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Ragozzine v. Youngstown State Univ.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

April 22, 2015

FRANK RAGOZZINE, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
YOUNGSTOWN STATE UNIVERSITY; CYNTHIA E. ANDERSON, individually and in her official capacity as President, Youngstown State University; KAREN GIORGETTI, individually and in her official capacity as Chair, Department of Psychology, Youngstown State University, Defendants-Appellees

Argued January 23, 2015

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Youngstown. No. 4:13-cv-00750--Benita Y. Pearson, District Judge.

ARGUED: Bruce B. Elfvin, ELFVIN & BESSER CO., L.P.A., Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellant.

Michael C. McPhillips, OFFICE OF THE OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellees.

ON BRIEF: Bruce B. Elfvin, Barbara Kaye Besser, Stuart Torch, ELFVIN & BESSER CO., L.P.A., Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellant.

Michael C. McPhillips, Ashon L. McKenzie, OFFICE OF THE OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellees.

Before: NORRIS, ROGERS, and WHITE, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 1078

ROGERS, Circuit Judge.

In this employment discrimination case brought by a male professor who was denied tenure at a public university, the plaintiff--after summary judgment was entered against him--sought recusal of the federal district judge, on the ground that the judge had been dating a professor in a different department of the university. The district court denied the motion and the plaintiff now challenges on appeal both the grant of summary judgment and the denial of the recusal motion. For the reasons given by the court below, the plaintiff's substantive challenges to the summary judgment lack merit. The denial of the recusal motion, moreover, was proper because the district court reasonably concluded, on the facts of this case, that her impartiality could not reasonably be questioned.

Plaintiff Frank Ragozzine was a tenure-track professor in the Psychology Department at Youngstown State University. His first several years as a tenure-track professor did not produce much scholarship. Ragozzine attributed the initial delay to his lab's not being fully operational until his second academic year. In the beginning of his fifth academic year, his mother and his wife fell ill, with some caretaking responsibilities falling on him. He requested and was granted a year's delay in the review of his tenure application so that he could publish scholarly articles to satisfy YSU's tenure requirements.

Page 1079

Although he met the minimum requirements with a last-minute flurry of publications, he was ultimately denied tenure because YSU decisionmakers determined that he lacked promise of consistent scholarly production. Ragozzine sued, alleging that he was discriminated against on the basis of sex in violation of Title VII and the Equal Protection Clause, that YSU violated his rights under the Family Medical Leave Act, and that irregularities in his tenure review violated his procedural and substantive due process rights. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants on all claims. For the reasons given in the district court's thoughtful and comprehensive opinion, Ragozzine's substantive challenges to the grant of summary judgment are without merit. See Ragozzine v. Youngstown State Univ., 2 F.Supp.3d 1051 (N.D. Ohio 2014). No purpose would be served by restating those reasons here.

After summary judgment, Ragozzine filed a motion to disqualify the judge, based on a previously undisclosed dating relationship between the judge and a tenured YSU faculty member. Ragozzine argued that the relationship created an appearance of impropriety under 28 U.S.C. ยง 455 and Canon 3(C)(1) of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges and that this appearance of impropriety required disqualification of the judge and relief from all her prior ...


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