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Cooley v. Western Michigan University Cooley Law School

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

September 29, 2017


          Hon. Elizabeth A. Stafford J.



         Plaintiff André Deshawn Cooley is currently enrolled as a law student at Western Michigan University (WMU) Cooley Law School. Unhappy with the grade he received in Contracts II in 2015, he met with his Professor and surreptitiously recorded their conference concerning his performance on the exam. When the Professor did not agree to alter his grade, Plaintiff appealed his grade to school officials, filed a complaint with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, and filed a lawsuit in the Kent County Circuit Court. None of these processes gained Plaintiff the relief that he sought. Plaintiff now brings this pro se lawsuit against all of the entities that denied him relief: WMU-Cooley and its employees[1], the State of Michigan and its employees[2], and Kent County and its employees[3] (Dkt. 4; Amend. Compl.). Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, over 50 pages long, states that he suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and is thus a protected person under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and Michigan's Persons with Disability Civil Rights Act (PWDCRA) (Id. Pg ID 72, 95). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants discriminated against him due to his disability. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint also references 42 U.S.C. § 1983, but only in a perfunctory manner. The majority of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint consists of a recitation of background facts, specifically a discussion of portions of his Contracts II exam for which he believes deserved more points (Dkt. 4, Pg IDs 7-28). Also included in the Amended Complaint is a section that appears to be a transcript of Plaintiff s conversation with his Contracts Professor (Dkt. 4, Pg IDs 28-41). The portion of the Amended Complaint containing Plaintiffs legal “claims” spans the remaining seven pages (Dkt. 4, Pg IDs 42-49). Plaintiffs proposed Second Amended Complaint (Dkt. 24) mentions “due process” and “equal protection” more explicitly, but again, these purported constitutional claims each circle back to a discussion of various disability statutes.

         Each group of Defendants has moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint (Dkts. 15, 19, 20). Defendants' grounds for dismissal can be summarized as follows:

• The Law School Defendants - (1) since WMU-Cooley is not a public entity (and remains a private institution) Title II of the ADA and § 1983 are inapplicable; (2) Plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged a failure to accommodate claim, rather, Plaintiff's Complaint acknowledges that he received accommodations for his disability; (3) Plaintiff failed to allege any disparate impact; (4) the ADA does not provide for liability against any of the individual Law School Defendants; (5) that evaluation of a student's performance on a law school examination is not within the province of the Court; and (6) that Plaintiff failed to properly serve Defendants LeDuc and Zelenski with the summons and complaint (Dkt. 19).
• The State Defendants - Plaintiff's claims against the State of Michigan, and any of its departments, are barred by Eleventh Amendment Immunity (Dkt. 15).
• The Kent County Defendants - (1) Plaintiff's claims against Chief Judge Johnston are barred by judicial immunity; and (2) Plaintiff's Complaint fails to allege any wrongdoing, or personal involvement, on behalf of the remaining Kent County Defendants (Dkt. 20).

         Plaintiff filed responses to each of Defendants' motions (Dkts. 22, 28, 29). Plaintiff also filed a motion for leave to amend (Dkt. 23), and a proposed second amended complaint (Dkt. 24), in response to Defendants' motions to dismiss.

         The motions were referred to Magistrate Judge Elizabeth A. Stafford, who on August 2, 2017 issued a report and recommendation (Dkt. 35) recommending that all three of Defendants' motions be granted, and that Plaintiffs motion for leave to amend be denied. In summary, the report and recommendation urges: (1) that the Court to dismiss Plaintiffs case against the Law School Defendants, because exam-grading falls within the discretion of academic professionals and is not properly the subject of an ADA or § 1983 claim; (2) that the State Defendants are entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity; (3) that Judge Johnston is entitled to judicial immunity; and (4) that Plaintiff has not stated a valid claim against the remaining Kent County Defendants, as he fails to allege sufficient involvement of these officials.

         The Court has reviewed Magistrate Judge Stafford's report and recommendation. The law provides that either party may serve and file written objections “[w]ithin fourteen days after being served with a copy” of the report and recommendations. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Plaintiff filed timely objections (Dkt. 35); the Law School Defendants filed a timely response (Dkt. 37) to Plaintiff's objections. The State and Kent County Defendants did not file responses to Plaintiff's objections. The district court will make a “de novo determination of those portions of the report . . . to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)

         Plaintiff's objections are a 45-page amalgamation of legal citations that generally rehash the claims in the Amended Complaint and reassert the arguments in his responses to the motions to dismiss, without focusing specifically on any defects in the reasoning or the authorities relied on by the Magistrate Judge. “The filing of vague, general, or conclusory objections does not meet the requirement of specific objections and is tantamount to a complete failure to object.” Cole v. Yukins, Fed. App'x. 354, 356 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373, 380 (6th Cir. 1995)). Although Plaintiff fails to articulate any coherent basis for this Court to reject the report and recommendation, the Court has endeavored to liberally construe and try to understand Plaintiff's objections. Plaintiff's first objection is to:

[T]he Court's assertion and fact-to law application that “to state a claim for equal protection a plaintiff must adequately plead that the government treated the plaintiff desperately [sic] as compared to similarly situated persons and that such disparate treatment either burdens a fundamental right, targets a suspected class, or has no rational basis.”

         Plaintiff's second objection is to:

[T]he Court's assertion and fact-to law application where this Court has noted that courts are not in the business of second-guessing a professors [sic] professional judgment; however, the professor even second guesses his own professional judgment, because during the conversation that was recorded by the Plaintiff unbeknownst to the professor, the professor even acknowledges himself ...

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