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Mohammad Javad Hajjar-Nejad v. George Washington University

January 4, 2012

MOHAMMAD JAVAD HAJJAR-NEJAD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Mohammad Javad Hajjar-Nejad ("Hajjar-Nejad") brings this action against The George Washington University ("GW"), principally challenging his dismissal as a medical student from GW's School of Medicine and Health Sciences (the "Medical School") in July 2007. In the short time that the action has been pending, Hajjar-Nejad has already amended his complaint twice; he now seeks to do so for a third time through his pending [33] Motion for Leave to File Third Amended Complaint ("Motion to Amend"). Upon careful consideration of the parties' submissions, the relevant authorities, and the record as a whole, Hajjar-Nejad's [33] Motion to Amend shall be GRANTED-IN-PART and DENIED-IN-PART.

I. BACKGROUND

The Court shall begin by briefly setting forth the factual background for this action, relying on the factual allegations in Hajjar-Nejad's Second Amended Complaint; the Court shall set forth the factual allegations relevant to Hajjar-Nejad's proposed Third Amended Complaint primarily when discussing the merits of his Motion to Amend. See infra Part III. In this section, after setting forth the pertinent factual background, the Court shall recite the procedural history of the case.

A. Factual Background

While an undergraduate at GW, Hajjar-Nejad applied to GW's Medical School. Second Am. Compl., ECF No. [20], ¶ 9. On November 5, 2003, the Medical School presented HajjarNejad with a written Offer of Acceptance offering him "admission to the Doctor of Medicine degree program" upon certain terms and conditions, and Hajjar-Nejad executed the document two days later, thereby "accept[ing] the conditional offer of acceptance" for the academic year beginning in 2004. See id. Ex. 1 (Offer of Acceptance) at 1.

The Offer of Acceptance identifies several terms and conditions to GW's offer. See id. Among other things, Hajjar-Nejad was required to submit additional application materials, complete his undergraduate studies with a satisfactory level of performance, demonstrate his financial ability to pay tuition and related expenses, and provide a deposit and a tuition prepayment. Id. Of particular relevance to this action, the Offer of Acceptance includes the following paragraph:

I understand that the submission of false or misleading information or material omission in connection with the application process shall be grounds for withdrawing my conditional offer of acceptance to [the Medical School]. I further understand and agree that if any such submissions or omissions are discovered after matriculation in the Doctor of Medicine degree program or award of a degree, [the Medical School] has the right, in its sole discretion, to dismiss me from [the Medical School] and/or revoke my degree.

Id. Outside this narrow context, the Offer of Acceptance does not, on its face, purport to describe the circumstances under which Hajjar-Nejad could be dismissed from the Medical School or the scope of GW's discretion in determining when dismissal would be appropriate. Nor, for that matter, does it purport to describe whether Hajjar-Nejad had any continuing right to attend the Medical School.

Hajjar-Nejad began his studies at GW's Medical School in 2004. He was a "superb" student and "excell[ed]" in his first two years. Id. ¶ 14. In April 2006, he was accepted into an honors program for third-year students by a committee of nine faculty members based on its consideration of a written essay, project proposal, mentorship, prior achievements, and strength of academic performance. Id. ¶ 15. Hajjar-Nejad participated in the honors program through August 11, 2006.

During this period, Hajjar-Nejad reported to various individuals his "good faith observations" that included, among other things, "limited criticisms of hospital practices." Id. ¶ 19. Around this same time period, Hajjar-Nejad began to be subjected to "adverse and unwarranted comments" from faculty and students. Id. For example, on August 23, 2006, Senior Associate Dean W. Scott Schroth, M.D. ("Schroth") reported to other senior faculty that Hajjar-Nejad had "leveled criticisms" against them. Id. ¶ 20. According to Hajjar-Nejad, this act of reporting marked the beginning of a "pattern of hostility and antagonism" against him. Id.

In his third year, Hajjar-Nejad began to experience "increasingly hostile treatment" from the Medical School's faculty, and in particular James L. Scott, M.D. ("Scott"), the Dean of the Medical School. Id. ¶ 21. On October 23, 2006, Schroth, acting under Scott's direction, informed Hajjar-Nejad that he "would have to leave" the honors program and that, if he did not do so voluntarily, he would be "removed." Id. ¶ 26. At a meeting with Medical School faculty, Hajjar-Nejad stated that he believed there was no legitimate basis for the hostile treatment. Id. ¶ 29. Ultimately, however, Hajjar-Nejad left the honors program. Id. ¶ 31.

Nonetheless, according to Hajjar-Nejad, his mistreatment continued unabated. Id. ¶ 32.

In February 2007, he learned that the Subcommittee on Professional Comportment (the "Subcommittee") within the Medical Student Evaluation Committee (the "MSEC") was evaluating his academic progress. Id. ¶ 33. Hajjar-Nejad characterizes the outcome of this process as "pre-determined." Id. On May 3, 2007, Hajjar-Nejad attended a Subcommittee meeting accompanied by legal counsel. Id. ¶ 34. He contends that the meeting was conducted in violation of GW's policies and regulations. Id. He further contends that he was not permitted to ask questions, cross-examine witnesses, or to present witnesses or evidence of his own. Id.

Despite the allegedly hostile treatment, Hajjar-Nejad managed to complete the 2006-2007 academic year with passing grades and positive evaluations from his professors. Id. ¶ 35. But on June 18, 2007, the Subcommittee issued its recommendations to the MSEC. Id. ¶ 37. The contents of those recommendations are not entirely clear, though Hajjar-Nejad contends that the recommendations were contrary to GW's "regulations and policies." Id.

On June 18, 2007, the MSEC, chaired by Jeffrey S. Ackman, M.D., held a meeting concerning Hajjar-Nejad. Id. ¶¶ 38-40. Hajjar-Nejad was accompanied by counsel but was denied leave to bring an expert witness or legal assistant. Id. ¶ 39. He did not receive a copy of the Subcommittee's recommendations until early that morning. Id. ¶ 38. Hajjar-Nejad claims that the MSEC was comprised "primarily of white students" and individuals "pre-selected" by GW. Id. ¶ 40. He contends that, contrary to the Medical School's "regulations," the MSEC did not issue written recommendations despite his requests. Id. ¶ 41.

On July 26, 2007, Hajjar-Nejad received a letter, dated two weeks earlier, stating that the MSEC had recommended his dismissal. Id. ¶ 42. The letter indicates that the MSEC held meetings on June 18, 2007, and July 9, 2007, to conduct their deliberations, and that in doing so they "review[ed] the relevant aspects of the 'Regulations for MD Candidates.'" Ltr. from J. Akman, M.D., to J. Scott, M.D., dated July 12, 2007, ECF No. [21-3], at 1.*fn1 The letter goes on to provide as follows:

A motion was made and seconded to accept the Professional Comportment Subcommittee's report and recommendations. Serious concerns were raised about Mr. Hajjar-Nejad's professionalism, honesty and integrity, his interpersonal relationships and his capacity to work with others. Of particular concern[] were the following: Mr. Hajjar-Nejad's inability to accept responsibility for his own actions; refusal to accept instructions or constructive feedback from residents, faculty and deans; inability to work and communicate effectively with peers and residents; inadequate understanding of the commitment to and responsibility for patient care; lack of insight into personal weaknesses and areas for improvement; and, inappropriate understanding of the role of a medical student in the medical education hierarchy. In addition, the Committee noted that these concerns were not the result of an isolated incident, but appeared to be a pattern in most interactions with Mr. Hajjar-Nejad.

Id. at 2. The letter states that a "motion for dismissal" passed in a "secret ballot vote" with nine votes in favor, none against, and one abstention. Id.

Hajjar-Nejad claims that the dismissal determination was unjustified and contrary to policies and regulations to which GW was "obliged to adhere." Second Am. Compl. ¶ 43. He contends that the MSEC "exceeded the scope of its authority" and committed a number of "procedural violations" in connection with the dismissal proceedings. Id.

On July 26, 2007, Scott adopted the MSEC's recommendation and dismissed HajjarNejad from the Medical School. Id. ¶ 45. Hajjar-Nejad claims that this was improper because GW's regulations required the final decision to be made by the Vice President of Academic Affairs. Id. Subsequently, Hajjar-Nejad sought to appeal the determination within GW and the determination was ultimately upheld. Id. ¶¶ 47, 49.

Hajjar-Nejad claims that the alleged campaign of mistreatment continued even after his dismissal from the Medical School. In particular, he contends that GW put an "unlawful and retaliatory 'hold'" on his academic transcripts for a period of eight months to "preclude his subsequent transfer to an alternative medical school" and ...


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