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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Robert Jackson, a former police officer, began law school at Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law in the fall of 2003. One of his courses that fall was Lawyering Process I, taught by Professor J. Faith Jackson. The final paper in the course, worth 49 percent of the total grade, was a “closed memo,” meaning that the students had to prepare the memo alone. Jong Kim was a classmate of Jackson’s who asked for a draft of Robert’s paper on two occasions, ostensibly to use as a guideline. Robert acquiesced by printing out a copy of his paper and giving it to Kim. After noting the striking similarities between the papers, Faith assigned both Robert and Kim a zero. When Robert saw his final grade for the course, a score of 67 percent, Robert “admitted to giving Kim a copy of his paper.” A second meeting was then arranged between Faith, Robert and Kim. At this meeting, Faith pointed out the similarities in the papers and allowed each person to explain his version of events. Concluding that the students had collaborated on a closed memo, Faith assigned them both a grade of zero for the memo. Robert took no further steps at that time to have his grade changed. During his spring semester, however, Robert pursued an honor court complaint against Kim, even though such a complaint could do nothing to change his own grade. Jackson also asked the Academic Standards Committee to extend the deadline for filing a request for a grade change, because he wanted to resolve the Kim honor court matter before he appeared before the committee. After the spring semester ended, Jackson was notified by letter of his academic dismissal, pursuant to school policy. Jackson replied by letter stating that he had been waiting for the resolution of Kim’s honor court proceeding before appealing his grade. He then formally filed his appeal with the committee despite not having the Kim issue resolved. The committee met with Robert and his attorney twice in the month of August. The first meeting was spent discussing Robert’s frustration with the honor court’s failure to act in a timely manner on his complaint against Kim. The second meeting was approximately a week later. Robert and his attorney each had a chance to speak at that meeting, with the committee asking questions. The committee was not concerned with whether Robert cheated, but only with whether Robert had been treated differently from other similarly situated students. The committee ultimately denied Jackson’s petition and affirmed his dismissal. Robert sued Texas Southern University, Faith, Dean Carrington, Academic Dean Vergie Mouton, Associate Dean Fernando Colon-Navarro and Jong Kim. He alleged defamation, breach of contract, fraud and violation of due process pursuant to 42 U.S.C. �1983. Kim was eventually nonsuited. The remaining defendants moved for summary judgment on all causes of action. The trial court granted summary judgment without specifying which arguments in the motion it found meritorious. Jackson appealed the grant of summary judgment only as to his due process claims. HOLDING:Affirmed. When the trial court’s order does not specify the grounds for its summary judgment, the court stated that it must affirm the trial court’s grant of the summary judgment motion if any of the theories presented to the trial court and preserved on appeal are meritorious. In light of this standard, the court stated that it considered only the third basis for the motion for summary judgment – satisfaction of procedure and substantive due process – because it was dispositive of the appeal. Review of a procedural due process claim, the court stated, involves a two step analysis: 1. deciding whether Robert was deprived of a protected interest; and 2. if so, what process is due. Robert alleged a property interest in TSU’s rules and regulations themselves. He stated, “[w]hen TSU codified its Rules and Regulations, it conferred a right, or entitlement, to the student body that is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.” But the court found this argument unconvincing. The U.S. Supreme Court, the court stated, has made it clear that an individual does not acquire a substantive interest in specific procedures developed by the state. Jackson’s entire claim, the court stated, is that his due process rights were violated, because TSU did not follow its own rules, and that he had a substantive interest in the process itself. Notably, the court stated, he does not assert that the process he was given did not meet minimum due process standards. Thus, the court concluded that Robert failed to state a cognizable due process claim. Robert’s brief, the court stated, also raised a substantive due process claim. Specifically, he claimed a right to have his writing assignment fairly graded. The court, however, found that Faith gave Robert the zero as a disciplinary measure. The test of substantive due process question is simply whether the government action was arbitrary and capricious to the point of irrationality, the court stated. Giving a student a zero for cheating on course work is not irrational, the court stated. OPINION:Fowler, J.; Hedges, C.J., and Fowler and Edelman, JJ.

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