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Case 3:08-cv-02806-DAK Document 1 Filed 12/01/2008 Page 1 of 12

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO

CRYSTAL DIXON,
Civil Case No. ________________

Plaintiff,

v.

UNIVERSITY OF TOLEDO; LLOYD COMPLAINT
JACOBS, individually and in his official
capacity, President, University of Toledo; Hon. _______________
WILLIAM LOGIE, individually and in
his official capacity Vice President for
Human Resources and Campus Safety,
University of Toledo;

Defendants.

Plaintiff Crystal Dixon (“Plaintiff”), by and through her undersigned counsel,

brings this Complaint against the above-named Defendants, their employees, agents and

successors in office, and in support thereof, alleges the following:

INTRODUCTION

1. This action asserts Plaintiff’s fundamental constitutional rights protected

by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C.

§ 1983. Defendants, by means of their acts, omissions, policy, practice, and/or custom,

have punished Plaintiff’s private political speech on account of its viewpoint by

terminating her government employment at the University of Toledo in violation of

Plaintiff’s right to freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment. Furthermore,

Defendants have in place a policy, practice, and/or custom that grants them unbridled

discretion to subjectively determine which political speech is permitted and which
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political speech is restricted in violation of the First Amendment. Finally, Defendants

have denied Plaintiff access to a forum for her speech based on its viewpoint, thereby

depriving Plaintiff of the equal protection of the law guaranteed by the Fourteenth

Amendment.

2. As a result of Defendants’ violations of Plaintiff’s fundamental rights,

Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief as well as nominal, compensatory, and

punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

3. This action arises under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the

United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Jurisdiction is conferred on this court

pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343.

4. Plaintiff’s claims for declaratory and injunctive relief are authorized

pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202, Rules 57 and 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil

Procedure, and the general legal and equitable powers of this court.

5. This court is authorized to award nominal, compensatory, and punitive

damages for the past loss of Plaintiff’s constitutional rights and the harm caused by

Defendants’ actions pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

6. This court is authorized to award reasonable costs of litigation, including

attorneys’ fees and expenses, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988.

7. Venue is appropriate in the Northern District of Ohio pursuant to 28

U.S.C. § 1391(b), because a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to

Plaintiff’s claims occurred within this district.

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PLAINTIFF

8. Plaintiff is and was at all relevant times herein a resident of Maumee,

Ohio.

9. Plaintiff was at all relevant times herein employed by the University of

Toledo, a government institution.

DEFENDANTS

10. The University of Toledo (“University”), located in Toledo, Ohio, is a

public entity established and organized under the laws of Ohio, with the authority to sue

and be sued in its own name.

11. The University is charged with carrying out its own administrative and

educational operations and promulgates the policies, practices, and/or customs in

furtherance thereof.

12. At all relevant times herein the University was a “person” acting under

the color of state law pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

13. Defendant Lloyd Jacobs, at all relevant times herein, was President of the

University and acting under color of state law. Defendant Jacobs is responsible for

creating, adopting, and implementing University policies, practices, and/or customs,

including those challenged within this Complaint. Defendant Jacobs is sued individually

and in his official capacity.

14. Defendant William Logie, at all relevant times herein, was the Vice

President for Human Resources and Campus Safety at the University and acting under

color of state law. Defendant Logie is responsible for creating, adopting, and

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implementing University policies, practices, and/or customs, including those challenged

within this Complaint. Defendant Logie is sued individually and in his official capacity.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

15. Prior to July 1, 2006, Plaintiff was employed full-time as the Acting

Administrator for Human Resources at the Medical University of Ohio (“MUO”).

Plaintiff was recruited by Defendant Logie to MUO and Plaintiff’s career at MUO was

one of upward career advancement based upon her stellar job performance.

16. On or about July 1, 2006, the University merged with MUO, creating the

University as it exists today, with approximately 22,000 students and 7,700 employees.

17. From about July 2006 to July 2007, Plaintiff was employed full-time by

the University as Associate Vice President for Human Resources—Health Science

Campus (formerly MUO).

18. On or about July 2007, Plaintiff was promoted to the position of interim

Associate Vice President for Human Resources over all University campuses.

19. On or about April 3, 2008, Plaintiff read an opinion piece published in the

Toledo Free Press authored by Michael Miller titled “Lighting the Fuse: Gay Rights and

Wrongs.” Miller’s opinion piece equated homosexual activity with the struggles of

African-American civil rights victims. Plaintiff disagreed with the viewpoint advanced

by Miller’s piece and decided to submit her own opinion piece to the Toledo Free Press

in order to express her personal viewpoint on this matter of public concern.

20. Plaintiff, an African-American woman and sincere practicing Christian,

believes that homosexuality is a grave offense against the Law of God and that

comparing homosexual activity with the struggles of African-American civil rights

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victims is absurd and untenable because she believes homosexuality is a lifestyle choice

and not an immutable or inherent genetic and biological characteristic like skin or eye

color.

21. On or about April 15, 2008, Defendant Logie made Plaintiff the

permanent Associate Vice President for Human Resources over all University campuses.

Defendants Jacobs and Logie were Plaintiff’s direct supervisors.

22. On or about April 18, 2008, Plaintiff’s opinion piece, titled “Gay Rights

and Wrongs: Another Perspective,” was published in the Toledo Free Press online

edition. Plaintiff expressed her opinion, stating “I respectfully submit a different

perspective for Miller and Toledo Free Press readers to consider. … I take great umbrage

at the notion that those choosing the homosexual lifestyle are civil rights victims.”

Plaintiff signed off on her opinion piece as “Crystal Dixon.”

23. Plaintiff did not write her opinion piece as part of her official duties at the

University and she did not intimate that she was writing on behalf of the University.

Plaintiff wrote her opinion piece as a private citizen addressing a matter of public

concern.

24. On or about April 18, 2008, Defendant Logie informed Plaintiff that “he

knew her article was printed online, that he had a steady stream of people in his office

complaining about it, that he was considering placing her on administrative leave pending

his review of University policies and procedures, and that he was concerned with her

leadership,” or words to that effect. Plaintiff asked Defendant Logie what she had done

wrong and he stated that “he did not yet know,” or words to that effect.

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25. On or about April 21, 2008, Defendant Logie placed Plaintiff on

administrative leave pending an investigation. Defendant Logie informed Plaintiff “he

did not yet know what the investigation would entail but that it could take about three

weeks to complete because Defendant Jacobs was in China,” or words to that effect.

26. On or about May 2, 2008, an opinion piece authored by “Dr. Lloyd

Jacobs, University of Toledo President” was published in the Toledo Free Press.

Defendant Jacobs stated in relevant part “Crystal Dixon is associate vice president for

Human Resources at the University of Toledo, her comments do not accord with the

values of the University of Toledo. … It is necessary, therefore, for me to repudiate much

of her writing. ... We (the University) will be taking certain internal actions in this

instance to more fully align our utterances and actions with this value system. … It is my

hope there may be no misunderstanding of my personal stance, nor the stance of the

University of Toledo, concerning the issues of “Gay Rights and Wrongs. … Dr. Lloyd

Jacobs is president of the University of Toledo.”

27. On May 5, 2008, Plaintiff was ordered by Defendants to appear at a

hearing where Defendant Jacobs informed her “he was considering disciplinary action in

view of the letter you (Plaintiff) wrote and the reaction to it,” or words to that effect.

28. On May 12, 2008, Plaintiff received a letter from Defendants dated May 8,

2008, indicating that effective immediately her employment at the University was

terminated in relevant part because “the public position you have taken in the Toledo

Free Press is in direct contradiction to University policies and procedures as well as the

Core Values of the Strategic Plan which is mission critical.”

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29. In about June 2008, Defendant Jacobs stated further that “Plaintiff was

fired for her speech and that her termination was not based upon her job performance,” or

words to that effect.

30. In July 2008, Defendants filled Plaintiff’s former position with a deposed

former University Dean who had recently resigned after Defendants’ faculty publicly

voiced concerns about his leadership. Defendants pay this individual $40,000 more

annually than Plaintiff was paid to perform the same or similar duties.

31. On numerous other occasions Defendants’ employees have publicly

expressed personal opinions and viewpoints about various political and social issues.

Excluding Plaintiff, not once have Defendants terminated any employee for publicly

expressing personal views on public issues. Consequently, there are no narrowly drawn,

reasonable, and definite standards or objective factors guiding the decisions of

Defendants, thereby granting Defendants unbridled discretion to subjectively determine

on an ad hoc basis which speech is permitted and which speech is prohibited.

32. Pursuant to Defendants’ acts, omissions, policy, practice, and/or custom,

Defendants made a subjective determination based upon Plaintiff’s private political

speech to terminate Plaintiff’s public employment, while other employees at the

University were allowed to express various messages without being punished.

33. Plaintiff expressed her personal opinion about homosexuality and civil

rights. Plaintiff’s political speech was not expressed as part of her official duties at the

University; however, Plaintiff’s protected speech was a substantial or motivating factor in

Defendants terminating her employment at the University.

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34. Public employees do not surrender their First Amendment rights by reason

of their employment. The First Amendment protects a public employee’s right to speak

as a citizen addressing matters of public concern. Plaintiff’s opinion piece in the Toledo

Free Press was political speech, constituting personal expression, and is therefore subject

to the highest degree of First Amendment protection.

35. Defendants, by their acts, omissions, policy, practice, and/or custom, have

punished Plaintiff for expressing her political messages while allowing other University

employees to speak freely, thereby restricting speech based upon its content and

viewpoint.

36. Defendants’ acts, omissions, policy, practice and/or custom do not

comport with constitutional safeguards protecting speech and were enforced against

Plaintiff merely upon Defendants’ desire to avoid the discomfort or unpleasantness that

sometimes might accompany what could constitute an unpopular viewpoint.

37. Defendants’ acts, omissions, policy, practice, and/or custom are

unconstitutional as applied to Plaintiff’s speech as set forth in this Complaint.

38. Defendants’ policy is unconstitutional because it allows for ad hoc

suppression of speech based upon Defendants’ subjective assessments made under

impermissibly vague standards of determining which messages are acceptable and which

are not.

39. Defendants’ policy is unconstitutional because it reaches more broadly

than is reasonably necessary to protect legitimate state interests at the expense of

protected First Amendment freedoms.

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40. Plaintiff’s political messages cannot be banned by Defendants. The mere

expression of the ideas and viewpoint in Plaintiff’s opinion piece did not—and as a

matter of law could not—warrant the punishment meted out by Defendants.

41. Plaintiff, an African-American Christian, took umbrage with a newspaper

opinion piece equating homosexuality with the civil rights struggles of racial minorities.

Plaintiff rebutted this opinion by submitting her own opinion piece in the same

newspaper, only to be fired from her job by the government for doing so—a University

nonetheless, supposedly a marketplace for ideas—who then, without any adverse

consequences, published its own opinion piece in the same newspaper to rebut Plaintiff’s

opinion piece. To add insult to injury, Defendants—the government—then replaced

Plaintiff with a less qualified and officially disgraced person and paid him substantially

more than the Plaintiff.

42. Defendants’ outrageous, reckless, and wanton actions and omissions have

chilled Plaintiff’s constitutionally protected speech, and caused her emotional distress,

lost wages and income, and substantially affected her future earning capacity and

potential.

FIRST CLAIM FOR RELIEF

Freedom of Speech—First Amendment

(42 U.S.C. § 1983)

43. Plaintiff hereby incorporates by reference all above-stated paragraphs.

44. By reason of the aforementioned acts, omissions, policy, practice, and/or

custom, engaged in under color of state law, Defendants have deprived Plaintiff of her

right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution

as applied to the states and their political subdivisions under the Fourteenth Amendment

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to the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in that Defendants have punished

Plaintiff by terminating her government employment based upon the viewpoint of her

political speech, expressed as a private citizen on a matter of public concern, with no

compelling state interest that could justify such action.

45. Defendants have in place a policy, practice, and/or custom that grants

them unbridled discretion to subjectively determine which political speech is permitted

and which political speech is not permitted in violation of the First Amendment and by

reason of the acts, omissions, policy, practice and/or custom, as set forth in this

Complaint, Defendants have violated Plaintiff’s right to freedom of speech under the

First Amendment to the United States Constitution as applied to the states and their

political subdivisions under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

and 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

46. As a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ violation of the Free

Speech Clause of the First Amendment, Plaintiff has suffered injury and irreparable

harm, including the loss of her constitutional rights, entitling her to declaratory and

injunctive relief and damages.

SECOND CLAIM FOR RELIEF

Equal Protection—Fourteenth Amendment

(42 U.S.C. § 1983)

47. Plaintiff hereby incorporates by reference all above-stated paragraphs.

48. By reason of the aforementioned acts, omissions, policy, practice, and/or

custom, engaged in under the color of state law, Defendants have deprived Plaintiff of the

equal protection of the law guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United

States Constitution by punishing Plaintiff for expressing her political viewpoint as a

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private citizen on a matter of public concern in a local newspaper, while permitting

government employees to express the government’s viewpoint on the same matter in the

same local newspaper, thereby denying the use of this forum to those viewpoints which

Defendants find unacceptable.

49. As a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ violation of the Equal

Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Plaintiff has suffered injury and

irreparable harm, including the loss of her constitutional rights, entitling her to

declaratory and injunctive relief and damages.

PRAYER FOR RELIEF

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff asks that this Court:

A) declare Defendants have violated Plaintiff’s constitutional rights by

censoring her speech and by punishing her by terminating her employment for engaging

in protected speech activities based on the viewpoint of her speech as set forth in this

Complaint;

B) declare Defendants’ acts, omissions, policy, practice and/or custom are

unconstitutional as set forth in this Complaint;

C) order that Plaintiff be reinstated to the position she held at the time of her

termination, or in the alternative, order that Plaintiff receive front pay for a reasonable

period of time;

D) order that Plaintiff receive full back pay;

E) retain jurisdiction of this matter for the purpose of enforcing this Court’s

orders;

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F) award nominal and compensatory damages against all Defendants and

punitive damages against Defendants Jacobs and Logie in their individual capacities

pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and other applicable law;

G) award Plaintiff reasonable attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses pursuant to

42 U.S.C. § 1988 and other applicable law;

H) to grant such other relief as this Court should find just and proper.

DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL

Pursuant to Rule 38(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Plaintiff hereby

demands a trial by jury of all issues triable of right by a jury.

Respectfully Submitted,

THOMAS MORE LAW CENTER

By: /s/Brandon M. Bolling
Brandon M. Bolling, Esq.
(MI P60195; RI 7728)
P.O. Box 393
24 Frank Lloyd Wright Drive
Ann Arbor, MI 48106
Phone: 734.827.2001
Fax: 734.930.7160
E-mail: bbolling@thomasmore.org
*Admission Pro Hac Vice Pending

LAW OFFICE OF THOMAS A. SOBECKI

By: /s/ Thomas A. Sobecki
Thomas A. Sobecki (OH 0005210)
405 Madison Avenue, Suite 910
Toledo, Ohio 43604
Phone: 419-242-9908
Fax: 419-242-9937
E-mail: tsobecki@tomsobecki.com

Attorneys for Plaintiffs

Dated: December 1, 2008

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