Doe v. Dordoni, 032520 FED6, 19-6016

Docket Nº:19-6016
Opinion Judge:HELENE N. WHITE, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:JOHN DOE, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. GEORGE DORDONI, Individually Defendant-Appellee
Judge Panel:BEFORE: GRIFFIN, WHITE, and NALBANDIAN, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:March 25, 2020
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

JOHN DOE, Plaintiff-Appellant,


GEORGE DORDONI, Individually Defendant-Appellee

No. 19-6016

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

March 25, 2020




HELENE N. WHITE, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff-Appellant John Doe1 appeals from an order granting official immunity to Appellee George Dordoni, a Senior International Student and Scholar Advisor at the WKU International Student Office, and dismissing Doe's complaint. The district court concluded that Dordoni was entitled to official immunity because the acts he performed in advising Doe were discretionary. Because we conclude that Dordoni's actions were ministerial, he is not entitled to official immunity, and we REVERSE and REMAND for further proceedings.


Doe was born in Saudi Arabia, moved with his family to Islamabad, Pakistan, and eventually became a Pakistani citizen. Although his parents are devout Muslims and Doe was raised in strict adherence to Islam, Doe befriended a Pakistani Christian and became interested in converting to Christianity. In 2013, Doe came to the United States to pursue an engineering degree at Western Kentucky University ("WKU").[2] After arriving, Doe began attending Christian services. Although he initially kept his interest in Christianity a secret, after some time Doe informed his uncle, who later conveyed this information to Doe's father. This caused Doe's father to withdraw his financial support. Doe's father later requested that Doe return to Saudi Arabia because Doe's father and mother were separating, and his father had an important hearing. Doe's new financial difficulties and the stress occasioned by the news of his parents' separation led him to seek Dordoni's advice about taking a leave of absence while maintaining his status as a student. Following Dordoni's advice, Doe applied for and was granted a medical leave of absence for the Spring 2015 semester.

Before leaving for Saudi Arabia, Doe consulted with Dordoni again. Because of his medical leave of absence, Doe was unsure of his immigration status and wanted to confirm that he could "get back in the country if [he left.]" R. 84-2, PID 499. Dordoni responded that if Doe obtained a corrected3 letter from the counseling center authorizing the leave of absence, Doe "would be able to take a brief leave from the [United States] for the purpose [he described] and return without any entry issues." Id. at PID 501. Doe obtained that corrected letter and later emailed Dordoni to ask about obtaining a "travel I-20" and a verification letter attesting to Doe's continuing status with the university. 4

Id. at PID 503-04. Dordoni responded that he would write a letter explaining Doe's continuing relationship with WKU and asked when Doe was planning to travel. Doe responded that he would depart after February 14, 2015, but he wondered if there was a deadline by which he had to return to the United States. Dordoni responded that Doe "can stay out of the country for as much as 5 months before [he] would need a new I-20 to be able to re-enter." Id. at PID 505.

Doe departed for Saudi Arabia on February 14, 2015. When he arrived, he discovered that his father's true purpose in having him return was to force Doe to conform to his Muslim upbringing. To this end, Doe was beaten, placed on "house arrest" and overseen by a security guard for the next three months. R. 84-1, PID 339. To escape the situation, Doe told his father that his conversion to Christianity was just a prank and signed a letter promising he would adhere to Islam and return to Saudi Arabia after completing his degree. After Doe signed this letter, his father consented to Doe's return to the United States.

Two weeks after Doe departed for Saudi Arabia, Dordoni discovered a problem with WKU's iStart/Sunapsis system.5 The iStart program is "a software program used by WKU to track the status of international students enrolled at the university." R. 102, PID 1220. It is designed to interface with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System ("SEVIS"), a government program controlled by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), used to track the status of international students within the United States. This allows WKU and the government to exchange student information and records. Because of a glitch, 1, 039 students' records that were input into iStart had not synced correctly with SEVIS, causing the students to appear as unregistered in SEVIS although they were shown as active in iStart.6 Dordoni and WKU IT officials worked with Sunapsis personnel to resolve the glitch; by March 2015, Dordoni was informed by WKU IT that the problem had been...

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