CINCINNATI (AP) – A federal judge on Monday dismissed a fraternity’s $10 million lawsuit accusing Miami University of acting with "malice, hatred and ill will" by suspending it for having a fireworks battle with another fraternity and having marijuana.
U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott dismissed Phi Kappa Tau’s lawsuit against the southern Ohio university with prejudice, meaning it cannot be refiled.
The judge said the fraternity failed to submit any facts that supported its claims the public university violated its constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure and due process.
She also denied the fraternity’s request to refile the complaint removing the university from the case but adding top university officials. That request came after the university’s attorneys pointed out that the fraternity could not legally sue it because they are both state entities.
The judge said in her order the university officials also are immune.
Fraternity lawyer F. Harrison Green said he needed to review the judge’s decision and declined to comment further.
University spokeswoman Claire Wagner said that university officials felt the lawsuit "had no merit" and were pleased with the judge’s decision to dismiss it.
"The majority of the rules in our student code of conduct are there to protect student safety and to make sure their educational experience is what it should be," Wagner said. "The university took action when there was evidence of a violation of that code of conduct."
The university suspended Phi Kappa Tau and another fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, after police said the fraternities shot fireworks at each other on Aug. 19. That led to the discovery of a baggy of marijuana and a couple of pipes, police said.
Phi Kappa Tau officers said that the items seized by police involved between two and four members, not the entire 80-plus-member chapter, and that those responsible would be held accountable.
As part of the suspension, the 16,000-student university made the fraternity’s youngest members, all sophomores, move into university housing.
The lawsuit said that the absence of sophomore members from the off-campus fraternity house will cost the fraternity at least $130,000 and that statements made by university officials have embarrassed fraternity members and ruined their reputations.
Besides the $10 million, Phi Kappa Tau was asking for a jury trial and had asked the judge for a temporary order forcing the university in Oxford to lift the suspension while the case was pending. The judge denied that request.
The fraternity’s year-long suspension, which ends in August, prohibits its members from participating in Greek life or recruiting members. For the first two years after the suspension, at least half the members living in the chapter house must be upperclassmen, there must be a live-in adviser and fraternity members will be required to learn about fire safety.