Appeal denied in lawsuit against pharmacy program

A Pennsylvania judge has denied an appeal by a man suing Kansas University for defamation and retaliation.

Craig Marten, a former student in the university’s nontraditional pharmacy doctoral program, filed a suit against the university several years ago after he was dismissed from the program.

He argued that his dismissal for plagiarism was retaliation for a complaint he made against the program and its professors, according to court filings.

“Essentially, he’s arguing he was retaliated against for bringing forward a complaint that should be a public concern,” said Stanley B. Cheiken, Marten’s attorney.

The program allows students around the country to complete a pharmacy degree through KU. In Marten’s case, he was doing the work from his home in Pennsylvania.

In last week’s ruling, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision and determined that the U.S. district court in Pennsylvania had no jurisdiction over Kansas University or any of the professors in the program.

Marten, according to the court filing, regularly complained about the grades he received on assignments, and eventually escalated his complaints to Ronald Ragan, director of the program.

Marten said that Ragan later called and threatened to have him expelled from the program.

It was the following fall when Marten was expelled for plagiarism after two instances of including unattributed work in his papers, according to court documents.

KU argued that because the program is in Kansas and all the individual defendants are in Kansas, a district court in Pennsylvania has no jurisdiction in this case.

Without addressing the facts of the case, first the district court and then the appeals court ruled that KU was correct and the district court in eastern Pennsylvania did not have jurisdiction.

KU had no other comment Tuesday.

Cheiken said that he had no comment on whether his client would choose to pursue the case in another district that might have jurisdiction, such as the Kansas district.

Marten could pursue an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but, Cheiken said, as a practical matter, the Supreme Court hears very few cases.