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Slovinec v. Georgetown University

United States District Court, District of Columbia

July 31, 2017



          TANYA S. CHUTKAN United States District Judge

         In this action filed pro se, Plaintiff Joseph Slovinec sues Georgetown University under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for due process violations.[1] Defendant has moved to dismiss the Complaint on the grounds that it fails to comply with the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and fails under Rule 12(b)(6) to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 10). Since the court agrees that no claim has been stated, it will GRANT Defendant's motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) for the reasons explained below.[2]

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff claims due process violations “against Georgetown University for actions of Michael Smith of the Georgetown IDEAA office in a report of June 26, 2014 where he persisted in sympathy or support for false accusations[.]” (Compl. at 1). In light of these claims, the court will adopt the facts provided by Director Michael W. Smith in the Notice of Findings issued by the Georgetown University Office of Institutional Diversity Equity and Affirmative Action (“IDEAA”) on June 26, 2014 (hereafter “Findings”), which both parties have placed in the record and upon which they have substantially relied. (See Def.'s Mem. at 4-7 and Ex. 1; Compl. at 12-26).

         In 2010, Plaintiff was unemployed and homeless. He was accepted into a program funded by the Workforce Investment Act (“WIA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2801 (repealed 2014). The WIA “provide[d] a range of workforce development activities administered through State and local employment offices . . . to benefit employers, dislocated workers, and low-income youth.” (Findings at 3, n.1). The District of Columbia Department of Employment Services (“DOES”) “provide[d] ‘One Stop' service centers to [local] WIA participants.” (Id. at 3). Thus, once Plaintiff was accepted into the program, DOES assigned him a job caseworker to “provide guidance and assistance in career and employment services.” (Id.)

         During the time period relevant to this case, Defendant, through its School of Continuing Studies' Center for Continuing and Professional Education (“CCPE”), collaborated with DOES to offer training to WIA participants in four non-degree certificate programs: Project Management, Financial Planning, Paralegal Studies, and Non-profit Management. DOES identified qualified participants and CCPE assisted the participants with registering for courses and successfully completing the program. (See Findings at 3). Defendant “was under no obligation to provide career services or employment guidance beyond a recipient's completion of the certificate program.” (Id. at 4).

         In February 2011, Plaintiff successfully completed the Project Management program, which he attended for approximately three weeks. (Findings at 4). “In mid-2011, [the University] voluntarily withdrew” as a training provider “because of administrative and policy changes at DOES.” Plaintiff was informed of this withdrawal by his DOES case worker, and was permitted to use the University's Career Center “informally for a short period of time after he completed his program, ” but he was informed in January 2012 that the “arrangement was discontinued for programmatic and administrative reasons[.]” (Id. at 4-5). Nevertheless, Plaintiff continued to frequent the University's campus. (See id. at 5-6).

         After completing the Project Management program, Plaintiff “approached staff members of CCPE numerous times requesting financial support to enroll in additional certificate programs, ” but “CCPE does not provide financial assistance of any kind for students enrolled in non-degree/non-credit professional certificate programs.” (Id. at 4). Because of Plaintiff's “insisting that CCPE needed to assist him in finding additional financial assistance, ” the Associate Dean of CCPE, Edwin Schmierer, “agreed to meet” with Plaintiff on June 8, 2012. In a follow-up written summary to Plaintiff, Schmierer reiterated that the University does not offer financial assistance for non-credit professional certificate programs or courses, and does not offer free courses. Schmierer also informed Plaintiff that the School of Continuing Studies “does not have a career advisory department or career counselors” but that he could “apply to any positions posted to the CCPE LinkedIn group” and to “any Georgetown University position you find appropriate for your experience and interests.” Schmierer added that “CCPE does not control the hiring requirements for those positions as they are determined by the employer or recruiter that posts the position.” (Id.).

         Defendant alleges that after meeting with Schmierer, Plaintiff

began emailing various University staff with requests for assistance in seeking employment. He also applied for over 75 positions at the university [and] began appearing without invitation at private campus events, including events sponsored by the Career Center for full-time, degree-track students. On at least three occasions, attendees at such events contacted University police to report [Plaintiff's] uninvited attendance and erratic and inappropriate behavior.

(Mem. at 5, citing IDEAA Findings at 5-6). In March 2014, after receiving a report of a suspicious person on campus and aware of Plaintiff's “history of showing up at private events uninvited and behaving in a disruptive manner, ” the University police issued an order barring Plaintiff from the campus for two years. (Id., citing IDEAA Findings at 9).

         Undeterred, Plaintiff continued to email “various University personnel, including [IDEAA's] general email account, ” alleging discrimination and retaliation. (Mem. at 6, citing IDEAA Findings at 7). IDEAA treated Plaintiff's emails as a complaint filed on April 4, 2014, and investigated what it discerned to be two claims: (1) that the University police “subjected [Plaintiff] to discrimination and harassment based on political affiliation and disability when it issued [the] March 21, 2014 [barring order]”; and (2) that Plaintiff was “subjected to retaliation which resulted in differential treatment because Linda Greenan, the former Associate Vice President for External Affairs, provided mentoring and other supportive services to other job seekers, but not to [Plaintiff], as a . . . WIA recipient.” (Findings at 1). Based on its “review of all the evidence, including documentary evidence from both parties, ” (id. at 11, 13), IDEAA found (1) that no University policies addressing equal opportunity, discrimination, and harassment were violated with regard to the barring order, and (2) that the retaliation claim was untimely under the University's 180-day grievance period because it “relates to several matters from 2010, 2011, and 2012 (id. at 2). IDEAA added that Plaintiff “does not provide - nor can IDEAA find - any facts supporting his conclusory claim of retaliation.” (Id.).


         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint contain “a short and plain statement of the claim” and “the grounds for the court's jurisdiction” so that a defendant has fair notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam) (citing cases). Rule 12(b)(6) permits a party to move for dismissal on the grounds that the complaint has failed “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion “tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint.” Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). To withstand a motion to dismiss, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal ...

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