United States District Court, District of Columbia
RICHARD J. LEON JUDGE
Richter ("Richter" or "plaintiff) brought this
action against The Catholic University of America
("CUA" or "defendant") for breaches of
contract and the implied covenant of good faith and fair
dealing. Plaintiff claims that CUA is contractually liable
for its allegedly improper handling of his academic dismissal
from CUA's Columbus School of Law ("CUA Law")
during and after his first year as a law student. CUA moved
to dismiss the action for failure to state a claim under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Upon consideration
of the pleadings and the relevant law, and for the reasons
stated below, defendant's motion to dismiss is GRANTED,
and this case is DISMISSED.
was enrolled as a law student at CUA Law for the 2016-2017
academic year. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 7-8 [Dkt. #4]. He
finished his fall semester with a 2.021 grade point average
("GPA"), which, under CUA Law's Academic Rules,
required him to participate in the Academic Excellence
Program ("AEP"). Id. at ¶¶ 9-11;
CUA Law Academic Rules, Sec. XXVIII [Dkt. # 8-3] (requiring
first-year students in bottom 30 percent of class or who
received a C- or lower to participate in the AEP by
developing and implementing an approved "written
individual academic plan"). Richter's first-semester
GPA also put him at risk of running afoul of CUA Law's
"general policy" that "[s]tudents who attain a
cumulative grade point average at the end of their first year
or thereafter of less than 2.5 will be excluded from CUA
Law." CUA Law Academic Rules, Sec. VI.A, VI.B.l. The
Academic Rules outline a procedure for excluded students to
petition for readmission "upon a showing of special
circumstances." Id. at Sec. VI.B.L.
February 3, 2017, plaintiff signed an AEP Plan reflecting CUA
Law's "concerns about [his] academic progress"
and restating CUA Law's policy that students with a
cumulative first-year GPA below 2.50 will be academically
dismissed. AEP Plan [Dkt. # 8-2]. By signing the AEP
Plan, Richter committed to, inter alia, "attend
one of [his] professor's office hours and ask questions
about [his] work once a week." Id.; Am. Compl.
¶ 13. According to the Amended Complaint, Richter did
not meet regularly with his Constitutional Law professor
because the professor's "office hours were
frequently booked by other students and [the professor] would
not make other arrangements to meet with" Richter
"individually" because he viewed such meetings as
"preferential treatment." Am. Compl. ¶¶
45-47. Plaintiff thus could only attend "a group
question and answer session" with the professor,
"rather than [an] individual meeting." Id.
¶ 47. Richter alleges that because he (like his
classmates) could not benefit from private sessions with the
professor, he had "to devote a substantial amount of
additional time to Constitutional Law," which
"divert[ed] his attention from and undermin[ed] his
efforts in other classes," leading to lower grades.
finished the spring semester with a 1.709 GPA, bringing his
cumulative GPA down to 1.865. Id. ¶ 26. Because
his GPA was below 2.50, CUA Law informed plaintiff in a June
9, 2017 letter that he would not be permitted to continue as
a CUA Law student. Id. ¶ 27. About six weeks
later, on July 24, Richter, through counsel, requested a
letter from CUA Law stating that, despite his academic
disqualification, he possessed the capacity to complete his
legal education and be admitted to the bar, in accordance
with American Bar Association ("ABA") Standard
501(c). Id. ¶¶ 29-32. CUA Law did not
respond to Richter's request in writing; rather, CUA
Law's counsel indicated to Richter's counsel that CUA
Law did not intend to provide such a letter. Id.
¶¶ 34-35. Plaintiff alleges that he consequently
"was unable to seek admission to an ABA-accredited law
school for either the Fall 2017 or Spring 2018
semesters." Id. ¶ 36.
March 15, 2018, Richter brought this action against CUA for
breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good
faith and fair dealing under D.C. law. See Compl.
[Dkt. # 1]. He amended his complaint on June 5, 2018 to add
new allegations regarding CUA Law's grading curve and
additional allegations about his Constitutional Law
professor's office hours. See Am. Compl. On July
3, 2018, CUA moved to dismiss Richter's claims under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), see
Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. ## 8, 8-1], and Richter
filed his response on July 30, 2018, see Pl.'s
Opp'n [Dkt. # 11]. CUA filed a reply in support of its
motion on August 15, 2018. See Def.'s Reply
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss "tests the legal sufficiency
of a complaint." Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d
235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). To survive 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 quotation marks omitted). A
claim is facially plausible when the complaint allegations
allow the Court to "draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."
Id. Although the standard does not amount to a
"probability requirement," it does require more
than a "sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully." Id. "Threadbare recitals of
the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere
conclusory statements," are not sufficient to state a
claim. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court "assumes the
truth of all well-pleaded factual allegations in the
complaint and construes reasonable inferences from those
allegations in the plaintiffs favor[.]" Sissel v.
U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 760 F.3d 1,
4 (D.C. Cir. 2014). In addition to the complaint's
factual allegations, the Court may consider "documents
attached to or incorporated in the complaint, matters of
which courts may take judicial notice, and documents appended
to a motion to dismiss whose authenticity is not disputed, if
they are referred to in the complaint and integral to a
claim." Harris v. Amalgamated Transit Union Local
689, 825 F.Supp.2d 82, 85 (D.D.C. 2011).
Amended Complaint, plaintiff claims that he had an express
and implied contract with CUA and that, by mishandling his
academic dismissal, CUA breached that contract and the
covenant of good faith and fair dealing implicit in it.
See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 52-80. I will address
these contentions in turn.
Breach of Contract
D.C. law, "[t]o prevail on a claim of breach of
contract, a party must establish (1) a valid contract between
the parties; (2) an obligation or duty arising out of the
contract; (3) a breach of that duty; and (4) damages caused
by breach." Brown v. Sessoms,774 F.3d 1016,
1024 (D.C. Cir. ...