DUNIWAY, Circuit Judge:
The Arizona Board of Regents and its members appeal from a judgment ordering the regents to reinstate Morris J. Starsky as an assistant professor of philosophy at Arizona State University. Starsky brought this action for an injunction and damages under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981-1985, alleging that the Board's decision not to renew his yearly contract violated his first amendment rights. The trial court held that the regents improperly predicated the decision not to renew on constitutionally protected speech. Starsky v. Williams, D.Ariz., 1972, 353 F.Supp. 900. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand on a limited issue.
In January 1970, Professor Starsky cancelled a regularly scheduled class at Arizona State to attend a rally at the University of Arizona, where he was one of several speakers protesting the arrest of certain University of Arizona students. Shortly thereafter, the regents instituted disciplinary proceedings against Starsky for his participation in this and seven other incidents involving allegedly unprofessional conduct. These incidents are described in the opinion of the district court and need not be rehearsed here. Although Arizona State University does not have a formal tenure system, Starsky had attained "stability of employment," which entitled him to a hearing before a decision not to renew his contract of employment. This he received before the faculty Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure.
After taking extensive testimony, totalling nearly 1200 pages of transcript, the faculty Committee made detailed findings regarding the eight specific incidents and concluded that, although the Committee did not condone all of Starsky's conduct, the incidents did not warrant dismissal. The university president forwarded these conclusions to the Board of Regents and recommended sanctions short of dismissal. Nonetheless, on June 10, 1970, the Board, as it had power to do, decided not to renew Starsky's yearly contract and thus terminated his employment. In making this decision, the regents relied on all eight incidents without assigning particular significance to any of them.
In this action, after both parties had moved for summary judgment on Starsky's claim for reinstatement, the trial judge proceeded to decide the merits of the claim on the basis of a written record. On the merits, the judge found
Faced with a melange of reasons for the discharge, several based on constitutionally protected activity and therefore not valid grounds for dismissal under Perry v. Sindermann, 1972, 408 U.S. 593, 596-98, 92 S.Ct. 2694, 33 L.Ed.2d 570, the judge concluded that Starsky's termination was predicated primarily or substantially on protected activity. Accordingly, the judge entered judgment for Starsky, ordering him reinstated, but reserving all issues relating to damages. We affirm Judge Muecke's decision on this issue for the reasons stated in his careful opinion. We need not decide whether Judge Muecke might have applied a less stringent test that would invalidate a discharge if based in part, even though not primarily or substantially, upon protected activity. On that question we express no opinion. But for a procedural anomaly, we would affirm the judgment in its entirety.
This appeal raises two procedural issues, one of which requires further proceedings in the district court. They are: (1) whether it was proper for the district judge to enter judgment for Starsky on what the parties characterized as cross-motions for summary judgment, and (2) whether Starsky's claims are foreclosed by a contractual settlement.
1. Judgment on cross-motions for summary judgment.
The regents attack the judgment on the merits by arguing that summary judgment is improper because the trial court resolved genuinely disputed issues of material fact. Although we do not agree with the regents that some issues that they identify were genuinely disputed, we assume arguendo that the judge did resolve at least one disputed material issue, namely, what was the regents' primary reason for discharging Starsky. Nonetheless, we do not reverse the judgment, for we agree with the trial judge that, under circumstances unique to this case, the parties had in effect submitted this case to the court for trial on an agreed statement of facts embodied in a limited written record. The judge therefore was free to decide all issues relating to Starsky's right to reinstatement and, in so deciding, to resolve factual issues. See Southwest Forest Industries, Inc. v. Westinghouse Electric Corp., 9 Cir., 1970, 422 F.2d 1013, 1015-18, cert. denied, 400 U.S. 902, 91 S.Ct. 138, 27 L.Ed.2d 138. This is why we apply the "clearly erroneous" rule, Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a) in reviewing the judge's findings.
The judge made every effort to maneuver this case into a posture that would permit expeditious resolution of the threshold constitutional issues determinative of Starsky's claim to reinstatement. To that end, during a hearing on defendants' motion to dismiss in the early stages of the litigation, the judge entreated the parties to take advantage of discovery and encouraged them to expedite a decision of the merits of the reinstatement claim without a full trial, suggesting by way of example that summary judgment might be appropriate. Several months later the regents moved for summary judgment, relying on the pleadings, various affidavits, minutes of the meetings of the Board of Regents, and the transcript and exhibits from the hearing before the faculty Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure.
As required by Local Rule 11(h) of the District of Arizona, the regents submitted a statement of material facts on which they relied for their motion. After one faltering attempt to rely on a mere series of citations to the administrative transcript, Starsky also submitted
At the hearing on the motion, upon persistent inquiry from the court, both parties made it clear that they relied on the written record before the court and that all the relevant facts on the issue of reinstatement were contained in that written record. Once again the judge urged the parties to make use of discovery to ensure that the record before the court was complete. Starsky followed the judge's suggestion by propounding interrogatories to each of the individual defendants, who included the regents and the university president. The answers to the interrogatories revealed no additional documents or information with which Starsky desired to supplement the record.
The judge then ordered a preliminary pretrial conference, suggesting that the case could be adjudicated either by cross-motions for summary judgment or by trial to the court. Although there is no record of the pretrial conference before us, a later order reveals that Starsky agreed to file a cross-motion for summary judgment and that the parties considered the case ripe for adjudication on the merits.
Starsky then moved for summary judgment on the theory that his first amendment rights had been infringed. In response, the regents made no objection to Starsky's assertion that there were no factual disputes. Rather, the regents argued the merits of their legal theory that the presence of one valid ground for dismissal, notwithstanding the regents' concomitant consideration of constitutionally invalid grounds, validated their action, and further argued that the court should grant their own motion for summary judgment. The regents never suggested that there were material factual disputes which precluded granting Starsky's motion. There was no oral argument on Starsky's motion.
Even after taking the cross-motions under submission, the judge made two specific requests for additional documents to shed light on the deliberations of, and materials considered by, the regents.
We are mindful that the mere fact that the parties make cross-motions for summary judgment does not necessarily mean that there are no disputed issues of material fact and does not necessarily permit the judge to render judgment in favor of one side or the other. 6 J. Moore, Federal Practice ¶ 56.13 (1965). However, in this case, the parties had in fact agreed that all of the underlying material facts were those reflected by the written record before the court. Given the unique procedural history of the litigation, which was drawn out over two and one-half years, the court was justified in concluding that the parties had in effect and in substance agreed to a trial of the reinstatement claim on the written record. In the words of the district judge:
353 F.Supp. at 904 (emphasis added). The comments of the judge, and of defendants' counsel, at a hearing on a proposed form of judgment, reveal that the parties understood the foregoing to be a fair statement of the posture of the case. We agree that it is.
That the parties and the court referred to the case as being submitted on cross-motions for summary judgment is therefore not controlling. We have on other occasions, in cases nominally submitted on motions for summary judgment, held that the parties had stipulated to what was in effect a trial to the court on an agreed written record. Southwest Forest Industries, Inc. v. Westinghouse Electric Corp., 9 Cir., 1970, 422 F.2d 1013, 1017-18; Gillespie v. Norris, 9 Cir., 1956, 231 F.2d 881. In Gillespie we said:
231 F.2d at 883-84. We drew the same conclusion in Southwest Forest Industries. We draw the same conclusion here. The court properly decided the merits of the reinstatement claim.
2. The purported contractual settlement.
Somewhat belatedly, the regents have raised the argument that Starsky and the university entered a contractual settlement, or an accord and satisfaction, which bars this action.
When the Board of Regents decided on June 10, 1970, not to renew Starsky's contract, they adopted the following resolution to effect the termination:
On July 28, 1970, Starsky, who had filed his first complaint in this lawsuit before the regents formally decided not to renew his contract, signed and submitted an application for sabbatical leave. As part of the standard form, that application contains the following statement: "I have read and will comply with the provisions of the Sabbatical Leave Policy of the Board of Regents." Typed in immediately after this statement, and immediately above Starsky's signature, is the following additional statement: "It is also understood that this leave, if granted, will be subject to action taken by the Board of Regents, June 10, 1970." This application was approved by various university officials on July 29 and 30.
On July 27, 1970, Starsky had filed his first amended complaint in this action. The striking proximity of events and the ambiguous language of the sabbatical application make us wonder why the parties did not mention the pending lawsuit in the agreement. The regents now urge us to hold, as a matter of law, that Starsky's claim is barred by the putative settlement reflected by the sabbatical agreement. This we decline to do because the record indicates that the court below did not rule on the issue and because there appear to be material issues of fact. Although the sabbatical agreement seems to us to establish, prima facie, a contractual settlement that would bar this action, we cannot ignore the fact that the regents did not present this issue as effectively as they should have to the trial judge and therefore failed to secure a ruling on it. Moreover, the fact that this action was pending, but is not mentioned in the papers relied on by the regents, raises doubt as to the parties' intentions.
To explain how the seemingly critical issue of the purported contractual settlement languished in the proceedings below requires a brief recapitulation of the events revealed by the record. The regents first raised the alleged settlement as an affirmative defense to this action in a motion to dismiss, to which they attached certified copies of the June 10 minutes and the terminal sabbatical agreement executed by Starsky. The motion was filed October 19, 1970, in response to Starsky's amended complaint, which had been filed July 27, 1970. The judge did not rule on this aspect of the motion, apparently because Starsky elected to file a second amended complaint on May 10, 1971. A third amended complaint was filed on June 17, 1971. As required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(c), the regents' answer, filed on July 28, 1971, clearly pleaded the agreement as an affirmative defense of accord and satisfaction.
However, when the regents moved for summary judgment, they failed to raise the settlement issue specifically as a ground for summary judgment. Neither their motion, the attached affidavits, nor the supporting memorandum made any reference to the putative contractual settlement. In fact, the way in which the regents submitted their motion for summary judgment may have misled the judge. Even though the regents had already submitted a certified copy of the minutes of June 10, 1970, meeting of the Board of Regents with the earlier motion to dismiss of October 19, 1970, the regents attached another certified copy of those minutes, along with the minutes of two other meetings, to their motion for summary judgment. But the regents did not provide another copy of the sabbatical agreement, or refer to it in any way. The only copy of that agreement in the entire record before us, which we understand to be the entire record of the proceedings below, is the one attached to the October 19, 1970, motion to dismiss. Because the subsequent motion for summary judgment made no explicit reference to affidavits not attached thereto, we would not expect the parties or the
Arguably, therefore, the regents might be deemed to have abandoned the issue. Indeed, we think they came perilously close to doing so. At the oral argument on the regents' motion for summary judgment, their counsel stated only as a factual matter, in passing, that Starsky had been granted a terminal sabbatical leave, and gave no hint that the regents relied on it in any way as a contractual settlement barring the lawsuit.
At the same oral argument, Starsky's counsel raised a question about missing minutes of certain Board meetings that were held before the decision to terminate Starsky. To allay any potential claims that the record did not contain all the relevant facts, the judge instructed Starsky to discover by conventional means whether there were any additional records of pertinent Board meetings. Starsky then submitted interrogatories to each of the regents and to the university president asking whether they had discussed Starsky's case at meetings other than those summarized by the minutes then in the record. The regents responded with sworn written answers which revealed no other pertinent meetings before the June 10, 1970, decision to terminate Starsky.
However, the answers of four regents
We note that, although regent Dunseath's answer is illuminating on the settlement question, it was figuratively buried in nearly two hundred pages of repetitive interrogatories. Neither party directed the court's attention to these answers, for the apparent purpose of the
Suffice it to say that from the filing of the regents' motion to dismiss on October 19, 1970, until after the judge first filed his opinion on December 26, 1972, except for the answer of July 28, 1971, the record reveals no instance where any party raised the so-called accord and satisfaction or contractual settlement issue. Like the answers to interrogatories, the pertinent papers, filed with the motion to dismiss, were buried in several hundred pages of papers in the clerk's files.
The judge's thorough 70-page opinion granting Starsky reinstatement alludes neither to Starsky's acceptance of the terminal sabbatical nor to the contractual settlement argument. After the initial filing of the opinion, the judge withheld entry of judgment for a short time to permit emendation of any clerical errors in the opinion and judgment and to allow the Board to meet to consider its response to the adverse judgment.
On January 22, 1973, the regents submitted a memorandum addressing the proposed form of judgment and attempting to resuscitate the dormant contractual settlement issue.
The judge might have taken the position that the regents' reliance on the alleged contractual settlement came too late, and that therefore this defense was waived. But he did not do that. As we read the transcript, the judge felt that the circumstances surrounding the execution of the agreement could not properly be presented or adjudicated on the basis of the written record then before him, and that the sabbatical agreement bore only on the damages question. We agree with the first proposition but disagree with the second.
If the objective intention of the regents,
We remand this case to the district court with instructions to determine the questions outlined above. If the court finds that there was no waiver and that the agreement was in fact a binding settlement, the court should vacate the injunction, deny all relief requested by Starsky, and enter judgment for the defendants. If the court finds that the defense was waived or that there was no contractual settlement, and because we affirm the court's decision that the discharge was invalid, the court should continue the injunction in effect and should proceed to an appropriate determination of the issue of damages. We decline to reach the damages questions. In the interest of avoiding repeated appeals, we suggest that the court consider deciding both the questions outlined above, even though the court may find that there was a waiver of the defense.
If there is a later appeal, the appealing party may, on motion, incorporate the present record and briefs on this appeal as part of the record and briefs on that new appeal. Only the new record developed on remand need be fowarded to this court, and the parties need file only limited briefs, addressing the remaining issues relating to the settlement and its effect.
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
Regent Dunseath answered in part: