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Greene v. Washington

June 15, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard W. Roberts United States District Judge


Plaintiff alleges that he was barred from using the law library at the University of the District of Columbia ("UDC"). He sues the District of Columbia, UDC's Board of Trustees and several individuals under federal and District of Columbia law. The UDC defendants move to dismiss the amended complaint [Doc. No. 35] ("Am. Comp't."), or in the alternative, for summary judgment.*fn1 Because the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, and the University defendants are entitled to qualified immunity, UDC's motion will be granted and the complaint will be dismissed in its entirety.*fn2


The basic facts giving rise to the complaint are not disputed. At the relevant time, posted signs stated that the law school computer lab was "for the use of law school students only." Am. Comp't. ¶ 10. Plaintiff alleges that on September 20, 2004, between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., he requested permission from defendant William Thomas, a Technician, to use the law school's computer lab. Id. ¶ 14. Thomas granted the request and directed plaintiff to the computer lab. Id. ¶ 15. When plaintiff reached an available computer terminal, defendant Mireille B. Tshiteya, a UDC law student, questioned whether plaintiff was a law student. This verbal encounter escalated to the point that plaintiff responded, inter alia: "'None of your god dam [sic] business'" Id. ¶ 33. Plaintiff was an undergraduate and not a law student. Id. ¶ 1, and Exhs. I, K. Eventually, Tshiteya called security and plaintiff was escorted out of the lab by "two D.C. Government Police Officers," Am. Comp't. ¶ 42, who "did not permit the plaintiff to return to the computer lab." Id. ¶ 47.

Plaintiff alleges that on September 21, 2004, "defendants District of Columbia, Board of Trustees, Pollard, Solomon and Baker considered defendant Tshiteya's written allocutions [and found that] the plaintiff's behavior was 'appalling' and 'abusively rude.'" Id. ¶¶ 54-55. Allegedly, plaintiff was charged with "nonacademic misconduct," id. ¶ 56, and defendants "decided to restrict plaintiff's access to the law school facility." Id ¶ 61. Plaintiff alleges that on May 10, 2005, he "entered UDC's law library to conduct legal research." Id. ¶ 73. After showing identification, plaintiff "was invited to enter the law library." Id. ¶ 75. He "ended his research without incident." Id. ¶ 76. Upon leaving the library, however, plaintiff alleges that Thomas stated that plaintiff would not have been able to enter the library had he been there, see id. ¶ 77, and when plaintiff tried to re-enter the library, a "D.C. Government Police Officer" told him that he could not re-enter the library because "he had been banned." Id. ¶ 81.

Plaintiff captions his five causes of actions as follows: "Exercise of Police Powers," id. ¶ 90, "Exercise of Free Speech," id. ¶ 94, "Liberty Interest," id. ¶ 99, "The Code of Student Conduct," id. ¶ 106, "Time, Place and Manner Restrictions." Id. ¶ 113. He seeks a declaratory judgment, expungement of the September 20, 2004, incident from his records, an apology and monetary damages exceeding $750,000. See id at 21-24.


1. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

The UDC defendants move to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. In the alternative, these defendants seek summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 alleging a lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Defendants have not articulated a basis for dismissing the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and no basis is otherwise apparent. Plaintiff states that he is bringing his claims under, inter alia, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983. Am. Comp't. at 1. He alleges that he was barred from UDC's law library without due process of law, in violation of the Fifth Amendment, and was restrained from exercising his right of free speech, in violation of the First Amendment. These alleged violations of constitutional rights fall within the Court's "federal question" jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Defendants' suggestion to the contrary lacks merit.

2. The Merits of the Complaint

A court may dismiss a complaint on the ground that it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted if it appears, assuming the alleged facts to be true and drawing all inferences in plaintiff's favor, that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief. Harris v. Ladner, 127 F.3d 1121, 1123 (D.C. Cir. 1997); Kowal v. MCI Communications Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994).*fn3

Plaintiff invokes 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983. Section 1981 grants to "[a]ll persons within the jurisdiction of the United States" the enjoyment of rights listed therein "as is enjoyed by white citizens." 42 U.S.C. § 1981. A claim under this section "is cognizable . . . only if based on racial or ethnic characteristics associated with the national origin in question." Wesley v. Howard University, 3 F. Supp. 2d 1, 3 (D.D.C. 1998) (citing St. Francis College v. Al-Khazraji, 481 U.S. 604, 613 (1987)); accord Mitchell v. DCX, Inc., 274 F. Supp. 2d 33, 45 (D.D.C. 2003) (to maintain a § 1981 claim, "a plaintiff must show that a defendant intentionally treated him or her differently because of his or her race"). Plaintiff has not alleged discriminatory treatment based on his race and therefore has failed to state a § 1981 claim.

To sustain his ยง 1983 claims, plaintiff must show the deprivation of "rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the [federal] Constitution and laws" by a person acting ...

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