from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Texas
DAVIS, JONES, and CLEMENT, Circuit Judges.
BROWN CLEMENT, Circuit Judge.
one of at least seven wrongful termination cases arising out
of the legislative abolition of the University of Texas-Pan
American ("UTPA") and the University of Texas at
Brownsville ("UTB"). For the reasons explained
below, we AFFIRM in part and DISMISS in part.
1994, Alexander Edionwe was hired as an Associate Professor
at UTPA. From 1994 to 1997, he served as the Program
Coordinator of the school's Dietetics Program, and was
awarded tenure from UTPA and the University of Texas System
Board of Regents on or about September 1, 2000. As a tenured
faculty member, he was entitled to continuing employment at
UTPA "until retirement or resignation unless terminated
because of abandonment of academic programs or positions,
financial exigency, or good cause."
December 2013, the Texas Legislature passed legislation to
"abolish" UTPA and UTB-effective August 31,
2015-and create a consolidated university in southern Texas
later named the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
("UTRGV"). 2013 Tex. Sess. Law Serv. 1849-1854
(West). "In recognition of the abolition of" UTPA
and UTB, the legislature ordered the board of regents to
"facilitate the employment at [UTRGV] of as many faculty
and staff of the abolished universities as is prudent and
practical, " but left the exact procedures for carrying
out this mandate up to the board's discretion.
Id. at 1853. As such, the board developed a
bifurcated application process for employment at UTRGV.
Details about the application process were published on July
18, 2014, in a document titled "Hiring of Tenured and
Tenure-Track Faculty Members to The University of Texas Rio
Grande Valley Frequently Asked Questions."
hiring was open only to tenured and tenure-track faculty
members from UTPA and UTB-whose "faculty appointments
and tenure" were all scheduled to "terminate"
on the day those universities were abolished. The board
instructed the President of UTRGV to "recommend that the
Board of Regents grant tenure to" all applicants who, in
addition to satisfying six other requirements, held a
"full-time, tenured faculty appointment" at UTPA or
UTB and "timely complete[d] and submit[ted] all
forms required by UTRGV to express the individual's
interest in and qualifications for a tenured faculty
appointment at UTRGV." UTRGV accepted Phase I
applications from August 11, 2014 to September 8, 2014, a
period of four weeks. On November 4, 2014, UTRGV began
accepting applications for Phase II, which was open to the
general public and UTPA and UTB faculty not hired during
week before UTRGV published its Frequently Asked Questions
about Phase I hiring, Edionwe left the country to visit
Nigeria. At oral argument, Edionwe's attorney admitted
that Edionwe was only gone "for a four week
period"-meaning he returned on or about August 8, 2014,
approximately three days before the Phase I application
period even began. Edionwe failed to submit a timely
application prior to the September 8, 2014 deadline. In
October 2014, he contacted UTRGV and was instructed to wait
and apply during Phase II.
about April 15, 2015, Edionwe submitted his Phase II
application for an associate professorship in the Coordinated
Program in Dietetics. He was interviewed on June 4, 2015 and
again a week later. However, on August 5, 2015, he was
informed that the position would not be filled. His
employment and tenure at UTPA terminated on August 31, 2015.
sued UTPA, UTRGV, the UT System, UTRGV President, Guy Bailey,
and UTPA President, Hadian Rodriguez, in the 139th Judicial
District Court of Hidalgo County, Texas, pursuant to 42
U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988, alleging violations of
procedural and substantive due process. He also sought
declaratory judgment pursuant to Chapter 37 of the Texas
Civil Practice and Remedies Code. In his original complaint,
he did not allege any specifics concerning the hiring
process. The Defendants removed the case to federal court and
filed a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings.
Edionwe filed a response, or in the alternative, motion for
leave to amend pleadings. The district court granted the
motion for judgment on the pleadings, holding that Edionwe:
(1) failed to establish a procedural due process claim
because the legislative process afforded Edionwe all the due
process he was entitled to receive; (2) failed to establish a
substantive due process claim because he failed to allege
that the legislative action in question was not rationally
related to a legitimate state interest; and (3) that his
Declaratory Judgment Act claim must be dismissed because all
of the Defendants were entitled to immunity. It failed to
address Edionwe's alternative motion for leave to amend
and issued a final judgment.
then filed a motion to alter or amend judgment, which among
other things renewed his request to amend his pleadings,
attaching a proposed first amended complaint. The amended
complaint included the above-mentioned details about the
bifurcated hiring process. The district court denied his
motion. Edionwe timely appealed.
district court's grant of a Rule 12(c) motion for
judgment on the pleadings is reviewed de novo. See
Bosarge v. Miss. Bureau of Narcotics, 796 F.3d 435, 439
(5th Cir. 2015). "The standard for dismissal under Rule
12(c) is the same as that for dismissal for failure to state
a claim under Rule 12(b)(6)." Johnson v.
Johnson, 385 F.3d 503, 529 (5th Cir. 2004). "To
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation
marks omitted). "A claim has facial plausibility when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged." Id. "A
pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or
'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action will not do.' Nor does a complaint suffice if it
tenders 'naked assertion[s]' devoid of 'further
factual enhancement.'" Id. (quoting
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 557
(2007)). We "accept all well-pleaded facts as true,
viewing them in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff." Gines v. D.R. Horton, Inc., 699
F.3d 812, 816 (5th Cir. 2012) (alteration omitted).
district court's denial of a motion to amend the
pleadings is reviewed for abuse of discretion. Moore v.
Manns, 732 F.3d 454, 456 (5th Cir. 2013). "[A]
court should freely give leave" to amend pleadings
"when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2).
Likewise, "[a] district court's denial of a motion
to alter or amend judgment 'is reviewed for abuse of
discretion and need only be reasonable.'"
Farquhar v. Steen, 611 F.App'x 796, ...