(CN) – A former University of Nevada student who claims she was falsely accused of attacking a star athlete with a pair of scissors can’t sue university officials over her arrest and tainted transcript, the 9th Circuit ruled.
The three-judge panel in San Francisco upheld a lower court’s ruling that university officials are shielded from Megan Krainski’s claims under constitutional protections for state actors.
Krainski had claimed that two resident assistants (RAs) in her dorm conspired with her roommate, top long jumper Kenya Polee, to fabricate the scissor story.
Krainski said the lie was in “retaliation for her making a complaint against a star athlete.” She said she complained to one of the RAs about Polee’s “threatening and harassing behavior.”
The fabricated scissor story allegedly caused her to be arrested on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon. She also received a disciplinary notation on her record, which allegedly “depriv[ed] her of the opportunity to obtain an education and further her career.”
Krainski sued the RAs, along with various UNLV officials and police officers, for unlawful arrest and imprisonment, demanding that her name be cleared.
A federal judge dismissed her case based on the officials’ qualified immunity, and a split 9th Circuit panel upheld the ruling.
“Krainski has been unable to present us with any binding or persuasive authority for the proposition that a substantial due process violation occurs when a university official places an unwarranted disciplinary notation on a transcript,” Judge Sidney Thomas wrote for the 2-1 majority.
As for her claims against the officers, the court said Krainski failed to offer any evidence that the officers had reason to believe the scissor story was false.
“[I]nstead, she merely alleged in a conclusory fashion that the officers ‘knew, or should have known, that the allegations … were false’ and that they failed to conduct an adequate investigation,” Thomas wrote.
In a partial dissent, Judge Betty Fletcher wrote, “Even if the majority were right that Krainski’s Fourth Amendment allegations are conclusory, it would still be wrong to affirm the district court’s dismissal without leave to amend.”