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West v. Spellings

March 29, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge


Michael West, proceeding pro se, sued Margaret Spellings, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education ("DOE"), in her official capacity. Counts 1 and 2 of the Complaint allege violations of the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. § 552. Counts 3 through 12 seek to compel DOE under the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1691, and Mandamus, 28 U.S.C. § 1361, to use its enforcement authority in a manner favorable to Mr. West under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 ("Section 504").*fn1 The factual basis for Mr. West's Complaint is his dissatisfaction with DOE's investigation of his complaints of disability discrimination and retaliation allegedly committed by Webster University.

DOE filed a motion to dismiss, in response to which Mr. West filed a motion to take limited discovery pursuant to Rule 56(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court denied Mr. West's motion for discovery and ordered him to respond to DOE's motion. Order filed Jan. 11, 2007 [Dkt. # 18]. He has now done so. The parties were advised that the Court would consider DOE's motion as one for summary judgment because DOE appended documents to its motion. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b) (a motion to dismiss which presents matters outside the pleadings shall be treated as a motion for summary judgment).


A. Counts 1 and 2

In an e-mail dated November 25, 2005, Mr. West sent a request to DOE for "[a]ll information and materials that are responsive or pertain to a letter provided to this specific branch of the [DOE] for 'Reconsideration for 07052031' dated October 3, 2005." Def.'s Mem. Ex. 4. Mr. West's request apparently referred to an application for financial aid he had submitted to Webster University and Sallie Mae. Id. Ex. 5. DOE's Office of Civil Rights ("OCR") informed Mr. West that "Sallie Mae received certification from Webster University on February 8, 2005, and approval from USA Funds on February 9, 2005. Sallie Mae disbursed the loan on the scheduled disbursement date of February 23, 2005." Id. OCR also requested that Mr. West clarify the specific documents he was requesting under FOIA. Id.Mr. West did not respond directly to OCR's inquiry, but instead, on April 21, 2006, complained of DOE's failure to process his request. Id. Ex. 6. Mr. West alleges that he filed an appeal of the agency's inaction. Compl. ¶ 22.

Mr. West e-mailed a second FOIA request to OCR on February 8, 2006, seeking "all of the retaliation and discrimination allegations made against Webster University that you received or [are] aware." Def.'s Mem. Ex. 1. Mr. West also requested that OCR provide a list of allegations of discrimination not investigated by the agency. Id. On March 9, 2006, DOE responded to Mr. West's FOIA request. Id. Ex. 2. The agency provided four pages of documents listing the allegations made against Webster University since October 10, 1993. Id. Mr. West was informed that DOE does not maintain records of allegations against Webster University that have not been investigated by the agency. Id.

Mr. West appealed DOE's determination on March 23, 2006. Id. Ex. 3. On May 31, 2006, before DOE ruled on his appeal, Mr. West filed this action.

B. Counts 3 through 12

Mr. West alleges that between February 22, 2005, and June 2, 2005, he filed complaints with DOE alleging that Webster University had retaliated against him for filing a prior discrimination complaint. Compl. ¶¶ 35, 62, 65, 68, 71, 74, 81, 84, 87. He alleges that the University failed to disburse his student financial aid promptly and that he was not allowed to take the final exam in one of the classes he attended. Def.'s Mem. Ex. 7. Following its investigation, OCR concluded that Webster University had provided a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its action. Id.


Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Material facts are those that "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

In considering whether there is a triable issue of fact, the Court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. The party opposing a motion for summary judgment, however, "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading, but . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). The non-moving party must do more than simply "show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Any factual assertions in the movant's affidavits will be accepted ...

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