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Doe v. Bakhshetsyan

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

November 21, 2017

JANE DOE Plaintiff,


          Victoria A. Roberts United States District Judge.

         Jane Doe (“Doe”) brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Arseniy Bakhsehtsyan (“Bakhsehtsyan”). Doe alleges that Bakhsehtsyan stalked and threatened her. She reported his behavior to the police and to the University of Michigan (“University”), where they were both students. Bakhsehtsyan faces criminal charges. The University found by a preponderance of the evidence that Bakhsehtsyan stalked Doe. Additionally, Doe obtained a Personal Protective Order (“PPO”) against Bakhsehtsyan.

         In her complaint (“Complaint”) Doe alleges that in retaliation, Bakhsehtsyan: 1) filed a civil suit against her for, inter alia, defamation; 2) filed a motion to dissolve the PPO; and 3) sued the University. Doe alleges that by bringing these retaliatory suits, Bakhsehtsyan violated her right to free speech under the First Amendment, and her right to privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment. Specifically, Doe claims that Bakhsehtsyan has “utilized the Michigan courts to act under color of law” in an effort to chill her speech and invade her privacy. [Complaint, Par. 47, 52].

         Bakhsehtsyan filed a Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Oral argument was scheduled for and heard on November 17, 2017. Counsel for Bakhsehtsyan failed to appear.

         Because Doe fails to establish a factual basis that Bakhsehtsyan was transformed into a state actor and acting under color of law for purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 when he employed his “litigation abuse and strategic lawsuits, ” Bakhsehtsyan's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Past Relationship Between Parties

         Doe and Bakhsehtsyan were students at the University's Ross School of Business. The two became romantically involved. Between August 2015 and July 2016, Doe and Bakhsehtsyan traveled together and spent significant time together.

         According to Doe, their relationship was “tested” during this period. After taking a trip to Lake Tahoe in July 2016, Doe decided that their relationship could not be reconciled, partially because Bakhsehtsyan threatened that he would end her career and ruin her reputation if she broke up with him. In mid-July 2016, Doe tried to end the relationship, sending Bakhsehtsyan over a dozen messages asking him not to contact her again. Doe then blocked Bakhsehtsyan from her phone. [Complaint, Par. 8-11].

         Doe alleges that her requests did not deter Bakhsehtsyan. He flew to Portland and showed up unannounced at her apartment, although she had asked him not to. Over the next month, Bakhsehtsyan sent messages over various internet applications, demanding to see Doe. Bakhsehtsyan did this even though Doe had blocked his calls; and she tried to block the various assumed names he used in attempts to contact her. Doe sent Bakhsehtsyan a final email saying if he did not stop messaging her, she would seek legal action against him. Bakhsehtsyan still sent emails to Doe threatening to end her career if she did not talk to him. [Complaint, Par. 11-13].

         Doe allegedly began receiving sexually vulgar and threatening text messages from unknown numbers. The texts indicated that the sender knew where Doe was. The sender also mentioned Doe's sexual behavior, called her degrading names, and threatened to “kick her ass” or “break her fingers one by one.” Doe received these messages for months. She could not be sure they came from Bakhsehtsyan, but given the timing, Doe suspected that he might be involved. She discussed the matter with friends and relatives, who believed Bakhsehtsyan was the source of the messages, and advised her to do what she needed to do to stay safe. Doe also says that over several months, she received a constant barrage of calls from unknown numbers, sometimes coming in batches of 100 per hour. [Complaint, Par. 14-16].

         Finally, when Doe returned to campus in Fall 2016 to start her second year, Bakhsehtsyan repeatedly arrived at the inside door of the apartment where Doe lived alone. To get to the inside door, Bakhsehtsyan waited by the locked outside doors for someone to enter or exit. Doe did not answer her door when Bakhsehtsyan arrived in this fashion. [Complaint, Par. 17].

         B. History Of Doe's Legal Action Against Bakhsehtsyan

         On September 1, 2016, Doe reported Bakhsehtsyan's behavior to the University. After receiving witness accounts, and reviewing texts messages between the parties, the University's Office of Institutional Equity issued a report. This report said Doe alleged that between May and September 2016, Bakhsehtsyan engaged in harassing and unwanted contact constituting stalking behavior, including texts, emails, phone calls, social media messages, and in person contact. The report concluded by a preponderance of the evidence, that Bakhsehtsyan had stalked Doe. Bakhsehtsyan appealed the decision. Judge Barbara S. Jones, United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York, reviewed and returned the report with no changes.

         Doe also filed a police report regarding Bakhsehtsyan's stalking behavior. This sparked a criminal investigation. Doe shared the text messages she received with detectives at the Ann Arbor Police Department. The investigation led a detective to file a criminal complaint against Bakhsehtsyan . He was arraigned on March 9, 2017 on several counts, including Aggravated Stalking, and Malicious Use of Telecommunications Services. Doe testified during Bakhsehtsyan's preliminary hearing. Bakhsehtsyan was bound over to face felony charges in the Washtenaw County Circuit Court. Trial is scheduled to begin December 11, 2017.

         Doe also obtained an ex parte PPO against Bakhsehtsyan on April 21, 2017.

         C. History Of Bakhsehtsyan's Legal Action Against Doe

         On March 7, 2017, Bakhsehtsyan filed a case against Doe for Defamation, False Light, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, and Intentional Interference with Business Relations, in Washtenaw County Circuit Court. According to Doe, Bakhsehtsyan filed this suit because of her allegations against him. Doe alleges that after Bakhsehtsyan filed suit, he immediately sought private information about Doe using the state court discovery process. Specifically, Bakhsehtsyan subpoenaed the University for Doe's grades. Doe filed a protective order in an attempt to quash the subpoena. The court denied it and ordered the University to comply with Bakhsehtsyan's request. Doe alleges that Bakhsehtsyan seeks to depose her, and declined to handle discovery through written interrogatories.

         Bakhsehtsyan also sued the University on May 16, 2017 in the Michigan Court of Claims. His claims against the University rise out of its findings that Bakhsehtsyan stalked Doe. Bakhsehtsyan alleges the University violated Title IX of the Education Amendments Act and his due process rights. Doe alleges that this suit is a continuation of Bakhsehtsyan's multi-pronged strategy to retaliate against her for seeking help.

         Finally, Bakhsehtsyan filed a motion to dissolve Doe's PPO on June 7, 2017. The PPO rules afforded Bakhsehtsyan a hearing, and Doe traveled across the country to be questioned by Bakhsehtsyan's attorney. Bakhsehtsyan watched.

         D. This Lawsuit

         Doe filed her two-count Complaint on July 7, 2017, claiming a violation of her First Amendment rights, and a violation of her Fourteenth Amendment Rights, both pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         In broad strokes, Doe describes how litigation abuses and strategic lawsuits allow others to use the courts to chill free speech and invade privacy. According to Doe, when victims obtain PPOs, stalkers resort to lawsuits to continue harassing and abusing their victims. Specifically, Doe alleges that if Bakhsehtsyan is allowed to continue his litigation “war” against her, future stalking victims would be deterred from reporting stalking, an already underreported crime. She claims that her case is one of an increasing number of strategic lawsuits which seek to target victims who report stalking and domestic ...

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