Doe v. Carleton College
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER. IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant Carleton College's Motion for Reconsideration 47 is DENIED. (Written Opinion) Signed by Judge Michael J. Davis on 11/18/2020. (GRR)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA
Case No. 19‐cv‐1878 (MJD/LIB)
Beau D. McGraw, McGraw Law Firm, P.A., Counsel for Plaintiff.
Sara Lewenstein and Sean R. Somermeyer, Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath
LLP, Counsel for Defendant.
This matter is before the Court on Defendant Carleton College’s
(“Carleton”) Motion for Reconsideration. (Doc. No. 47).
Briefly, during the 2017 spring semester, Plaintiff was a student at Carleton
and was found in violation of the school’s sexual misconduct policy. Following
an investigation into the charges and after a hearing before the Community
Board of Sexual Misconduct (“CBSM”), the CBSM found that Plaintiff was
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responsible for committing sexual misconduct, and ultimately, the decision was
made to expel Plaintiff permanently.
Plaintiff brought this action alleging five causes of action: Declaratory
Judgment that Carleton’s disciplinary process violated Title IX and regulations
thereunder; a claim under Title IX; and a claim under the Minnesota Human
Rights Act alleging Plaintiff was subjected to harassment, discrimination and
disparate treatment on the basis of race. (Doc. No. 28 (Amended Complaint).)
Carleton previously moved to dismiss all counts, and the motion was
referred to Magistrate Judge Leo Brisbois. Magistrate Judge Brisbois
recommended that the motion be granted in all respects except for one narrow
negligence claim. Holding that under Minnesota law, a private university must
use reasonable care before making disciplinary decisions, Magistrate Judge
Brisbois found that Plaintiff plausibly alleged that Carleton breached its duty of
reasonable care in the implementation of its Sexual Misconduct Policy (Doc. No.
32 (R&R at 24).) Specifically, the Magistrate Judge found that the allegations that
Carleton “allegedly conduct[ed] an unreasonably rushed investigation and
hearing, it is plausible that Investigator Dunnewold and/or the CBSM panel
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unreasonably failed to consider evidence that was favorable to Plaintiff. (See,
Am. Comp. ¶¶ 147‐48, 178, 187‐88, 224, 236).” (Id.)
After conducting a de novo review of the record and carefully reviewing
Carleton’s objections pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Local Rule 72.2(b), this
Court adopted the Report and Recommendation in its entirety, and found that
under Minnesota law, a private university must use reasonable care before
making disciplinary decision. (Doc. No. 37 (May 1, 2020 Order at 5).)
Motion for Reconsideration
Reconsideration of a prior ruling is justified when there has been an
intervening change in controlling law. Gardner v. First Am. Title Ins. Co., 218
F.R.D. 216, 218 (D. Minn. 2003); Grozdanich v. Leisure Hills Health Center, Inc.,
48 F. Supp. 2d 885, 888 (D. Minn. 1999).
Since the Court’s decision on May 1, 2020, the Eighth Circuit Court of
Appeals has held that a private university’s disciplinary decision is subject to an
arbitrary or capricious standard. Doe v. Univ. of St. Thomas, 972 F.3d 1014 (8th
Cir. 2020). Based on this change in the law, Carleton asks the Court to revisit
whether Plaintiff has stated a negligence claim under the heightened arbitrary
and capricious standard.
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In reviewing a motion to dismiss brought under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6),
this Court must find that the complaint contains enough factual matters,
accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007)).
This plausibility standard is met “when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. While this Court must take Plaintiff’s factual
allegation as true, this does not apply to legal conclusions or “formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Id. Ultimately, evaluation of a
complaint upon a motion to dismiss is “a context‐specific task that requires the
reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Braden v.
Wal‐Mart Stores, Inc., 588 F.3d 585, 594 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
Whether Plaintiff has Sufficiently Alleged a Negligence Claim
under the Arbitrary to Capricious Standard
“The Minnesota Supreme Court has long held that an ‘action is arbitrary,
oppressive, and unreasonable so that it represents [the agency’s] will and not
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[its] judgment.’ A university’s decision may be arbitrary if the university violates
its own procedures.” Univ. of St. Thomas, 972 F.3d at 1018 (internal citations
Plaintiff argues the Court should deny Carleton’s Motion for
Reconsideration because he has sufficiently alleged facts to allow a fact finder to
determine that Carleton acted arbitrarily in this matter. Plaintiff argues Carleton
acted in an arbitrary manner when it rushed its investigation into the Plaintiff’s
alleged conduct by (1) mishandling and concealing evidence; (2) denying
Plaintiff the opportunity to tell his side of the story; and (3) expelling Plaintiff on
appeal for maintaining his innocence. Plaintiff further claims that Carleton acted
in an arbitrary manner when it failed to consider relevant evidence.
For purposes of deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the
Court finds that Plaintiff has sufficiently stated a claim that Carleton acted
arbitrarily in this matter. Accordingly, the Court will deny Carleton’s motion for
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IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendant Carleton College’s Motion for
Reconsideration (Doc. No. 47) is DENIED.
Date: November 18, 2020
s/ Michael J. Davis
Michael J. Davis
United States District Court
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