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Nicholas Spaeth v. Georgetown University

March 13, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ellen Segal Huvelle United States District Judge


Plaintiff Nicholas Spaeth sued six law schools alleging that they unlawfully discriminated against him based on his age when they declined to interview or to hire him after he applied for tenure-track teaching positions through the 2010 American Association of Law Schools ("AALS") Faculty Appointments Register. (See Amended Complaint, Nov. 7, 2011 [Dkt. No. 10] ("Am. Compl.").) In prior Orders, this Court severed Spaeth's claims against five institutions and transferred them to those defendants' home forums. (See Order, Feb. 17, 2012 [Dkt. No. 59]; Order, March 8, 2012 [Dkt. No. 68].) Only Spaeth's claims against Georgetown Law ("Georgetown") remain in the present suit.

Before the Court are Georgetown's motion to dismiss, plaintiff's opposition thereto, and Georgetown's reply. (See Georgetown University's Motion to Dismiss, Dec. 16, 2011 [Dkt. No. 20] ("Def.'s Mot."); Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant Georgetown University's Motion to Dismiss, Jan. 17, 2012 [Dkt. No. 41] ("Pl.'s Opp'n"); Reply in Support of Georgetown University's Motion to Dismiss, Jan. 24, 2012 [Dkt. No. 49] ("Def.'s Reply").) Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), Georgetown argues that Spaeth has failed to state a claim for age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 621 et seq. ("ADEA"), and under the District of Columbia's Human Rights Act, D.C. Code §§ 2-1401.01 et seq. ("DCHRA"). Georgetown also argues that Spaeth's prayers for compensatory and punitive damages are improper under the ADEA and must be dismissed from his Amended Complaint. For the reasons stated below, the Court will deny Georgetown's motion insofar as it seeks dismissal of the age discrimination claim, but will grant it insofar as it seeks to dismiss the prayers for compensatory and punitive damages under the ADEA.


Spaeth was born in 1950. (Am. Compl. ¶ 1) He received his undergraduate degree from Stanford University in 1972; his master's degree from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, in 1974; and his law degree from Stanford Law, where he served as Managing Editor of the Stanford Law Review, in 1977. (Id. ¶¶ 38--40.) Spaeth clerked for Eighth Circuit Judge Myron Bright and Supreme Court Justice Byron White. (Id. ¶¶ 41--42.) After practicing as a trial lawyer with an emphasis on commercial disputes, Spaeth was elected to two terms as Attorney General for North Dakota. (Id. ¶¶ 44--45.) All told, he alleges that he "has over thirty years of high-level experience as a legal practitioner" (id. ¶ 43), including as a partner at two national law firms and as an executive at various large corporations. (Id. ¶¶ 48--59.) In addition, Spaeth claims "four years of law school teaching experience." (Id. ¶ 61.) He was adjunct professor of law at the University of Minnesota Law School from 1980 through 1983, where he taught constitutional law, and visiting professor of law at the University of Missouri during the 2010--11 academic year, "where he taught in the areas of financial services regulation, securities, mergers and acquisitions, and business and accounting." (Id.) In his Amended Complaint, Spaeth boasts of "an impressive scholarly record," citing, inter alia, "the American Indian Law Deskbook," which he edited; "numerous other publications" which he authored; and three "groundbreaking" cases which he argued before the Supreme Court. (Id. ¶ 63.)

In 2010, when he was sixty years old, Spaeth applied for a teaching position at Georgetown and many other law schools through AALS's Faculty Appointments Register ("FAR"). (Id. ¶ 28.) AALS "is a nonprofit educational association of 172 law schools and their constituent faculty members." (Id. ¶ 18.) AALS "coordinates hiring for law schools by having applicants for law school teaching positions pay a fee . . . and submit information through its Faculty Appointments Register." (Id. ¶ 20.) Applicants submit "a short profile of [their] education, background, and teaching interests," which is compiled on the "mandatory" FAR Form, and, if they wish, a full resume. (Id. ¶ 21.) Spaeth alleges, however, that "[a]lthough candidates are asked to submit their preferences and interests in teaching, on information and belief, most law schools are also interested in talented backgrounds and will hire individuals outside their expressed area of interest to teach other subjects." (Id. ¶ 25.)

Applicants' FAR Forms and resumes are "distributed to all AALS members who are recruiting" prior to the Faculty Recruitment Conference. (Id. ¶ 22.) Concurrently, "AALS members generally list, in the AALS's Placement Bulletin, the descriptions of open positions and the type of candidate sought." (Id. ¶ 23.) "The process culminates in" the annual Faculty Recruitment Conference "held in the fall Washington, D.C., to which the law schools send their recruiting teams to interview applicants" whom they have selected based on the applicants' FAR Forms and resumes. (Id. ¶ 24.)

Although Spaeth applied for a teaching position with Georgetown "and every other AALS member school through the Faculty Appointments Register during the 2010 hiring cycle" (id. ¶ 28), he "received only two interviews" at the fall 2010 Faculty Recruitment Conference.

(Id. ¶ 29.) One interview was with the University of Missouri, where Spaeth was teaching at the time as a visiting professor, and the other was with the University of Nebraska. (Id.) Spaeth "received no job offers during the 2010 hiring cycle." (Id.)

The FAR Form and resume that Spaeth submitted to Georgetown and the other law schools to which he applied detail his qualifications, as described above.*fn1 In addition, the FAR Form required Spaeth to list his teaching preferences in terms of subjects he would "most like to teach," "other subjects [he] may be interested in teaching," and "other subjects [he] would be willing to teach, if asked," and inquired whether he had any "comments" as to each category. (Def.'s Mot., Ex. 1 (capitalization altered).) As to the first category, Spaeth wrote that he would "most like to teach" courses on financial instruments, insurance law, and business associations (including agency and partnership, corporations, and business planning). (Id.) As to the second category, Spaeth listed the "other" courses that he might "be interested in teaching" as securities regulation, corporate finance (including corporate reorganizations), constitutional law, and Native American law. (Id.) As to the third category, Spaeth wrote that, "if asked," he "would be willing to teach" courses on criminal law and international business transactions. (Id.) Spaeth did not provide "comments" for any of the three categories of his teaching interests. (Id.)

Spaeth does not allege, and Georgetown does not disclose, what Georgetown stated, if anything, in the AALS Placement Bulletin with regard to the specialties it was seeking. Nor have the parties described those candidates whom Georgetown interviewed at the Faculty Recruitment Conference. Ultimately, according to Spaeth's Amended Complaint, Georgetown hired three new professors. (Am. Compl. ¶ 165.) Spaeth alleges that all three "are less qualified and decades younger than" he is. (Id. ¶ 166; see id. ¶¶ 168--75 (comparing the qualifications of Georgetown's first hire with Spaeth's); id. ¶¶ 178--84 (same, Georgetown's second hire); id. ¶¶ 187--91 (same, Georgetown's third hire).) Spaeth also alleges that "Georgetown's first hire was hired to teach in taxation," its "second hire was hired to teach taxation and tax policy," and its "third hire teaches courses in administrative law and regulation," all "area[s] in which" Spaeth claims to be "an expert." (Id. ¶¶ 167, 176, 185.) Finally, Spaeth alleges that "[i]f Georgetown had considered [his] application based on his qualifications alone and not based on his age, it would have granted him an interview at the AALS Faculty Recruitment Conference" (id. ¶ 193) and "hired him" because "he is significantly more qualified for a teaching position than all of the individuals Georgetown hired." (Id. ¶ 194.)

Having filed a Charge of Discrimination against Georgetown with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and having received a Notice of Right to Sue (id. ¶¶ 4--5), Spaeth brought suit, alleging that Georgetown violated the ADEA and the DCHRA by not hiring him. He seeks an injunction "ordering [Georgetown] to offer [him] a tenure-track teaching position," along with declaratory, compensatory, and exemplary relief, and fees, costs, and pre- and post-judgment interest. (Id. at 51--52.)

Georgetown has moved to dismiss, arguing pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) that Spaeth has failed to state a claim for age discrimination because "he did not identify [on his FAR Form] any subject which [Georgetown] hired any other applicant to teach" and because, "for the subjects which [he] complains [Georgetown] hired others to teach, [his] FAR form reported no published work." (Def.'s Mot. at 3.) Georgetown also argues that plaintiffs may not seek ...

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