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Pierce v. Yale University

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 10, 2019

YALE UNIVERSITY, et al., Defendants.



         Plaintiff Samuel Pierce wants to go to medical school. Denied admission by every school to which he applied, Pierce turned to the courts for a cure. He began by filing a federal lawsuit claiming that his rejection from Hofstra University's medical school was the result of intentional discrimination against “white Anglo-Saxon Protestant[s].” See Pierce v. Woldenburg, No. 11-cv-4248, 2012 WL 3260316, at *1, *3 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 7, 2012). After that case was dismissed, Pierce unsuccessfully sued the University of California in state court, alleging he was denied admission to UCLA's medical school because of an “unlawful racial preference favoring Hispanics.” See Pierce v. Regents of Univ. of Cal., B262545, 2016 WL 892015, at *4 (Cal.Ct.App. Mar. 9, 2016). Undeterred, Pierce filed this case asserting a single claim under the Sherman Act. A lawyer, but proceeding pro se, [1] Pierce here alleges that he was not admitted to the Yale School of Medicine both because he is a white Republican and because of an antitrust conspiracy between medical schools to share the names of successful applicants. The antitrust conspiracy, Pierce contends, “enables” Yale and other schools to discriminate against otherwise worthy applicants like him who do not share Yale's purported ideological views.

         Defendants have moved to dismiss Pierce's amended complaint for lack of standing and failure to state a claim. Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss (“MTD”), ECF 12-1. Soon after they filed that motion, Pierce moved to strike the discrimination allegations made in the complaint, to schedule oral argument, or, in the alternative, to transfer the case to the District of Maine. Pl.'s Mot., ECF No. 13. He has also moved for a scheduling order to allow limited discovery regarding his antitrust claim. Pl.'s Am. Mot. for Scheduling Order, ECF No. 20. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant Defendants' motion to dismiss and deny Pierce's motions.

         I. Background

         As required on a motion to dismiss, the Court draws this factual background from the complaint, assuming the truth of all well-pled allegations. See Sissel v. U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 760 F.3d 1, 4 (D.C. Cir. 2014). Defendants-Yale University (“Yale”), the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania (“Penn”), and the Association of American Medical Colleges (“AAMC”) (collectively, “Defendants”)-naturally dispute many of Pierce's allegations. MTD at 5.

         Pierce claims that he is “a magna cum laude graduate of Penn's undergraduate program who earned perfect scores on the Medical College Admissions Test.” First Am. Compl. (“FAC”), ECF No. 4, ¶ 6. He applied to a number of medical schools between 2009 and 2015 using AAMC's application system. Id. ¶ 36. Pierce was one of approximately 700 applicants selected to interview at Yale in 2015. Id. ¶¶ 6, 56. He was not, however, offered admission to Yale or any other school to which he applied. Id. ¶ 38.

         Pierce raises a single claim under Section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1. FAC ¶¶ 65-73. He frames his complaint as a challenge to a conspiracy between medical schools, including Yale and Penn, and AAMC to share the names of successful applicants on the Multiple Acceptance Report (“MAR”), a list that Pierce says is circulated among schools during each application cycle. Id. ¶ 2. He identifies three anti-competitive effects of this alleged information-sharing conspiracy: (1) increased tuition because accepted students have less bargaining power to negotiate financial-aid packages; (2) decreased overall acceptances because schools are better able to anticipate matriculation rates and avoid over-enrollment; and (3) decreased consumer choice because schools are less likely to extend offers to students already accepted elsewhere. Id. ¶ 4. He insists that he would have gotten into the medical schools to which he applied, including Yale, if not for the MAR conspiracy. Id. ¶¶ 6, 41.

         Yet Pierce spends much of the complaint discussing another alleged cause of his rejection: “invidious” discrimination. Id. ¶ 55; see also id. ¶¶ 30, 46-64. Pierce alleges that Yale “stack[ed] the deck against persons of Plaintiff's race” (white) and political party (Republican). Id. ¶ 66. As evidence, he maintains that Yale seeks to achieve “thinly veiled, rigid racial quotas” and that “a Black applicant is far more likely to be admitted to medical school than a White applicant.” Id. ¶¶ 50, 53. Pierce alleges that Yale also seeks to achieve “ideological uniformity, ” as demonstrated by statements on its website expressing support for the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”). Id. ¶¶ 57-58. AAMC likewise exhibits “bias against Republicans, ” as indicated by an e-mail it circulated in June 2017, also expressing support for the ACA. Id. ¶ 59. Yale's bias was on display during his 2015 interview, Pierce says, when “he was interrogated . . . regarding his political preferences.” Id. ¶ 55. He suggests that “Black and Hispanic applicants (who are assumed to share Yale's required [liberal] ideology)” were not similarly interrogated. Id.

         According to Pierce, this political and racial discrimination led Yale to reject his application despite his “extraordinary talents, ” id. ¶ 71:

A separate admissions track applied to the Plaintiff where [he] was expected to produce incontrovertible evidence that he had no inklings of support for the Republican Party or any ideas associated with it, which did not apply to any Black applicants. The Plaintiff could not do so. Shortly after interviewing . . ., Yale informed Plaintiff that it was denying Plaintiff admission to the medical school.

Id. ¶ 55. Pierce broadly alleges that the MAR “enables this sort of political and racial discrimination” because without access to the information on that report, “market forces [would] constrain the ability of universities to exact retribution on the Plaintiff (and others demographically similar to him) for the perceived sins of his ancestors.” Id. ¶ 56. To support this assertion, Pierce spins out a “mathematical model” in his complaint which estimates that, absent the MAR, Yale would have to more than double the number of students it admits in order to achieve its target class size. Id. ¶ 41. Under this model, Pierce contends that Yale “would have necessarily admitted” him had it not received the MAR. Id. ¶¶ 6, 41.

         II. Standard of Review

         Defendants move to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). When analyzing a motion to dismiss under either Rule 12(b)(1) or 12(b)(6), the “court assumes the truth of all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint and construes reasonable inferences from those allegations in the plaintiff's favor, but is not required to accept the plaintiff's legal conclusions as correct.” Sissel, 760 F.3d at 4 (citation omitted) (Rule 12(b)(6)); Jerome Stevens Pharm., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (Rule 12(b)(1)). To survive a 12(b)(1) motion, a complaint must state a plausible claim that the elements of standing are satisfied. See Humane Soc'y of U.S. v. Vilsack, 797 F.3d 4, 8 (D.C. Cir. 2015). And to survive a 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must contain sufficient facts that, if accepted as true, state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Where a pro se plaintiff drafted the complaint, the Court construes the filings liberally and considers them as a whole before dismissing. See Schnitzler v. United States, 761 F.3d 33, 38 (D.C. Cir. 2014).

         III. ...

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