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Allison v. Howard University

April 24, 2002

ALBERT ALLISON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HOWARD UNIVERSITY ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



Document No. 52

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING THE DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on the defendants' motion for summary judgment. Albert Allison ("the plaintiff" or "Mr. Allison"), brings this pro se action for alleged breach of contract, violation of due process, negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq. The defendants are Howard University ("the law school" or "Howard") and Howard law school professor Sharon Anderson. The plaintiff alleges that the law school expelled him after subjecting him to an improper grading process by wrongfully ratifying the expulsion and wrongfully denying the plaintiff's petitions for readmission. Additionally, the plaintiff states that the defendants' refusal to grant the plaintiff's readmission petitions constitutes a failure to accommodate a disability. For the reasons that follow, the court grants the defendants' motion for summary judgment.

II. BACKGROUND

Mr. Allison began his first year at Howard's law school in the Fall of 1993. See Compl. ¶ 3. *fn1 In his first semester, he received three "D" grades and his grade point average ("GPA") was 64.66. See Mot. for Summ. J. at 3. After Mr. Allison's first semester, Howard's Assistant Dean for Student Affairs and Records, Denise Purdie, sent him a letter dated March 3, 1994 offering Mr. Allison "assistance with his academic difficulties by inviting him to participate in an Academic Success Project consisting of nine, ninety minute sessions designed to help improve study and exam writing skills." Id. (citing Exs. 19, 20 (Allison Dep.) at 37). Mr. Allison "does not recall whether he availed himself of such assistance by taking the offered sessions." Id. (citing Ex. 20 (Allison Dep.) at 38). During his first year, Mr. Allison also failed the first semester of Legal Reasoning, Research, and Writing, a year-long required course. See Mot. for Summ. J. at 3-4.

In August 1995, during his third year, Mr. Allison enrolled in the Criminal Justice Clinic ("the clinic"), a 12-credit course, to satisfy the law school's "skills course" requirement. *fn2 See id. at 3-4, 6, Ex. 2 ¶ 5, Ex. 29 at 73. Professor Sharon Styles-Anderson taught the clinic throughout the 1995-1996 academic year. See Compl. ¶ 4. The law school designed the clinic to offer third-year students pedagogical, theoretical, and practical tools to advance their ability to represent indigent clients in criminal cases through weekly classes and the handling of D.C. Superior Court misdemeanor cases and prisoner's rights hearings under the supervision of D.C. Public Defender Service attorneys. See Mot. for Summ. J. at 6, Exs. 30, 32.

On May 7, 1996, Mr. Allison learned of his failing grade of 59 in the clinic and complained to Professor Anderson. See Compl. ¶ 2. As a result of Mr. Allison's failing grade, Dean Purdie notified Mr. Allison of his immediate expulsion through a certified letter dated May 22, 1996. See Mot. for Summ. J. at 6-7, Ex. 18 at 26, Ex. 16, Ex. 17, Ex. 37 at 122, Ex. 83. Dean Purdie cited as the reason for Mr. Allison's expulsion his failure to satisfy the law school's requirement of a passing grade in a 12-credit course pursuant to Part II (V)(A)(3)(a) of the law school's student handbook. See Defs.' Statement of Material Facts ¶ 16. On May 7, 1996, Mr. Allison submitted a formal "Petition for an Expedited Grade Review" to Dean of the Law School Henry Ramsey, Jr. seeking to have his failing grade in the clinic vacated and reassessed. See Mot. for Summ. J. at 7; Ex. 40, Ex. 42 at 106.

On May 17, 1996, in response to the petition, the law school convened a Special Grievance Committee ("the committee"), consisting of students and faculty members, to review the "F" grade received by Mr. Allison. See Mot. for Summ. J. at 7-8; Ex. 45. On June 20, 1996, following a full review of Mr. Allison's written materials, the committee unanimously voted to affirm the failing grade given to Mr. Allison by the law school. *fn3 See Mot. for Summ. J. at 9; Ex. 55; Ex. 13; Ex. 15; Ex. 16; Ex.18 at 1-2, 11. On August 9, 1996, Dean Ramsey conducted and completed a review of the committee's hearing record and all oral and written submissions submitted by Mr. Allison, professor Anderson, and the committee. See Defs.' Statement of Material Facts ¶ 8. As a result of the review, Dean Ramsey affirmed the "F" grade received by Mr. Allison. See Mot. for Summ. J. at 10; Ex. 60; Ex. 61 at 149.

On November 1, 1996, Mr. Allison provided the law school with notice of a temporary disability. See Compl. ¶ 17. Specifically, Mr. Allison claims that he suffered "some temporary emotional distress" beginning in the Fall of 1995. See Mot. for Summ. J. at 13. Subsequently, Mr. Allison sought readmission to the law school by submitting a series of five "Petitions for Readmission" between November 1996 and October 1998 to the law school's Student Affairs Committee. See Compl. ¶¶ 26, 32, 37, 41, 45. Mr. Allison submitted his petitions pursuant to the guidelines set forth in the Law School's Student Affairs Handbook. See id. The Student Affairs Committee denied all five of Mr. Allison's petitions. See id. ¶¶ 29, 33, 34, 39, 43, 46.

Thereafter, Mr. Allison instituted this lawsuit by filing his initial complaint on June 17, 1999. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, to which the plaintiff filed an opposition. See Mem. Op. dated July 26, 2000 at 2. The plaintiff subsequently filed his first amended complaint, which added the count alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress. See id. The defendant filed a motion to strike the plaintiff's first amended complaint. The court issued an order accepting the plaintiff's first amended complaint as filed and, by that acceptance, denying all pending motions as moot. See id.

Subsequently, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the first amended complaint or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. See id. The plaintiff countered with a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint to add a count of negligence. See id. In the July 26, 2000 Memorandum Opinion, the court granted the plaintiff's motion for leave to file a second amended complaint and denied all other pending motions as moot. See id. The court now turns to the defendant's motion for summary judgment.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for Summary ...


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