re-examining an issue that has already been decided by a court of competent jurisdiction.[11]

         Subject Matter Jurisdiction. In his Complaint Podems refers to an action brought by Cornerstone against him in the Alaska Small Claims Court.[12] A review of the docket in that case indicates that judgment was entered in favor of Cornerstone in the amount of $1, 039.27 on May 7, 2010, which was satisfied on February 2, 2012. The record further reflects that Podems appealed to the Alaska Superior Court from that judgment, and the Superior Court ...

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