991 F.2d 628 (10th Cir. 1993), 91-3238, Baker v. Board of Regents of State of Kan.

Docket Nº:91-3238.
Citation:991 F.2d 628
Party Name:Marvin D. BAKER, Plaintiff/Appellant, v. The BOARD OF REGENTS OF the STATE of KANSAS and University of Kansas Medical School--School of Medicine, Defendants/Appellees.
Case Date:April 12, 1993
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

Page 628

991 F.2d 628 (10th Cir. 1993)

Marvin D. BAKER, Plaintiff/Appellant,


The BOARD OF REGENTS OF the STATE of KANSAS and University

of Kansas Medical School--School of Medicine,


No. 91-3238.

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

April 12, 1993

Page 629

Robert E. Keeshan and Anthony D. Clum of Hamilton, Peterson, Tipton & Keeshan, Topeka, KS for plaintiff/appellant.

John C. McFadden and Steven Ruddick, University of Kansas Medical Center, Lawrence, KS, for defendants/appellees.

Before BALDOCK and SETH, Circuit Judges, and BRIMMER, District Judge. [*]

BRIMMER, District Judge.



This case involves a reverse discrimination claim arising from a denial of admission to the University of Kansas Medical School ("KUMS"). Marvin Baker ("Baker"), appellant, a white male, claims that he has been discriminated against in violation of the United States and Kansas Constitutions, and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 2000d. This is an appeal from an order of the United States District Court granting summary judgment on behalf of appellees and dismissing the appellant's amended complaint.

Baker received a letter dated January 29, 1986, denying his admission to KUMS. Although KUMS had a waiting list, and the final list of admittees was not finalized until August of 1986, the January 29, 1986 letter to Baker was a flat denial for admission. This was the third consecutive year that Baker had been denied admission to KUMS.

On February 12, 1986, Baker met with Dr. Thorkil Jensen, the Associate Dean of KUMS, to discuss the reasons for his rejection. Dr. Jensen told Baker that he had been denied admission because he had done poorly in his interview. KUMS uses four criteria for admissions: (1) G.P.A.; (2) the Medical School Admissions Test score (MCAT); (3) the advisors' recommendations, and (4) interview evaluations.

Baker graduated from Kansas University in 1984 with a GPA of 3.53 (3.64 in the basic sciences). His combined GPA/MCAT score for 1985 and 1986 was 625. On December 1, 1987, KUMS, in response to a request for information, advised Baker that he had the highest GPA/MCAT score of any Kansas resident who was denied admission in 1986. In 1986, there were at least 104 applicants with lower scores who were either admitted to KUMS or put on the waiting list. In 1985, no admitted minority

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had a combined GPA/MCAT score higher than Baker.


The district court, in granting summary judgment to KUMS, held that Baker's federal claims were barred by a two-year statute of limitations period which began to run in late January or early February, 1986. Baker v. Bd. of Regents of the State of Kan., et al., 768 F.Supp. 1436, 1442 (D.Kan.1991). Baker filed his lawsuit on June 14, 1988.

"In reviewing a summary judgment order, the appellate court applies the same standard employed by the trial court under Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure." Osgood v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 848 F.2d 141, 143 (10th Cir.1988). The rule directs that summary judgment "shall be rendered forthwith if ... there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and ... the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Thus, "[w]hen a motion for summary judgment is granted, it is the appellate court's duty to examine the record to determine if any genuine issue of material fact was in dispute; if not, the court must determine if the substantive law was correctly applied." Osgood, 848 F.2d at 143. "The moving party carries the burden of showing beyond a reasonable doubt that it is entitled to summary judgment, and the court must review the record in the light most favorable to the opposing party," Ewing v. Amoco Oil Co., 823 F.2d 1432, 1437 (10th Cir.1987).


We agree with the trial court's analysis that the two year state statute of limitations should be applied to the federal law claims asserted under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 2000d, and to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 29 U.S.C. § 794, which the appellant moved to add to the complaint.

No federal statute of limitations is expressly provided for civil rights claims brought under these sections. However, Congress has directed the courts to look to state law in civil rights cases where federal law is "deficient in the provisions necessary to furnish suitable remedies ... [and the state law] is not inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States...." 42 U.S.C. 1988 (1981 & Supp.1992).

The first step in selecting the applicable state statute of limitations is to characterize the essential nature of the federal action. Garcia v. Wilson, 731 F.2d 640, 642 (10th Cir.1984) aff'd, 471 U.S. 261, 105 S.Ct. 1938, 85 L.Ed.2d 254 (1985); Braden v. Texas A & M Univ. System, 636 F.2d 90, 92 (5th Cir.1981); Burns v. Sullivan, 619 F.2d 99, 105 (1st Cir.1980), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 893, 101 S.Ct. 256, 66 L.Ed.2d 121 (1980). Characterization of a federal claim is a matter of federal law. United Auto. Workers v. Hoosier Cardinal Corp., 383 U.S. 696, 706, 86 S.Ct. 1107, 1113, 16 L.Ed.2d 192 (1966); Garcia, 731 F.2d at 642. Section 1983 claims are best characterized as personal injury actions. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 276, 105 S.Ct. 1938, 1947, 85 L.Ed.2d 254 (1985); Garcia, 731 F.2d at 651. This Court, using the rationale from Garcia, has also characterized section 1981 claims as actions for injury to personal rights. Equal Employment Opportunity Comm'n v. Gaddis, 733 F.2d 1373 (10th Cir.1984). Because both section 1983 and 1981 claims are actions for injury to the rights of another, the appropriate state statute of limitations is Kan.Stat.Ann. § 60-513(a)(4) (1983 & Supp.1992). 1 Pike v. City of Mission, Kan., 731 F.2d 655, 658 (10th Cir.1984); Board of Regents of Univ. of State of N.Y. v. Tomanio, 446 U.S. 478, 485, 100 S.Ct. 1790, 1795,

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64 L.Ed.2d 440 (1980) ("[T]he...

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