United States District Court for the District of Columbia
July 22, 2003
Babi CHANDAMURI, Plaintiff,
GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROYCE LAMBERTH, District Judge.
This matter comes before this Court on a Motion to Dismiss .
Plaintiff submitted a Memorandum in Opposition , and the
defendant subsequently filed a Reply to Plaintiffs Opposition
. Upon consideration of the parties' filings and the
applicable law, this Court finds that the defendant's motion to
dismiss  should be granted.
Plaintiff Babi Chandamuri ("Chandamuri") brought suit alleging
unlawful discrimination on the basis of national origin and
retaliation against Georgetown University ("Georgetown") under
the District of Columbia Human Rights Act of 1977, as amended
December 2000, D.C. Code §§ 2-1401.01, 2-1402.01 and 2-1402.41,
.61, and .68 (hereinafter "DCHRA") and Title VI of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d as amended ("Title
This suit was brought following Chandamuri's sanction for
plagiarism during the second semester of his senior year, the
2001-2002 academic year. Chandamuri is an American citizen of
Indian descent. In the Spring of 2002, Chandamuri enrolled in
Chemistry 420, Advanced Biochemistry, under the instruction of
Dr. Paul Roepe ("Roepe"). Prior to his Spring 2002 course,
Chandamuri took an independent research course at Georgetown
Hospital in Fall semester 2000; Dr. Roepe was the faculty member
overseeing Chandamuri's research. At the conclusion of the Fall
2000 semester, Dr. Roepe gave Chandamuri a grade of B.
Chandamuri contested the grade by raising the matter with the
Chair of the Chemistry Department, Dr. Kertesz, claiming that Dr.
Roepe had treated him unfairly and differently than other
"similarly situated" students in Dr. Roepe's class. Chandamuri's
basis for this perceived unfair treatment was that other students
and Chandamuri's advisor had advised him the course was supposed
to be an "easy A." After Dr. Kertesz communicated with Dr. Roepe
regarding the grade, Dr. Kertesz informed Chandamuri that Dr.
Roepe would not change Chandamuri's grade for the course. Dr.
Kertesz advised Chandamuri against pursuing the complaint with
the Assistant Dean of Georgetown College, because Chandamuri was
required to take an upperclass Biochemistry course with Dr. Roepe
during his senior year. Chandamuri did not appeal to the
Assistant Dean regarding the Fall semester 2000 grade.
A requirement of the Spring 2002 Advanced Biochemistry course
was that students complete a term paper on a topic of their own
selection, subject to approval by Dr. Roepe. The term paper was
valued at 20% of the total grade. Chandamuri submitted the paper
by April 24, 2002, in accordance with the dates established by
Dr. Roepe. On May 2, 2002, Dr. Roepe
[274 F. Supp.2d 76]
informed Chandamuri via email that Roepe was reporting Chandamuri
to the Georgetown University Honor Council ("Honor Council") for
committing plagiarism in violation of the Georgetown University
Honor Code, Integrity, The Honor System, 2001-2002 ("Honor
Code"). On May 5, 2002, an Investigating Officer for the Honor
Council contacted Chandamuri to discuss the events surrounding
the alleged violation. On May 7, 2002, Chandamuri was notified by
the Faculty Chair of the Honor Council that there was sufficient
evidence to send his case to a Hearing Board and that his Honor
Council hearing would be held May 9, 2002 at 5:00 p.m.
At the hearing, the Honor Council concluded that Chandamuri was
in violation of the Honor Code. Chandamuri was notified that the
Honor Council recommended that he be suspended for one semester,
with a notation regarding the suspension entered onto
Chandamuri's official Georgetown transcript, and that the action
taken by the Honor Council Hearing Board would not affect any
additional action that may be imposed by the professor.
Chandamuri's attorneys notified the Faculty Chair of the Honor
Council that Chandamuri was appealing the decision of the Honor
Council Hearing Board. Chandamuri's appeal alleged several
procedural violations, including the untimely notification of his
opportunity to produce documents, the Honor Council's failure to
define plagiarism for the purpose of the hearing, and the failure
to establish the procedures by which the hearing was to be run.
Compl. ¶ 19, 22.
Chandamuri was given a second hearing on June 19, 2002. The new
hearing was conducted by a different Investigating Officer and
Hearing Board. The Honor Council notified Chandamuri that the
punishment recommended was the same: a suspension for one
semester, with a notation regarding the suspension entered on
Chandamuri's official Georgetown transcript, and that the action
taken by the Honor Council Hearing Board would not affect any
additional action that may be imposed by the professor.
Chandamuri alleges that the second hearing was also flawed by the
failure to establish the standards for plagiarism and failure to
articulate the process by which he would be adjudged.
Chandamuri alleges that Georgetown violated his federal civil
rights under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and his
human rights under the DCHRA in their handling of plagiarism
claims brought against him. in his prayer for relief, Chandamuri
sought compensatory, punitive, and nominal damages against
Georgetown, and requested that the district court issue a
declaratory judgment that Georgetown had violated Chandamuri's
rights, as well as order Georgetown to absolve Chandamuri of all
violations of the Honor Code and issue him a degree from
II. LAW AND APPLICATION
A. Standard of Review for a Motion to Dismiss
A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests not whether the
plaintiff will prevail on the merits, but whether the plaintiff
has properly stated a claim. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Scheuer
v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90
(1974). The Federal Rules only require that a complaint include
"a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief," Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), because the
complaint "must simply `give the defendant fair notice of what
the plaintiffs claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'"
Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 122 S.Ct. 992, 998,
152 L.Ed.2d 1 (2002) (quoting Conley v. Gibson,
[274 F. Supp.2d 77]
355 U.S. 41, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)).
The court must accept as true all wellpleaded factual
allegations and grant plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable
inferences that can be derived from the alleged facts. Conley,
355 U.S. at 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99; Kowal v. MCI Communications
Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994); see Judicial Watch,
Inc. v. Clinton, 880 F. Supp. 1, 7 (D.D.C. 1995) (Lamberth, J.).
The suit may be dismissed for failure to state a claim only if
"it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of
facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief."
Conley, 355 U.S. at 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99. In deciding a 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss, the Court will consider the facts alleged in
the pleadings, documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by
reference in the pleadings, and matters about which the Court may
take judicial notice. EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch.,
117 F.3d 621, 624-25 (D.C. Cir. 1997).
B. State Law Claims
When a federal court has an independent basis for exercising
federal jurisdiction, the court may also exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over "claims that are so related to claims in the
action within original jurisdiction that they form part of the
same case or controversy under Article III of the United States
Constitution." 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) (2001); Women Prisoners of
D.C. Dep't of Corr. v. District of Columbia, 93 F.3d 910, 920
(D.C. Cir. 1996). To be adequately related, the federal and state
claims must "derive from a common nucleus of operative fact . . .
[and] are such that [a plaintiff] would ordinarily be expected to
try them all in one judicial proceeding." United Mine Workers of
Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 725, 86 S.Ct. 1130, 16 L.Ed.2d 218
The plaintiffs Federal Civil Rights claim under Title VI and
his D.C. statutory claims "derive from a common nucleus of
operative fact," namely, the circumstances surrounding the
plagiarism incident. Therefore, this Court can exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over the D.C. claims pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1367. While federal courts have the discretion to
decline to exercise jurisdiction over state claims, the Court
concludes that "considerations of judicial economy, convenience,
and fairness to litigants" favor the several claims being
litigated in a single proceeding. Carnegie-Mellon Univ. v.
Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 349, 108 S.Ct. 614, 98 L.Ed.2d 720 (1988)
C. Chandamuri's Discrimination Claims
Chandamuri alleges discrimination on the basis of national
origin in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq and DCHRA, D.C. Code §§ 2-1401.01,
2-1402.01, 2-1402.41, 2-1402.68. Title VI, § 601 states, "No
person in the United States shall, on the ground of . . .
national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the
benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program
or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."
42 U.S.C. § 2000d. The DCHRA prohibits acts of discrimination that
interfere with the rights of any and all individuals and makes it
illegal for an educational institution to "deny, restrict, or to
abridge or condition the use of, or access to, any of its
facilities and services to any person otherwise qualified . . .
for a discriminatory reason, based upon the . . . national origin
. . . of any individual." D.C. Code §§ 2-1042.41.
The D.C. Circuit has held that a plaintiff is not required to
set forth the prima facie elements of a discrimination claim at
[274 F. Supp.2d 78]
initial stage. In Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc.,
216 F.3d 1111, 1114 (D.C. Cir. 2000), the D.C. Circuit affirmed that the
McDonnell Douglas test provides the framework for proving
unlawful discrimination, and that, as an initial matter, the
test's first prong places the burden on a plaintiff to establish
a prima facie case of discrimination by demonstrating (1) that he
is a member of a protected class; (2) that he was similarly
situated to a student who was not a member of the protected
class; and (3) that he and the similarly situated person were
treated disparately. However, the Circuit stated that "none of
this . . . has to be accomplished in the complaint itself."
Sparrow, 216 F.3d at 1114. In evaluating what plaintiff is
required to establish for his complaint to survive Georgetown's
motion to dismiss, this Court is instructed by the D.C. Circuit's
more recent analysis in Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235
(D.C. Cir. 2002). The Circuit emphasized that despite the fact
that the complaint "must simply `give the defendant fair notice
of what the plaintiffs claim is and the grounds upon which it
rests,' . . . we accept neither `inferences drawn by plaintiffs
if such inferences are unsupported by the facts set out in the
complaint,' nor `legal conclusions cast in the form of factual
allegations.'" Browning, 292 F.3d at 242, quoting Swierkiewicz v.
Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 122 S.Ct. 992, 998, 152 L.Ed.2d 1
(2002) (citations omitted).
With these standards in mind, the Court begins with
Chandamuri's allegations that Georgetown denied him access to its
"facilities and services" and that "this disparate treatment was
motivated by intent to discriminate against" him. Chandamuri
claims that the Honor Council treated him differently from
"similarly situated white students" by: (1) deviating from its
established policies and procedures in the disciplinary action
taken against him, including failing to produce a definition of
plagiarism in his disciplinary hearings and failing to consider
the mitigating circumstances of his family crises at the time;
and (2) punishing Chandamuri in an "unduly and unusually harsh"
manner in suspending for his violation of the Honor Code.
Chandamuri claims that he was qualified to pass Chemistry 420 but
for the "discriminatory disciplinary action" taken against him by
Dr. Roepe, Dr. Kertesz, and members of the Georgetown Honor
a. Deviation from Procedures
There is no evidence that the Honor Council's hearing was not
conducted in accordance with the procedures published in the
Honor Code. Chandamuri's persistent contention that the Honor
Council discriminated against him by failing to produce a
cohesive definition of plagiarism in his disciplinary hearings is
without merit and unmistakably contradicted by the Georgetown
documents referenced in his complaint.
Chandamuri states that Dr. Roepe reported him for plagiarism
because, in his paper, he did not place direct passages of
previously-published articles within quotation marks. Chandamuri
alleges that Dr. Roepe's definition of plagiarism is not
supported by the Honor Council materials on the basis that
Chandamuri cited the authors upon whose work he relied and
therefore did not intend to pass off the work of others as his
own. Chandamuri maintains that his actions do not meet
Georgetown's definition of plagiarism and alleges that the Honor
Council hearing was severely flawed because the Honor Council
never defined plagiarism for the purpose of the hearing or
established the procedures by which the hearing was to be run.
[274 F. Supp.2d 79]
The rules governing the proceedings to adjudicate academic
dishonesty cases are clearly set forth in the Honor Code, as is
the Honor Council's definition of plagiarism. The Honor Code
prohibits plagiarism in any of its forms, whether it is
intentional or unintentional, and defines plagiarism as "the act
of passing off as one's own ideas the writing of another." See
Mot. to Dismiss, App. 2-3 (Honor Code; Georgetown University
Honor Council, What is Plagiarism?). The Honor Council document
goes beyond the general definition to provide several explicit
examples of different types of plagiarism, as well as
instructions for properly acknowledging the authors' works.
Even if Dr. Roepe's definition of plagiarism were unsupported
by the Honor Council materials, Dr. Roepe was not a participant
in the ultimate adjudication of the matter. The Honor Council
conducted the investigation and hearing, and decided, based on
its published definition, that Chandamuri had committed
plagiarism. Chandamuri's attempt to frame the fact that the Honor
Council did not reiterate the definition of plagiarism as a
"procedural irregularity" and to construe it as the foundation
for an inference of discriminatory animus is an effort that is,
at best, unreasonable and wholly unsupported by the facts.
Chandamuri next alleges that Georgetown violated its
Sanctioning Guidelines when it refused to consider the mitigating
circumstances of his several family crises during the Spring
semester of 2002. See Mot. to Dismiss App. 4. However, the Honor
Council's Sanctioning Guidelines state that the Hearing Board may
raise or lower the sanction by one level, depending on mitigating
or exacerbating circumstances. Id. By his own allegations,
Chandamuri admits that the Honor Council's power to adjust a
sanction is discretionary. The decision not to exercise that
discretion to adjust Chandamuri's sanction cannot be equated with
a violation of the Sanctioning Guidelines. Even if Chandamuri
thinks it unfair that the Honor Council did not adjust his
sanction due to the unfortunate circumstances in his personal
life, there are simply no grounds for a logical inference that
the Honor Council declined to exercise its discretion for any
The final, devastating blow to Chandamuri's incredible
inference of discrimination is that, after reviewing Chandamuri's
family situation, the Dean of Georgetown College, Dr. Jane
McAuliffe, did reduce his punishment from a level "4" to a level
"3," meaning that Chandamuri would not be suspended for one
semester; instead, he would only receive a notation of "Honor
Council Violation" on his Georgetown University transcript, which
can be permanently removed from his record if he agrees to a
"sanction reduction plan." In light of the fact that the Dean
chose to exercise her discretion to the greatest extent possible
under the Sanctioning Guidelines, the Court finds this argument
to be wholly without merit. Chandamuri's contradictory factual
allegations-that the Honor Council discriminated against him by
not exercising a discretionary measure and, in the same
complaint, his concession that the Dean did grant leniency and
reduce his penalty-cannot support an inference of discrimination.
In this instance, he has clearly alleged "facts that render
success on the merits impossible." Sparrow, 216 F.3d at 1116.
b. Punishment "unduly and unjustly harsh"
Chandamuri's allegation of unduly and unusually harsh
punishment is founded on the May 10, 2002, comment by Sonia
Jacobson, an employee in the Office of
[274 F. Supp.2d 80]
the Provost, that the severity of the punishment surprised her.
Compl. ¶ 21. According to Ms. Jacobson, Georgetown had never
given out a "5," equal to expulsion on the punishment scale, and
that the punishment of "4," equal to the suspension given to
Chandamuri, was generally reserved only for the most egregious
violations of the Honor Code. Without a foundation to do so,
Chandamuri offers a creative interpretation of Ms. Jacobson's
sympathetic comment and asserts that he was treated differently
than "similarly-situated white students." This assertion is
conclusory and without any factual support. As noted in Browning,
on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court may not accept "legal
conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations." 292 F.3d at
242. The Court notes that Ms. Jacobson was not a member of the
Honor Council Hearing Board at either hearing, nor is it clear
that she was familiar with the circumstances surrounding the
case. Further, Ms. Jacobson's comment in no way indicates that
Chandamuri was punished more severely than white students, only
that she did not believe his offense merited the sanction.
In his complaint, Chandamuri lays out Georgetown's
classification system for "Minor" and "Major" papers, projects,
or tests, indicating that the Honor Council's Sanctioning
Guidelines state that papers that count for 5% to 20% of the
semester grade are considered minor, while papers that count for
20% or more are considered major, but that the cutoff may vary
depending on the particular professor's grading scheme. Compl.
¶ 34. Chandamuri admits that Dr. Roepe's assignment was worth
20% of his semester grade, and states that the Sanctioning
Guidelines indicate that the punishment of suspension is
appropriate for serious violations of the Honor Code. At best,
Chandamuri could allege that the Honor Council abused its
discretion in considering his paper `major' and issuing the
sanction for a `serious violation,' but his use of the exchange
with Ms. Jacobson as evidence of discrimination is nothing more
than conjecture. Courts are not permitted to "go beyond the
language of the statement at issue to find inferences of bias
where none exist." Jalal v. Columbia Univ. in City of New York,
4 F. Supp.2d 224, 236 (S.D.N.Y. 1998). The Court is unconvinced
that Chandamuri's overbroad speculation about Ms. Jacobson's
comment creates a basis in fact for an inference of
Chandamuri relies on Sparrow to assert that, "[a]s a civil
rights matter alleging national origin discrimination . . .
Plaintiffs allegation that Defendant discriminated against him on
the basis of national origin is alone sufficient to defeat
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss." Opp. to Mot. to Dismiss at 9.
While Sparrow does articulate a liberal pleading standard, and
Chandamuri need not plead all the elements of the prima facie
case of discrimination in the complaint, this Court follows the
D.C. Circuit and rejects Chandamuri's conclusory inferences of
national-origin discrimination because "such inferences are
unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint." Browning, 292
F.3d at 242. The only inference that reasonably flows from
Chandamuri's factual allegations is that Chandamuri was
disciplined for plagiarism. The D.C. Court of Appeals has
previously noted that it will not secondguess an educational
institution's application of its own academic standards and
procedures unless the plaintiff "can provide some evidence from
which a fact finder could conclude that there was no rational
basis for the decision or that it was motivated by bad faith or
ill will unrelated to academic performance." Alden v. Georgetown
University, 734 A.2d 1103, 1109 (D.C. 1999) (citation omitted).
[274 F. Supp.2d 81]
the facts set forth by Chandamuri, the Court is unconvinced that
he will ever be able to meet his burden of establishing a prima
facie case. As such, Chandamuri's claims for discrimination under
Title VI and the DCHRA cannot survive and are hereby dismissed.
D. Chandamuri's Retaliation Claims
a. Title VI Cause of Action for Retaliation
Chandamuri claims that his sanction for plagiarism is the
result of retaliation for his complaint about the grade he
received from Dr. Roepe after his Fall 2000 independent research
course. The Court next considers whether Title VI provides
Chandamuri a private right of action against Georgetown for its
allegedly retaliatory actions. This is an issue of first
impression before this Court.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 contains a
rights-creating provision, § 601, that provides "No person in
the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or
national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the
benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program
or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."
42 U.S.C. § 2000d. In Title VI § 602, Congress authorized federal
agencies to "effectuate the provisions of [ § 601] . . . by
issuing rules, regulations, and orders of general applicability."
42 U.S.C. § 2000d-1. While Congress created a right to be
free from intentional discrimination in Title VI, the statute
does not include a specific prohibition on retaliation beyond the
general prohibition of racial discrimination.
42 U.S.C. § 2000d.
The Supreme Court has held that "retaliation offends the
Constitution [because] it threatens to inhibit exercise of the
protected right" and "is thus akin to an unconstitutional
condition demanded for the receipt of a government-provided
benefit." Craiwford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 588 n. 10,
118 S.Ct. 1584, 140 L.Ed.2d 759 (1998) (citations omitted). Further,
the Supreme Court has stated that "the existence of a statutory
right implies the existence of all necessary and appropriate
remedies." Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools,
503 U.S. 60, 69, 112 S.Ct. 1028, 117 L.Ed.2d 208 (1992) (citation
omitted). As such, the Supreme Court has interpreted other
anti-discrimination statutes to include an implied right to be
free from retaliation. See Sullivan v. Little Hunting Park,
396 U.S. 229, 90 S.Ct. 400, 24 L.Ed.2d 386 (1969) (finding that
42 U.S.C. § 1982 prohibited retaliation even though the text of
§ 1982 does not mention retaliation), Perry v. Sindermann,
408 U.S. 593, 92 S.Ct. 2694, 33 L.Ed.2d 570 (1972) (finding that
retaliation is actionable despite the lack of an express bar on
retaliation in the statutory language of 42 U.S.C. § 1983).
The D.C. Circuit interpreted the Supreme Court's holding in
Sullivan to support the proposition that a statute prohibiting
discrimination should be construed to confer an "[i]mplicit . . .
cause of action protecting people from private retaliation for
refusing to violate other people's rights under § 1981 or for
exercising their own § 1981 rights." Fair Employment Council
v. BMC Mktg. Corp., 28 F.3d 1268, 1280 (D.C. Cir. 1994)
(discussing 42 U.S.C. § 1981, which broadly prohibits
discrimination in contracting).
However, interpreting the Supreme Court's recent decision in
Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U.S. 275, 121 S.Ct. 1511,
149 L.Ed.2d 517 (2001), other circuits have split on the question of whether
a private cause of action for retaliation exists under Title VI
and Title IX. Compare Peters v. Jenney, 327 F.3d 307 (4th Cir.
2003) (holding that a plaintiff can sue for retaliation under
Title VI) with Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Educ.,
309 F.3d 1333 (11th
[274 F. Supp.2d 82]
Cir. 2002) (holding that a claim for retaliation does not lie
under Title IX). The Supreme Court has interpreted Title IX
consistently with Title VI, since Title IX "was patterned after
Title VI," and reasoned that a finding based on the statutory
language of Title VI should logically extend to Title IX as well.
Cannon v. Univ. of Chicago, 441 U.S. 677, 694-99, 99 S.Ct. 1946,
60 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979).
In Sandoval, the Supreme Court analyzed a regulation
prohibiting disparate impact practices promulgated under Title VI
§ 602 and considered whether a private individual could bring
an action for violations of the regulations forbidding disparate
impact practices. The Supreme Court stated that it was "beyond
dispute that private individuals may sue to enforce" § 601's
prohibition on discrimination. Sandoval, 532 U.S. at 280,
121 S.Ct. 1511. The Supreme Court also stated that it was similarly
beyond dispute that § 601 prohibits only intentional
discrimination, and that regulations promulgated under § 602
applying § 601's ban on intentional discrimination are
covered by the cause of action to enforce § 601. Id. at 282,
121 S.Ct. 1511. However, the Supreme Court held that the
disparate-impact regulations promulgated under § 602 did not
"simply apply § 601 since they forbid conduct that
§ 601 permits and . . . [thus] . . . the private
right of action to enforce § 601 does not include a private
right to enforce these [§ 602] regulations." Id. at 285,
121 S.Ct. 1511. After deciding that the disparate-impact regulation
reached beyond the statute it was implementing, the Supreme Court
considered whether § 602 has the independent force to confer
a private right of action to enforce disparate-impact regulations
promulgated under § 602. Id. at 286, 121 S.Ct. 1511. The
Supreme Court held that Title VI does not display an intent to
create a "freestanding private right of action to enforce
regulations promulgated under § 602." Id. at 293,
121 S.Ct. 1511. Therefore, no private right of action exists to enforce a
regulation promulgated under § 602 that is not also a failure
to comply with § 601. Id.
Adopting a broad interpretation of the Supreme Court's holding
in Sandoval, the Eleventh Circuit interpreted the text of Title
IX strictly, holding that a private claim for retaliation cannot
lie under Title IX. Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Educ.,
309 F.3d 1333 (11th Cir. 2002). The Jackson court relied heavily on
the Supreme Court's assertion that:
[P]rivate rights of action to enforce federal law
must be created by Congress. The judicial task is to
interpret the statute Congress has passed to
determine whether it displays an intent to create not
just a private right but also a private remedy.
Statutory intent on this latter point is
determinative. Without it, a cause of action does not
exist and courts may not create one, no matter how
desirable that might be as a policy matter, or how
compatible with the statute.
Sandoval, 532 U.S. at 286-87, 121 S.Ct. 1511
quotations omitted) (emphasis added). The Jackson court
emphasizes that the Sandoval court relied "exclusively on the
text and structure of Title VI" in determining that "Title VI
implies no private right to sue for actions not motivated by
discriminatory intent that result in a disparate impact."
Jackson, 309 F.3d at 1341, quoting Sandoval, 532 U.S. at 293,
121 S.Ct. 1511
. As such, the Jackson court focused exclusively on the
text of § 901 of Title IX to determine that, because the text
of Title IX does not expressly provide any private right of
action for retaliation, there was no congressional intent to
prevent or redress retaliation. Id. at 1346.
[274 F. Supp.2d 83]
However, the plaintiffs in Sandoval relied on a regulation
promulgated under § 602 as the basis for implying a private
right of action for disparate-impact discrimination. The Sandoval
Court scrutinized legislative intent to determine whether
Congress intended to create a "freestanding private cause of
action to enforce regulations under § 602" only after the
Court had decided that the regulations were outside the scope of
actions prohibited by the existing cause of action under
§ 601. Sandoval, 532 U.S. at 293, 121 S.Ct. 1511. While the
Sandoval Court rejected the notion that § 601 reached beyond
intentional discrimination to include disparate-impact
discrimination, the Court did not address whether retaliation was
within the scope of the statutory proscription of § 601
prohibiting intentional discrimination. See Sandoval
532 U.S. 275, 121 S.Ct. 1511, 149 L.Ed.2d 517. The question before this
Court is not grounded on any regulations promulgated pursuant to
§ 602; instead, the Court considers whether a retaliation
claim is impliedly within the scope of intentional discrimination
prohibited by § 601 and thus falls under the cause of action
provided to enforce § 601.
The Jackson court notes that "the fact that Congress felt
required to prohibit retaliation expressly under Title VII may
indicate that Congress did not intend the concept of
`discrimination' in Title IX to be read sufficiently broadly to
cover retaliation." Jackson, 309 F.3d at 1345, n. 12. This
position is inconsistent with the Supreme Court's interpretation
of other antidiscrimination statutes. See supra Sullivan,
396 U.S. 229, 90 S.Ct. 400, 24 L.Ed.2d 386, Perry v. Sindermann,
408 U.S. 593, 92 S.Ct. 2694, 33 L.Ed.2d 570 (1972). Accordingly, this
Court agrees with the Fourth Circuit's interpretation of Title
VI. The Fourth Circuit held that the lack of a specific
prohibition of retaliation in Title VI does not "lead to an
inference that Congress did not mean to prohibit retaliation in
§ 601" because "relevant precedent interpreting similarly
worded antidiscrimination statutes" construed "discrimination" to
include "retaliation." Peters v. Jenney, 327 F.3d 307, 316-317
(4th Cir. 2003) (considering whether an anti-retaliation
regulation promulgated under § 602 is consistent with
§ 601 and enforceable by an implied private right of action).
The Supreme Court has not overturned its previous holdings that
statutes prohibiting discrimination also prohibit retaliation.
See supra Sullivan, 396 U.S. 229, 90 S.Ct. 400, 24 L.Ed.2d 386,
Perry, 408 U.S. 593, 92 S.Ct. 2694. Therefore, the question of
whether the § 601 cause of action prohibiting discrimination
implicitly includes a cause of action against retaliation is
still guided by the Supreme Court's interpretation that a statute
prohibiting discrimination also prohibits retaliation.
Guided by the Supreme Court and the D.C. Circuit's application
of Supreme Court precedent, this Court concludes that an action
against retaliation is implicitly within the scope of Title VI's
prohibition on intentional discrimination. Based exclusively on
the Supreme Court's previous decisions interpreting statutes that
prohibit discrimination to also prohibit retaliation, this Court
recognizes a private right of action for retaliation for the
exercise of § 601's right to be free from intentional
b. Title VI Retaliation Analysis
As with a discrimination claim, a plaintiff is not required to
set forth the prima facie elements of a retaliation claim at the
initial stage. See Sparrow, 216 F.3d at 1116. However, Chandamuri
may plead himself out of court by alleging facts that indicate
Georgetown's entitlement to prevail. Id. The Court must consider
[274 F. Supp.2d 84]
Chandamuri will ever be able to meet his initial burden of
establishing a prima facie case.
1. Georgetown's Lack of Notice of the Protected Activity
To meet the prima facie elements for a claim of retaliation, a
plaintiff must demonstrate that: (1) he engaged in protected
activity; (2) he was subjected to adverse action and (3) there
existed a causal link between the adverse action and the
protected activity. Jones v. WMATA, 205 F.3d 428, 433 (D.C. Cir.
2000). He must also demonstrate that his exercise of protected
rights was known to the defendant. See Carter-Obayuwana v. Howard
University, 764 A.2d 779, 791 (D.C. 2001); see also Van Zant v.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, 80 F.3d 708, 714 (2d Cir. 1996).
To satisfy the first element of a claim for retaliation,
Chandamuri need only prove he had a reasonable good faith belief
that the practice he opposed was unlawful under Title VI.
Carter-Obayuwana, 764 A.2d at 790 (citations omitted). Chandamuri
alleges that his complaint to Dr. Kertesz that Dr. Roepe had
graded him differently from other "similarly situated" students
constituted a protected activity. Although he need not have used
"magic words" in his Fall 2000 complaint about Dr. Roepe,
Chandamuri was required to make Georgetown aware of the protected
activity, i.e. that his complaint was "about allegedly
discriminatory conduct." Id. Nowhere does Chandamuri allege that
he told Dr. Kertesz that believed Dr. Roepe was discriminating
against him because of race and national origin when he gave him
a B in the independent study class; he merely alleges that he
believed he was being treated "unfairly" and "differently than
other students." While "magic words" are not required to
communicate that the complaint was about unlawful discrimination,
the court is unconvinced that Georgetown was on notice that the
allegations Chandamuri made against Dr. Roepe in Fall 2000 had
anything to do with discrimination, and therefore, Chandamuri
will never be able to meet his burden and his retaliation claim
Further, Chandamuri does not allege that the Honor Council
Hearing Board or Dean McAuliffe retaliated against him; rather,
he claims that Dr. Roepe subjected him to disparate disciplinary
procedures in retaliation for Chandamuri's complaint to Dr.
Kertesz. This argument fails for two reasons. First, according to
the Honor Code, Dr. Roepe was obligated to report any apparent
violations of the Honor Code to the Honor Council. Consequently,
reporting Chandamuri was not a judgment call on the part of Dr.
Roepe. Second and more importantly, Dr. Roepe was not a member of
the Hearing Board, nor did he have authority over the sanction
the Honor Council imposed. Because Dr. Roepe had no voice in the
sanction imposed, the sanction cannot logically have been imposed
by Dr. Roepe in retaliation for Chandamuri's alleged protected
2. Chandamuri's Inability to Establish Causation
Assuming arguendo that Chandamuri indeed complained of
discrimination based on national origin in Fall 2000 and that
defendant Georgetown was aware of this discrimination complaint,
Chandamuri's retaliation claim fails because his complaint
demonstrates that he will not be able to establish a causal
connection between lodging his complaint against Dr. Roepe and
his sanction. To prevail on his retaliation claim, Chandamuri
must make a prima facie showing that the adverse action would not
have occurred "but for" the protected activity.
[274 F. Supp.2d 85]
See Gregg v. Hay-Adams Hotel, 942 F. Supp. 1, 8 (D.D.C. 1996)
(Lamberth, J.). To prove that a causal connection existed between
his activities and the alleged retaliatory action, Chandamuri
must demonstrate that Georgetown knew of his protected activity
and that the retaliation closely followed the protected activity.
Mitchell v. Baldrige, 759 F.2d 80, 84 (D.C. Cir. 1985). This
Circuit has found that temporal proximity may sometimes be
sufficient to establish the requisite causal connection for
retaliation claims. See Gleklen v. Democratic Cong. Campaign
Comm., 199 F.3d 1365, 1368 (D.C. Cir. 2000); Cones v. Shalala,
199 F.3d 512, 521 (D.C. Cir. 2000). However, the Supreme Court has
indicated that where "mere temporal proximity" is the only
evidence of causation, the proximity must be "very close." Clark
County Sch. Dist. v. Breeden, 532 U.S. 268, 273, 121 S.Ct. 1508,
149 L.Ed.2d 509 (2001). The Supreme Court cited cases where an
adverse action taken three to four months after the alleged
protected activity was insufficient temporal proximity to
demonstrate a causal connection, and stated that a period of
twenty months "suggests, by itself, no causality at all." Id. at
273-74, 121 S.Ct. 1508. Thus, "the greater the time that elapses
between the protected activity and the alleged retaliation, the
more difficult it is to justify an inference of causal connection
between the two." Kilpatrick v. Riley, 98 F. Supp.2d 9, 21
(D.D.C. 2000) (Urbina, J.). In this case, the lapse of well over
a year between the protected activity and the allegedly
retaliatory sanction precludes a finding that there was a causal
connection between the two.
The evidence Chandamuri sets forth is simply insufficient to
link the sanction to the allegedly protected activity in Fall
2000. The D.C. Circuit has held that "[i]n some cases, it is
possible for a plaintiff to plead too much; that is, to plead
himself out of court by alleging facts that render success on the
merits impossible." Sparrow, 216 F.3d at 1116. Because
Chandamuri's pleadings make it impossible for him to establish
any causal link between his alleged protected activity and the
sanction he received, his claim for retaliation under Title VI is
c. DCHRA Retaliation Analysis
The standard for a prima facie case of retaliation under the
DCHRA mirrors the standard under Title VI. See Mitchell, 759 F.2d
at 86; Howard Univ. v. Green, 652 A.2d 41, 45 (D.C. 1994).
Because the Court finds that Chandamuri has set forth facts that
render success on the merits impossible in his Title VI claim for
retaliation, Chandamuri's claim for retaliation under the DCHRA
cannot stand and must also be dismissed.
This Court concludes that Chandamuri has not proffered any
facts from which reasonable inferences of discrimination or
retaliation can be made. Even under the generous standard of
pleading set forth, conclusory allegations unsupported by any
factual assertions will not withstand a motion to dismiss. The
complaint fails to set forth facts that would provide any basis
for an inference that support a reasonable inference that either
Dr. Roepe or the Georgetown University Honor Council
intentionally disciplined Chandamuri for the purpose of
discriminating against him on the basis of his national origin,
or in retaliation for his previous encounter with Dr. Roepe. At
best, Chandamuri demonstrates that he and Dr. Roepe had an poor
relationship. For the reasons discussed in detail supra, the
Court does not accept the speculative, unsubstantiated assertions
and legalistic argumentation set forth by Chandamuri. For the
reasons stated above,
[274 F. Supp.2d 86]
Georgetown's motion to dismiss is granted as to Chandamuri's
federal claims and Chandamuri's state law claims are dismissed
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
A separate order shall issue this day.
Upon consideration of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss , it is
hereby ORDERED that Defendant's Motion to Dismiss  is GRANTED,
and this action is hereby DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
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