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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT


FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA

NICOLE SUISSA,
Plaintiff,
vs.

THE DICKINSON SCHOOL OF
LAW OF THE PENNSYLVANIA
STATE UNIVERSITY; CARLA
PRATT, individually and in her
official capacity; MEGAN
RIESMEYER, individually and in her
official capacity; and, J AMES
HOUCK, individually and in his
official capacity;
Defendants.
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Case No. 3:14-cv-01626

J udge Robert D. Mariani

Complaint filed: 08/19/14

Electronically Filed



ANSWER OF DEFENDANTS THE DICKINSON SCHOOL OF LAW
OF THE PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY, CARLA PRATT,
MEGAN RIESMEYER, AND JAMES HOUCK
TO PLAINTIFFS COMPLAINT


I. INTRODUCTION
1. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is admitted that Plaintiff Nicole
Suissa (Suissa or Plaintiff) has filed this action alleging a deprivation of her
rights. It is denied that said allegations are meritorious.
2. Denied. After reasonable investigation, Answering Defendants are
without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of the
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averments contained in paragraph 2. The same is therefore denied and strict proof
thereof demanded.
II. JURISDICTION & VENUE
3. Admitted.
4. It is admitted that venue is proper in the Middle District of
Pennsylvania.
III. THE PARTIES
5. Admitted, upon information and belief.
6. Admitted in part and denied in part. The Dickinson School of Law
(DSL) is a law school and college within The Pennsylvania State University
(Penn State). DSL is not an entity distinct from Penn State. The Pennsylvania
State University is a state-related institution of higher learning that is organized
and exists as a non-profit corporation under the laws of the Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania. Penn State operates two law school campuses, one of which is
located in University Park and the other which is located in Carlisle.
7. Denied. The allegations in paragraph 7 are denied as moot insofar as
the parties have stipulated to the dismissal of the Defendant identified as The
Dickinson School of Law of The Pennsylvania State University Association. By
way of further response, it is believed, and therefore averred, that the proper name
of the entity is the Dickinson Law Association and that the Dickinson Law
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Association is a non-profit entity organized and existing under the laws of the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The remainder of the averments of paragraph 7
is denied.
8. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is admitted that Suissa has
purported to sue Defendant Carla Pratt (Pratt) individually and in her official
capacity. It is denied that Pratt has violated Suissas rights in any way. It is
admitted that Pratt maintains an office at DSLs Carlisle campus.
9. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is admitted that Suissa has
purported to sue Defendant Megan Riesmeyer (Riesmeyer) individually and in
her official capacity. It is denied that Riesmeyer has violated Suissas rights in any
way. It is admitted that Riesmeyer maintains an office at DSLs Carlisle campus.
10. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is admitted that Suissa has
purported to sue Defendant J ames Houck (Houck) individually and in his official
capacity. It is denied that Houck has violated Suissas rights in any way. It is
admitted that Houck maintains an office at DSLs University Park campus.
IV. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS
11. Admitted.
12. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is admitted that Suissa
completed her first two years of law school. However, Suissa was charged with
violating the DSL Honor Code based on conduct that occurred in December 2013
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during final examinations. Suissa was charged with violations in connection with
her Evidence exam and her Mediation exam. Suissa requested and received an
Honor Code proceeding that was initially scheduled for J anuary 31, 2014. Suissa
and her attorney requested and received multiple continuances of the Honor Code
hearings such that the liability portion of the hearings did not begin until March 29,
2014. Hearings were held on March 29, March 30, April 15, and April 21, 2014.
Ms. Suissa was adjudicated to be responsible for two violations of the Honor Code
and sanctions were recommended for those violations on April 22, 2014. Suissa
appealed the adjudication of responsibility on April 29, 2014. Suissas appeal was
denied on J une 27, 2014. Suissa filed the instant action August 19, 2014, one day
before the commencement of classes for the Fall 2014 semester. To the extent any
of the above is inconsistent with Suissas averments in paragraph 12, said
averments are denied and strict proof thereof demanded.
13. Admitted.
14. Admitted.
15. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is admitted that Pratt contacted
Suissa on December 19, 2013 to pursue an investigation of the then-alleged Honor
Code infraction. It is admitted that Holly Parrish was then the Director of Student
Services at DSL and it is further admitted that Ms. Parrish was present for the
interview of Suissa. It is further admitted that Pratt received Suissas permission to
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examine her smartphone. It is denied that Suissa was interrogated. Rather, she
was questioned concerning the charges. It is admitted that Pratt took notes of
Suissas responses during her questioning of Suissa.
16. Denied. At all times Pratt conducted herself professionally,
appropriately, and in full conformity with the express and implied requirements of
the Honor Code and her role as the prosecuting or presenting law school official.
It is denied that Pratt bore any personal animus towards Suissa. At all relevant
times, Pratt pursued the prosecution of the Honor Code violations vigorously,
appropriately and professionally both generally and as more specifically addressed
hereafter;
a. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is denied that Pratt
accused Suissa, or that Pratt lacked sufficient evidence to question Suissa
based on the report of an Honor Code violation from another student. It is
admitted that Suissa voluntarily submitted her cell phone for examination. It
is further admitted that Suissas cell phone revealed that the morning of the
Evidence exam she had visited websites containing information about the
federal rules of evidence;
b. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is admitted that Pratt
was unable to locate timestamps noting the specific time at which the rules
of evidence websites were visited. It is denied that Pratt was obligated to
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dismiss any charges, or that she intensified her pressure on Suissa. Rather,
Pratt vigorously and appropriately pursued the charges. It is admitted that
Pratt advised Suissa that she could face expulsion from the law school and
that she recommended that Suissa accept responsibility for any violation of
the Honor Code. It is admitted that Pratt properly informed Suissa of a
potential Honor Code violation relating to Suissas Mediation exam
submissions. To the extent this averment expresses or implies that Pratt did
not receive a report of an alleged Honor Code violation with respect to the
Mediation exam, it is denied. To the contrary, Pratt did receive a verbal
report of an Honor Code violation relating to the Mediation exam, which
Pratt properly investigated and pursued and which ultimately resulted in the
Hearing Board concluding that violations of the Honor Code had, in fact,
occurred. To the extent this averment expresses or implies that a written
memorandum must be received in order to initiate an Honor Code violation,
this allegation is denied. To the contrary, the Honor Code makes clear that
an Honor Code violation may be initiated by a written memorandum. Honor
Code proceedings may also be commenced by verbal reports;
c. Admitted in part and denied in part. To the extent this
averment expresses or implies that the submission of a written memorandum
is required to initiate an Honor Code investigation, it is denied for the
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reasons set forth above. It is admitted that Pratt appropriately, pursued an
investigation of the verbal report of an Honor Code violation relating to the
Mediation exam. It is admitted that Suissa uploaded two different responses
to the take home Mediation exam, the first of which was timely and the
second of which was not timely. It is further admitted that Suissa, at the
time of the Mediation exam, alleged that she had received an error message
indicating her exam had not been completely uploaded the first time. It is
denied that Suissa ever presented any evidence of said alleged error in
support of her defense to the Honor Code violation at the Honor Code
proceeding. In fact, Suissa did not testify at her Honor Code hearing. It is
admitted that Suissa sent an email to the employee, Linda Evans, who was
responsible for receiving the electronic submission of the Mediation exam.
It is further admitted that Suissa urged Evans to accept Suissas second
submission of her examination as opposed to the first. It is denied that
Evans never made any investigation of the situation. To the contrary, Evans
reviewed and compared the two submissions and determined that the
second, untimely submission contained additional content that had been
added after the deadline for the submission of the exam answer, including an
additional 129 words and an answer to a previously unanswered examination
question;
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d. Admitted in part and denied in part. As stated above, it is
denied that no report regarding the Mediation exam was ever made to Pratt.
To the contrary, Evans contacted Pratt regarding the two submissions by
Suissa, the emails from Suissa urging acceptance of the second submission,
and the additional content that was added to the second submission. It is
admitted that Evans was uncertain as to whether the facts supported an
Honor Code violation, particularly because Evans had refused to accept the
second, untimely, embellished submission. However, Evans was
sufficiently concerned with the conduct of Suissa to bring the matter to the
attention of Pratt via a verbal report. For the reasons set forth above, it is
denied that there was a violation of Section 5.1 of the Honor Code;
e. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is denied that Pratt was
biased or that there was any absence of evidence regarding the Mediation
exam violation. To the contrary, there was plain and undisputed evidence
that Suissa made a second submission of her examination that was untimely
and contained additional content added after the time of the first submission.
It is admitted that Suissa did not testify at her Honor Code hearing. It is
admitted that Professor Welsh testified at the Honor Code hearing on behalf
of Suissa regarding Professor Welshs understanding of the exam rules.
Professor Welshs views were merely her opinion and that opinion was not
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shared by the members of the Hearing Board, nor by the Appellate
Reviewer. It is denied that the Honor Code violation associated with the
Mediation exam submission relies in any way, shape or form on the
allegations surrounding the Evidence exam violation. To the contrary, the
facts relating to the Mediation exam speak for themselves and independently
support violations of the Honor Code;
f. It is admitted that Pratt expressed her opinion to Suissa and her
counsel that the evidence against Suissa was overwhelming and that she did
not see how Suissa could avoid expulsion in the face of this evidence. It is
denied that Pratt threatened to add additional charges of witness intimidation
if Suissa continued to pursue a hearing. It is admitted that Pratt advised that
additional charges of witness intimidation would be added to the charge if
Suissa continued to engage in behavior that intimidated witnesses whom the
law school planned to call to testify against her at the Honor Code hearing.
It is denied that Pratt did not have any evidence to support the charge of
witness intimidation. To the contrary, Pratt determined after interviewing
the witnesses that although there was some evidence of witness intimidation,
it was insufficient to warrant bringing an additional charge against Suissa;
g. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is admitted that Pratt
properly informed Suissa that a finding of an Honor Code violation could
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result in Suissa facing expulsion from the law school, and that an expulsion
from law school could have devastating consequences for the student; it is
admitted that Pratt attempted once again to persuade Suissa to accept
responsibility for her dishonorable conduct. It is admitted that Pratt, in
negotiation with Suissas counsel, agreed to accept less than expulsion as a
sanction for Suissas conduct and that Dean Reilly and Pratt agreed to
accept either voluntary withdrawal from law school or a two-year
suspension.
h. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is admitted that the
majority of the students who have faced Honor Code violations have
accepted responsibility for their actions pursuant to the Honor Code and
have received sanctions that reflected their acceptance of responsibility and
contrition. Students who accept responsibility for their actions render moot
the need for a hearing. Because other students that Pratt had brought honor
code charges against had accepted responsibility for their actions rather than
proceed to a hearing, this was the first hearing that Pratt had prosecuted
under the law schools disciplinary process;
i. Denied. It is denied that Pratt attempted to intimidate Suissa or
that Pratt disseminated any defamatory information about Suissa within the
law school community. Pratt communicated with the Dean and Senior
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Associate Dean regarding the disciplinary matter affecting Suissa, as she
was obliged to do. It is believed, and therefore averred, that it was Suissa
who spoke about the Honor Code proceedings at length to members of the
law school community. It is admitted that it was necessary for Pratt to
inform Professors Mogill and Welsh about the charges in order to investigate
the charges and to present their testimony. It is denied that Pratt attempted
to dissuade Welsh from testifying;
j. Denied. It is denied that Pratt disseminated information about
Suissas case beyond those who had a legitimate need to know in connection
with the investigative and prosecutorial functions of the Honor Code. It is
denied that Suissas case was discussed in Professor Terrys Legal Ethics
Course;
k. Denied. It is denied that Suissa has been defamed by Pratt or
any other Defendant. With regard to the allegation that Suissa has suffered
damage to her reputation within the law school community, this allegation is
denied in that, after reasonable investigation, Answering Defendants are
without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief thereon. By
way of further response, to the extent Suissa has suffered damage to her
reputation, it is believed and therefore averred that said damage has been
caused by the actions or omissions of Suissa, and not by Defendants.
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17. Denied. It is denied that Pratt attempted to intimidate Suissa or that
Pratt attempted to dissuade Suissa from seeking legal counsel.
18. 19. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is admitted that Pratt
appropriately sent Suissa a letter advising her of the charges of violating the Honor
Code and that the letter was dated J anuary 6, 2014. That letter, being a written
instrument, speaks for itself and any expression or implication inconsistent
therewith is denied. To the extent this paragraph expresses or implies that it was
inappropriate to copy Defendant Houck on the letter, this allegation is denied.
20. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is admitted that Suissa
informed Pratt on J anuary 17, 2004 that Suissa wanted to proceed to a hearing on
her Honor Code charges. Said J anuary 17, 2004 letter, being a written instrument,
speaks for itself, and any expression or implication inconsistent therewith is
denied. Additionally, it is admitted that Exhibit 2 to Suissas Complaint appears to
be a true and correct copy of the applicable law school Honor Code. Said Code,
being a written instrument, speaks for itself and any expression or implication
inconsistent therewith is denied. With regard to Suissas representation that all of
the information requested within her J anuary 17, 2004 letter was in the exclusive
possession of the law school, said allegation is denied in that, after reasonable
investigation, Answering Defendants are without knowledge or information
sufficient to form a belief thereon. The same is therefore denied and strict proof
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thereof demanded. By way of further response, nothing within the Honor Code
affords an accused student the rights to discovery in the civil litigation sense. The
Honor Code proceeding is an academic proceeding. It is not civil litigation.
21. Admitted in part and denied in part. The Honor Code, being in
writing, speaks for itself and any expression or implication inconsistent therewith
is denied. It is admitted that the Honor Code provides that the accused student has
the right to receive all evidence including exculpatory evidence at least one week
prior to the hearing. The Honor Code does not provide accused student discovery
rights. Pratt provided Suissa with all evidence to which she was entitled under the
Honor Code. It is denied that two of the law schools witnesses testified that Pratt
took notes during Pratts meeting with them.
22. Denied. It is denied that Pratt tried to assassinate Suissas
character. To the contrary, Pratt did not call any character witnesses in her
prosecution case, and offered to stipulate that, prior to the misconduct at issue,
Suissa was generally regarded as a having good character. Pratt also agreed to
allow Suissa to present numerous character witnesses via pre-recorded video and
further agreed to waive the law schools right to cross examine these witnesses in
the Honor Code hearing.
23. Denied. It is denied that there were due process denials or failures to
adhere to the Honor Code, or that there was a pattern thereof. With respect to the
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claim that Suissa has suffered irreparable damage, these allegations are denied in
that, after reasonable investigation, Answering Defendants are without knowledge
or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth thereof. The same are
therefore denied and strict proof thereof demanded. With regard to Plaintiffs
contention that the Hearing Board was given a packet of Pratts evidence before
the hearing, it should be noted that in accordance with the Honor Code rules, the
exhibit binders were provided to the Hearing Board and to Suissa and her counsel a
short time before the original hearing was scheduled to occur. The original hearing
did not occur as scheduled because Suissa requested serial continuances, which
requests were granted. Furthermore, on February 27, 2014 Pratt provided Suissas
counsel with a summary of each witness she intended to call as well as the material
information she expected to elicit from those witnesses. Suissa and her attorneys
had the exhibit binder and the witness names and testimonial summaries well in
advance of the hearing.
24. Denied. It is denied that Pratt or any other Defendant interfered with
the investigative or adjudicative processes or that the Honor Code proceedings
were compromised in any way. To the contrary, Pratt and all other Defendants
conducted the Honor Code proceedings reasonably and appropriately generally and
as more specifically set forth below.
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a. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is denied that Suissa was
in any prevented from confronting her accusers. To the contrary, Suissa was
represented by counsel of her choosing, provided notice of all evidence and
witnesses supporting the prosecutors case well in advance of the hearing,
and afforded a full and fair opportunity to cross-examine all witnesses
following direct examination by Pratt. It is admitted that a no contact order
was issued preventing Suissa from contacting the witnesses before the
hearing. However, the no contact order was a standard and appropriate
measure under the circumstances and did not prevent Ms. Suissas counsel
from contacting witnesses before the hearing. It is believed, and therefore
averred, that Suissas counsel did contact witnesses before the hearing. By
way of further response, it is admitted that Pratt contacted individuals who
were likely to be witnesses as part of her investigation and prosecution of the
case, which is entirely appropriate. It is denied that Pratt attempted to
dissuade any witness from testifying;
b. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is denied that Pratt
engaged in any non-disclosure or that key witnesses were not identified. It
is admitted that Suissa, through her various attorneys, exercised Suissas
rights to challenge a board member for cause pursuant to the Honor Code
and that challenge was sustained and the board member was removed and
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replaced with an alternate. It is further denied that the student identified as
the reporting student was not, in fact, the student who reported observing a
possible Honor Code violation by Suissa. To the contrary, the student was
indeed the reporting student and was the eyewitness to the events in question
regarding the Evidence exam charges. The student was properly identified
and disclosed to Suissa;
c. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is admitted that Pratt
vigorously pursued prosecution of the Honor Code violations against Suissa,
which is her responsibility as Associate Dean and Prosecutor. It is further
admitted that this investigation included an interview of a student who was,
until he provided testimony unfavorable to Suissa, known to be Suissas
boyfriend. It is further averred that this student had important and relevant
evidence to share regarding the violation, but was reluctant to do so due to
his then-close relationship with Suissa. It is admitted that the student was
upset with the prospect of sharing information with Pratt that was
inculpatory towards Suissa and that he would have preferred to not have
done so. It is further admitted that Pratt properly apprised this student of his
potential exposure to Honor Code violations if he failed to respond truthfully
in response to questions posed by Pratt regarding the Honor Code violations.
Pratt recommended that this individual consult with independent counsel of
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his own choosing prior to determining whether or not to reveal information
to Pratt. Following that consultation, the individual voluntarily returned to
Pratts office and related the inculpatory information with Pratt. The
information at issue pertained solely to the Evidence exam charges;
d. Admitted in part and denied in part. In order to meaningfully
question the student who had been Suissas boyfriend, it was necessary for
Pratt to share very general information about the then-accusations against
Suissa. However, Pratt was careful not to disclose specific details about the
accusation so as to avoid influencing or affecting the students recollection.
Moreover, as a student over the age of 18, it was appropriate for Pratt to
avoid sharing FERPA-protected information with Suissas mother absent an
appropriate waiver on file. Suissa, at all times, was free to share information
with her mother.
e. Denied. It is denied that Pratt ever attempted to prejudice the
hearing board. Pratt requested security for the hearing after receiving a
number of visits from student witnesses expressing concern about security
and asking if security would be present; and after receiving a hostile
telephone call from a woman representing herself as Suissas mother who
planned to attend the hearing. The arrangement for security neither
prejudiced the board nor impacted the proceedings adversely in any way. It
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was entirely consistent with the duty of Penn State to take reasonable
precautions to provide for the safety of its law school community, including
the hearing members and the hearing participants to arrange for security
under the circumstances;
f. Denied. It is denied that Pratt had any obligation to drop the
Evidence exam charges against Suissa. It is further denied that exculpatory
evidence surfaced. Rather, the time clock for the video recording device
had not been reset in some time and was not calibrated to actual time at the
time of recording Suissas hallway movements during the Evidence exam.
When the time, as shown on the video recorder, was synchronized to actual
time, the video footage showed Suissa entering the restroom precisely during
the time that the other law school records showed WiFi access by Suissas
cell phone. Once the recorder time was synchronized with actual time, the
video evidence was inculpatory, not exculpatory. Further, all of the above-
referenced evidence pertains to the Evidence exam charges, which charges
were not found by the Honor Board to have been proven by clear and
convincing evidence;
g. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is admitted that
Plaintiffs counsel requested a copy of a hearing transcript. It is denied that
the University was, or is presently, in possession of a transcript from the
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hearing. Rather, the hearing was videotaped but not transcribed. Suissa was
invited to view the videotape in order to prepare her appeal, consistent with
University policy.
25. Denied. As stated above, there was no transcript of the testimony
provided at the hearing. Moreover, Suissa was offered full access to the video, and
it is believed that Suissa and her attorneys did review the video.
26. Denied. Suissa was provided a fair and impartial tribunal through
which she was afforded full opportunity to dispute the charges against her. The
Hearing Board did not find the Evidence exam charges to have been proven, but
did find Suissa responsible for two Honor Code violations related to the Mediation
exam. The faculty Honor Code committee members, as per longstanding policy
and practice, were appointed by the Dean at the beginning of the academic year, in
this case, the faculty committee members were appointed in Fall semester, 2013.
The Student Honor Code Committee members, per policy and practice, were
chosen via a student election held in the Spring, and the elected students serve for
the following academic year. The Student Honor Code Committee members, in
this case, were elected in Spring 2013, for service in Fall 2013 and Spring 2014.
Regarding the mechanism for selection of student and faculty committee members
for service in Ms. Suissas hearing, customary practices were followed. The
Student Chair of the Honor Committee selects students to serve based on their
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availability and the Associate Dean asks faculty members to serve based on their
availability. The Honor Code afforded Suissa the right to challenge any Board
member. (Honor Code, 3.1.C). At no time did Suissa seek to dismiss any
student or faculty Honor Committee member based on alleged animus or bias
against Suissa. It is denied that the rules provided for Suissa or her counsel to
participate in the selection of the Hearing Board members. It is denied that the
chosen Board was biased or partial or that Suissa ever alleged that a Board member
was biased or impartial during the proceedings.
27. Denied. At all relevant times, Suissa received full due process rights
which comported in all respects with internal rules and regulations and with state
and federal constitutional parameters. The Board was neutral and unbiased and
thoughtfully and appropriately considered the case. No objection or request to
dismiss any Board member for bias or impartiality was ever made by Suissa.
28. Denied. It is denied that Riesmeyer was biased in favor of Pratt or
that her rulings were fundamentally confounding. It is further denied that Suissa
was in any way limited from exercising her rights regarding witnesses and
evidence that were afforded under the Honor Code. To the contrary, Suissa was
afforded full and complete due process rights generally, and as more specifically
set forth below:
1. Precluding Plaintiff from Cross Examining Witnesses
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a. Denied. Pratt did identify and present the reporting eyewitness.
It is admitted that Pratt opposed a request for yet another continuance of the
hearing, and that Suissas request for a third continuance was denied. Prior
to that instance of Suissas continuance request being denied, Suissa had
been granted two (2) prior continuance requests, which resulted in the
hearing, which was originally scheduled to occur on J anuary 31, 2014, to be
delayed until April 2014. Further, the witnesses at issue in this averment
were only relevant with respect to the Evidence exam charges and not with
respect to the Mediation exam charges. Moreover, Suissa never attempted to
call the challenged and dismissed Honor Board member as a witness at the
hearing;
b. Denied. Suissa, through her counsel, did question Dean
Gardner at length and was not prevented or limited in doing so. Further, it is
denied that Dean Gardner was proffered as an expert in Evidence or for the
purpose of analyzing the contents of Suissas Evidence exam. Pratt asked
Gardner no questions about the content of the Evidence exam. To the
contrary, Gardner was questioned only about technology issues relating to
when Suissa was actively typing answers and when she was not during the
Evidence exam. This averment also deals solely with the charges relating to
the Evidence exam;
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c. Denied. It is denied that the rulings relative to Mr. McGeorges
testimony resulted in a due process violation. Suissas counsel was afforded
a meaningful opportunity to cross Mr. McGeorge regarding his direct
examination. The Honor Code specifically affords the Hearing Board the
right to reconvene to ask additional questions of witnesses, which right it
exercised. Further, the testimony and evidence at issue in this averment
involve only the Evidence exam charges;
2. Demonstrated Bias and Impropriety Throughout the Hearing and
Appeal Processes

a. Denied. Riesmeyer properly served as an impartial and
independent Board President. At appropriate times, Riesmeyer sought input
from counsel for Suissa and from Pratt. Then, she would rule on the matter
issue. This is standard behavior for an impartial adjudicator;
b. Denied. It is denied that Riesmeyer deferred to Pratt
throughout the pre-trial conference. To the contrary, Riesmeyer heard
input from both sides on disputed issues and made good faith rulings;
c. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is admitted that Pratt
prosecuted the charges. It is denied that Riesmeyer having been copied on
emails from Pratt periodically through the process was improper or
otherwise deleteriously affected the fundamental due process that Suissa was
afforded. Counsel for Suissa was also copied on emails regarding the
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matter. It is admitted that Pratt provided to Plaintiff the evidence supporting
the Honor Code violations charges, as she was obligated to do under the
Honor Code. It is admitted that Pratt declined to allow Suissa to engage in
unlimited discovery, as the Honor Code does not entitle the accused to
engage in unlimited discovery. Suissa was provided with notice of all
evidence that was being relied upon by Pratt more than one week before the
hearing, as required by the Honor Code;
d. Denied. Pratt and Riesmeyer had one conversation prior to the
hearing which related to Riesmeyer agreeing to serve as the President of the
Hearing Board. Riesmeyer and Pratt did not further communicate regarding
the hearing except to discuss the time of the hearing. Riesmeyer did not
have any conversations with Pratt about the substance of the evidence
supporting the violations prior to the hearing, and had no ex parte
communications with Pratt after the hearing began;
e. Denied. To the best of Riesmeyers knowledge, Pratt provided
to Suissas counsel all evidence that she was required to provide by Section
3.1 of the Code;
f. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is admitted that Pratt
made a statement relating to Suissas appellate review rights. However,
Riesmeyer ruled on all evidentiary objections in good faith at the time the
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objections were made. Suissas counsel routinely followed adverse rulings
with lengthy arguments about why he disagreed with the rulings, and did so
in the presence of the full Honor Board;
g. Denied. The Honor Code states that an individual may report a
violation by submitting a memorandum to the Associate Dean. However,
the Honor Code does not require a written memorandum as an exclusive
mechanism for reporting Honor Code violations. Historically, violations
have routinely been initiated based on verbal reports of perceived
misconduct;
h. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is admitted that
Riesmeyer advised Suissas counsel as to the status of the dismissed and
proven charges. It is denied that Riesmeyer denied the motion for
reconsideration without hearing or considering the merits of the motion.
Rather, Suissas counsel discussed the anticipated motion for reconsideration
and the basis for same in a conversation involving Riesmeyer, Suissas
counsel, and Pratt that occurred at the conclusion of the March 30 hearing
day, before the motion was formally made by Suissas counsel. Riesmeyer
and the Board discussed the anticipated motion for reconsideration for over
an hour and concluded that it would not be granted when or if made. When
Suissas counsel later made the motion for reconsideration on the record
Case 3:14-cv-01626-RDM Document 29 Filed 09/10/14 Page 24 of 41
during the April 15, 2014 hearing day, the decision to deny the motion based
on the previously-referenced deliberation was communicated to Suissas
counsel;
i. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is admitted that Suissas
counsel requested 10 years worth of disposition reports. It is admitted that
Suissas counsel received two years worth of the most recent disposition
reports as opposed to the 10 years that was requested. It is admitted that
disposition reports must be published pursuant to Chapter 8 of the Honor
Code. It is denied that the one case referenced by Suissa at the sanctions
hearing was analogous to Suissas case. Rather, the case referenced by
Suissa involved a student who accepted responsibility for the Honor Code
violation, unlike Suissa;
j. Admitted in part and denied in part. The sanctions
recommended by the Honor Committee, being in writing, and contained
within the email dated April 22, 2014, speak for themselves, and any
expression or implication inconsistent therewith is denied;
k. Admitted;
l. m. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is admitted that after
receiving Suissas counsels letter of appeal dated April 29, 2014, Houck asked
Pratt and Riesmeyer to provide a response to same. Houck advised counsel for
Case 3:14-cv-01626-RDM Document 29 Filed 09/10/14 Page 25 of 41
Suissa of the fact of the letters and invited counsel for Suissa to review them via an
email dated May 30, 2014. It is denied that there was anything inappropriate or
improper about allowing the individuals accused of improprieties the opportunity
to respond to same, or in allowing Suissa and her counsel the opportunity to review
those responses;
n. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is admitted that Suissa
and her counsel were told they could not make copies. It is denied that
Suissa and her counsel were supervised while reviewing Pratts and
Riesmeyers letter. Rather, they were alone in the room reviewing the
letters;
o. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is admitted that
information was redacted. The information that was redacted involved other
students education records and was redacted in order to comply with the
requirements of the FERPA. These minor redactions did not materially
affect Suissas ability to meaningfully review the letters;
p. Denied. This allegation appears to be an expression of
Plaintiffs counsels opinion, to which no responsive pleading is required.
By way of further response, since Pratt and Riesmeyer both saw and heard
the same things during the hearing, it should come as no surprise to Suissa or
her counsel that their recollections were similar;
Case 3:14-cv-01626-RDM Document 29 Filed 09/10/14 Page 26 of 41
q. r. Denied. It is denied that Riesmeyer was biased in the process or that
she overlooked or refused relevant evidence in considering sanctioning. To
the contrary, the Board reviewed the evidence and the prior sanctions
information and developed its own views as to what sanction it felt
appropriately addressed the violations committed by Suissa. Riesmeyers
letter indicated that the Board specifically emphasized its concern that
Suissa failed to accept or acknowledge responsibility for her misconduct.
While the Board saw fit to call attention to this point, it nevertheless
properly considered all applicable criteria;
s. Denied. It is denied that Suissas sanctions were unusually
severe. The remainder of the averment appears to be a statement of
Plaintiffs counsels opinion regarding the evidence presented below, which
opinion was not shared by the Hearing Board. Defendants do not believe
Suissas counsels opinions require a response, but to the extent a response is
required, it is denied that Suissas counsels opinions are accurate or
reasonable;
t. Denied. It is denied there were any material departures from
the mandates of the Honor Code. To the contrary, the Honor Code was
followed in spirit and in substance. It is believed, and therefore averred, that
it is the result attained to which Suissa takes issue.
Case 3:14-cv-01626-RDM Document 29 Filed 09/10/14 Page 27 of 41
29. 30. Admitted in part and denied in part. Defendant Houcks letter of
J une 27, 2014 to Suissa, being in writing, speaks for itself and any expression or
implication inconsistent therewith is denied.
31. Denied. It is denied that Houck revoked Suissas certification, or that
the revocation was in retaliation for her appeal of the Board findings. To the
contrary, the sponsoring attorney(s) who submit certificate(s) on behalf of students
have a professional obligation to withdraw the certification if they became aware
of facts and circumstances that render the averments made in the certification no
longer true. That is precisely what happened when Plaintiff was adjudicated to be
in violation of the Honor Code and that adjudication was upheld on appeal.
32. 33. Denied. As a result of Suissas misconduct and her adjudication
of responsibility by the Honor Board, it was necessary to revoke the Certificate.
The downstream consequences that ensued were the result of Suissas conduct
alone.
34. Denied. Suissas suspension, which has now been deferred until the
Spring 2015 semester to allow for the presentation of Suissas Motion for
Preliminary Injunction in the instant action, resulted from Suissas misconduct, and
not from Defendants conduct.
35. Denied. Upon information and belief, Suissa still has available to her
scholarship and financial aid monies as of the time for the Fall 2014 academic
Case 3:14-cv-01626-RDM Document 29 Filed 09/10/14 Page 28 of 41
semester. 36. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is denied that Houck
advised the Pennsylvania courts that Suissa no longer possesses good character
as averred. Defendants incorporate herein by reference their response to paragraph
31 above. Regarding the ultimate effect of the adjudication of responsibility for
the Honor Code violation on Suissas ability to sit for the bar exam or to be
admitted into the bar after graduation, that effect is unknown. This will be a matter
for the bar examiners of the jurisdiction(s) in which Suissa intends to apply to
determine.
37. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is admitted that Suissa has
important interests at stake in connection with the Honor Code proceeding. The
same is true for Defendants. However, the responsibility for the downstream
effects of the Honor Code violation lies with Suissa and arises from her underlying
misconduct, which resulted in the adjudication of responsibility generally and as
more specifically set forth below.
a. Denied. Suissa has been permitted to continue her law school
education for the Fall 2014 semester while the instant dispute is addressed
via a Motion for Preliminary Injunction; however, she will be suspended for
the Spring 2015 semester absent a valid Court Order to the contrary;
b. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is admitted that Suissa
may potentially face the loss of financial resources in the Spring of 2015. It
Case 3:14-cv-01626-RDM Document 29 Filed 09/10/14 Page 29 of 41
is denied that she faces a loss of financial resources presently in the Fall of
2014. As to the averments that Suissa could not return to law school due to
a lack of financial resources, Defendants are, after reasonable investigation,
without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief thereon. The
same are therefore denied and strict proof thereof demanded;
c. Denied. It is denied that Houck communicated to the
Pennsylvania courts as averred. Defendants incorporate their response to
paragraph 31, above, inclusive. After reasonable investigation, Defendants
are without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to
whether Suissas adjudication of responsibility for the Honor Code
violations will adversely impact her ability to practice law;
d. Denied. After reasonable investigation, Defendants are without
knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief thereon and the same
are therefore denied and strict proof thereof demanded;
e. Denied. After reasonable investigation, Defendants are without
knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief thereon and the same
are therefore denied and strict proof thereof demanded. By way of further
response, Defendants have not disseminated the facts of the underlying
Honor Code proceeding nor have they disseminated the result of the
underlying proceeding in any way connected to Plaintiffs name. That
Case 3:14-cv-01626-RDM Document 29 Filed 09/10/14 Page 30 of 41
Plaintiff has chosen to do so with her publicly available Complaint and
Motion filed in this action or otherwise is clearly her right, but that
publication cannot be ascribed to Defendants;
f. Denied. After reasonable investigation, Defendants are without
knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief thereon and the same
are therefore denied and strict proof thereof demanded.
38. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is admitted that The
Pennsylvania State University is, pursuant to applicable authority, considered to be
a state actor for the purposes of claims arising under Section 1983. It is further
admitted that Defendants Pratt, Riesmeyer and Houck, with respect to the conduct
that has been placed at issue by Plaintiffs pleadings, were acting within the course
and scope of their employment for Defendant Penn State. To the extent there are
additional implied averments within this allegation, Defendant is, after reasonable
investigation, without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief thereon
and the same are therefore denied and strict proof thereof demanded.
COUNTI
Violation of Due Process Rights Under Fourteenth Amendment
(42 U.S.C. 1983)
Plaintiff v. All Named Defendants

39. Answering Defendants incorporate their answers to paragraphs 1
through 38, inclusive.
Case 3:14-cv-01626-RDM Document 29 Filed 09/10/14 Page 31 of 41
40. Denied. It is denied that Defendants denied Suissa her constitutional
right to due process of law in connection with the Honor Code violations. To the
contrary, at all times material and relevant hereto, Plaintiff was fully afforded all
due process rights to which she was legally entitled and in fact received far more
process than the Constitution requires generally and as more specifically set forth
below:
a. Denied. Plaintiff received a fair and impartial hearing process;
b. Denied. The Honor Code was substantially complied with in
all material regards;
c. Denied. The hearing and appeal process was fair and
appropriate;
d. Denied. Plaintiff received a fair and impartial hearing and it is
denied that Riesmeyer supported Pratt as alleged.
41. Denied. Suissa received all due process to which she was legally
entitled and indeed received more process than was constitutionally required.
42. Admitted in part and denied in part. It is admitted that Plaintiff may
suffer some adverse impact from the imposition of the sanctions imposed upon her.
As to that extent of the alleged harm, insofar as most of the alleged harm has not
yet and may never materialize, this allegation is denied in that after reasonable
investigation, Defendants are without sufficient information to form a belief as to
Case 3:14-cv-01626-RDM Document 29 Filed 09/10/14 Page 32 of 41
the truth of this allegation. It is denied that any harm or injuries has been caused
by the actions of any of the Defendants. To the contrary, it has been Plaintiffs
own misconduct that has caused any alleged harm or injuries.
WHEREFORE, Defendants request that this Honorable Court enter an
appropriate Order declaring that: (a) Plaintiff received all due process to which she
was constitutionally due; (b) Denying and dismissing Plaintiffs request for
injunctive relief with prejudice; (c) Denying and dismissing Plaintiffs Complaint,
with prejudice; (d) Entering judgment in favor of Defendants and against Plaintiff;
(e) Awarding Defendants all reasonable monetary relief to which they may be
entitled, including attorneys fees, interest, costs of this suit, and such other relief
as may be just and appropriate.
COUNT II
Breach of Contract
(42 U.S.C. 1983)
Plaintiff v. The Dickinson School of Law of the Pennsylvania State
University and The Dickinson School of Law of the Pennsylvania
State University Association

43. Answering Defendants incorporate their answers to paragraphs 1
through 42, inclusive.
44. 45. Denied. At all times, Penn State substantially complied with the
terms of any enforceable contracts between it and Suissa.
Case 3:14-cv-01626-RDM Document 29 Filed 09/10/14 Page 33 of 41
46. Denied. It is denied that Defendants failed to follow any applicable
procedural requirements. It is further denied that Plaintiff was improperly found to
have violated the Honor Code or that any conduct of Defendants caused any
damages to Plaintiff. To the contrary, any harm that Plaintiff may prove was
caused by her own misconduct.
WHEREFORE, Defendants request that this Honorable Court enter an
appropriate Order declaring that: (a) Plaintiff received all due process to which she
was constitutionally due; (b) Denying and dismissing Plaintiffs request for
injunctive relief with prejudice; (c) Denying and dismissing Plaintiffs Complaint,
with prejudice; (d) Entering judgment in favor of Defendants and against Plaintiff;
(e) Awarding Defendants all reasonable monetary relief to which they may be
entitled, including attorneys fees, interest, costs of this suit, and such other relief
as may be just and appropriate.
COUNT III
Violation of Constitutional Rights Under Fourteenth Amendment
(42 U.S.C. 1983)
Plaintiff v. Pratt, Riesmeyer and Houck (in their individual
capacities)

47. Answering Defendants incorporate their answers to paragraphs 1
through 46, inclusive.
48. Denied. At all times Defendants acted in a manner that was
professional, reasonable, appropriate and that fully afforded Plaintiff all due
Case 3:14-cv-01626-RDM Document 29 Filed 09/10/14 Page 34 of 41
process rights to which she was constitutionally due. Defendants in no way
impeded or impaired Plaintiffs rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Furthermore, even assuming without accepting that Plaintiff has suffered harm to
her reputation, it is denied that the harm suffered, if any, was caused by the
conduct of Defendants. Rather, it is believed and therefore averred that the harm
to Plaintiffs reputation, if any, was caused by the misconduct of Plaintiff.
49. Denied. The averments of paragraph 49 constitute a conclusion of
law to which no responsive pleading is required. To the contrary, the individual
Defendants are entitled to immunity, qualified or otherwise, in this case.
50. Denied. It is denied that Defendants conduct caused Plaintiff any
harm. To the contrary, to the extent Plaintiff has suffered injuries and damages
arising from the Honor Code proceedings and/or sanctions, those injuries and
damages have been the consequence of Plaintiffs misconduct and do not result
from any actionable conduct on the part of the Defendants.
WHEREFORE, Defendants request that this Honorable Court enter an
appropriate Order declaring that: (a) Plaintiff received all due process to which she
was constitutionally due; (b) Denying and dismissing Plaintiffs request for
injunctive relief with prejudice; (c) Denying and dismissing Plaintiffs Complaint,
with prejudice; (d) Entering judgment in favor of Defendants and against Plaintiff;
(e) Awarding Defendants all reasonable monetary relief to which they may be
Case 3:14-cv-01626-RDM Document 29 Filed 09/10/14 Page 35 of 41
entitled, including attorneys fees, interest, costs of this suit, and such other relief
as may be just and appropriate.
AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES
51. Defendants incorporate herein by reference its responses to Paragraphs
1 through 50 of its Answer as though set forth at length herein.
52. Plaintiffs Complaint fails, in whole or in part, to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted.
53. Plaintiffs Complaint is barred, in whole or in part, by the applicable
statute of limitations and/or timeliness.
54. Plaintiffs Complaint is barred, in whole or in part, by Plaintiffs failure
to exhaust administrative remedies.
55. Plaintiffs Complaint is barred, in whole or in part, by the doctrines of
waiver, estoppel, and/or laches.
56. Plaintiffs claims are barred in whole or in part by the doctrine of
unclean hands.
57. Plaintiffs Complaint fails, in whole or in part, to establish a right to
trial by jury.
58. Plaintiffs claims are subject to all limitations on damages available
under the relevant statutes and other provisions of law, including failure to
mitigate.
Case 3:14-cv-01626-RDM Document 29 Filed 09/10/14 Page 36 of 41
59. Plaintiffs Complaint fails, in whole or in part, because Plaintiffs
conduct has been the superseding causal factor in any harm Plaintiff has suffered
relating to the Defendants challenged conduct.
60. Plaintiffs Complaint fails, in whole or in part, because she lacks the
constitutional right to the additional process she seeks and/or because the process
provided to Plaintiff was constitutionally adequate and she suffered no actionable
deprivation of rights.
61. Plaintiffs Complaint fails to identify a federal basis for jurisdiction
over her claims based on Pennsylvania law, and/or for jurisprudential
considerations, this Court should properly abstain from addressing Plaintiffs
constitutional claims until Plaintiff has exhausted her adequate state law remedies.
62. Plaintiffs Complaint is barred, in whole or in part, by the doctrines of
absolute immunity, qualified immunity, or conditional immunity.
63. Plaintiffs Complaint is barred, in whole or in part, by the doctrines of
absolute or conditional privilege and/or justification.
64. Plaintiffs Complaint is barred, in whole or in part, by the doctrines of
abstention, preemption and/or preclusion.
65. Plaintiffs claims are barred in whole or in part by the doctrines of
license and/or sound contractual basis.
Case 3:14-cv-01626-RDM Document 29 Filed 09/10/14 Page 37 of 41
66. Plaintiffs claims based upon alleged deficiencies in the Evidence exam
charges are moot due to the dismissal of those charges.
67. Plaintiffs claims are barred in whole or in part by the absence of
irreparable harm and/or by the availability of an adequate remedy at law.
68. Defendants reserve the right to assert additional Affirmative Defenses
as this matter moves forward.
WHEREFORE, Defendants request that this Honorable Court enter an
appropriate Order declaring that: (a) Plaintiff received all due process to which she
was constitutionally due; (b) Denying and dismissing Plaintiffs request for
injunctive relief with prejudice; (c) Denying and dismissing Plaintiffs Complaint,
with prejudice; (d) Entering judgment in favor of Defendants and against Plaintiff;
(e) Awarding Defendants all reasonable monetary relief to which they may be
entitled, including attorneys fees, interest, costs of this suit, and such other relief
as may be just and appropriate.
Respectfully submitted,
McQUAIDE BLASKO, INC.
Dated: September 10, 2014 By: s/J ohn A. Snyder
J ohn A. Snyder, Esquire
I.D. No. 66295
jasnyder@mqblaw.com
J aime S. Bumbarger, Esquire
I.D. No. 308708
jsbumbarger@mqblaw.com
811 University Drive
Case 3:14-cv-01626-RDM Document 29 Filed 09/10/14 Page 38 of 41
State College, PA 16801
Phone: (814) 238-4926
Fax: (814) 234-5620

Attorneys for Defendants
The Dickinson School of Law
of The Pennsylvania State
University, Carla Pratt,
Megan Riesmeyer, and
J ames Houck
Case 3:14-cv-01626-RDM Document 29 Filed 09/10/14 Page 39 of 41
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA

NICOLE SUISSA,
Plaintiff,
vs.

THE DICKINSON SCHOOL OF
LAW OF THE PENNSYLVANIA
STATE UNIVERSITY; CARLA
PRATT, individually and in her
official capacity; MEGAN
RIESMEYER, individual and in her
official capacity; and, J AMES
HOUCK, individually and in his
official capacity;
Defendants.
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:

Case No. 3:14-cv-01626

J udge Robert D. Mariani

Complaint filed: 08/19/14

Electronically Filed


CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE

I hereby certify that a true and correct copy of the Answer of Defendants
The Dickinson School of Law of The Pennsylvania State University, Carla Pratt,
Megan Riesmeyer, and J ames Houck to Plaintiffs Complaint in the
above-captioned matter was served this 10
th
day of September, 2014, upon the
attorney of record via U.S. Mail and ECF as follows:

J . Edward Bell, esquire
Bell Legal Group, LLC
219 Ridge Street
Georgetown, SC 29440
(843) 546-2408
ebell@edbelllaw.com
(for Suissa)
J . Dwight Yoder, Esquire
Gibbel Kraybill & Hess LLP
41 East Orange Street
Lancaster, PA 17602
(717) 291-1700
dyoder@gkh.com
(Local Atty for Suissa)

Case 3:14-cv-01626-RDM Document 29 Filed 09/10/14 Page 40 of 41

McQUAIDE BLASKO, INC.

By: s/J ohn A. Snyder
J ohn A. Snyder, Esquire
I.D. No. 66295
jasnyder@mqblaw.com
J aime S. Bumbarger, Esquire
I.D. No. 308708
jsbumbarger@mqblaw.com
811 University Drive
State College, PA 16801
Phone: (814) 238-4926
Fax: (814) 234-5620

Attorneys for Defendants
The Dickinson School of Law
of The Pennsylvania State
University, Carla Pratt,
Megan Riesmeyer, and
J ames Houck

Case 3:14-cv-01626-RDM Document 29 Filed 09/10/14 Page 41 of 41