Doe v. Purdue Univ.

Decision Date14 February 2023
Docket Number2:17-CV-33-JPK
PartiesJOHN DOE, Plaintiff, v. PURDUE UNIVERSITY, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Indiana

JOHN DOE, Plaintiff,
v.

PURDUE UNIVERSITY, et al., Defendants.

No. 2:17-CV-33-JPK

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

February 14, 2023


OPINION AND ORDER

JOSHUA P. KOLAR, MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

This matter is before the Court on John Doe's Motion for Reconsideration [DE 208] of the Court's order granting summary judgment to Defendants on Doe's due process claim [DE 206].

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), “any order or other decision . . . may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment.” See Galvan v. Norberg, 678 F.3d 581, 587 n.3 (7th Cir. 2012). “Motions for reconsideration serve a limited function: to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence. Such motions cannot in any case be employed as a vehicle to introduce new evidence that could have been adduced during the pendency of the summary judgment motion.” Caisse Nationale de Credit Agricole v. CBI Indus., Inc., 90 F.3d 1264, 1269 (7th Cir. 1996) (quotations and citations omitted). Rather, reconsideration is appropriate when the Court has “patently misunderstood a party, or has made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented to the Court by the parties, or has made an error not of reasoning but of apprehension.” Neurology & Pain Mgmt. Assocs., P.C. v. Bunin, No. 3:17-CV-35-JD, 2022 WL 4301797, at *2 (N.D. Ind. Sept. 16, 2022) (quoting Bank of Waunakee v. Rochester Cheese Sales, Inc., 906 F.2d 1185, 1191 (7th Cir. 1990)).

John's motion and memorandum assert four arguments for reconsideration: (1) the Court wrongly found he had not shown an obligation to disclose his Purdue disciplinary record to the

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Navy; (2) Purdue failed to raise any other triable issues of fact that would preclude summary judgment for John; (3) the Court wrongly found that evidence supporting an inference that Purdue's disciplinary findings were true would have precluded summary judgment for John; and (4) the Court failed to address his request to dismiss Defendants' counterclaim.[1]

A. JOHN'S AUTHORIZATION FOR PURDUE TO DISCLOSE RECORDS

John was suspended from Purdue, and removed from the Navy's ROTC program, after Purdue determined that he had violated its Anti-Harassment Policy by sexually assaulting a fellow student, Jane Doe.[2] The Court found that John could not sustain a due process claim based on deprivation of occupational liberty, because he had consented to Purdue disclosing his disciplinary records to the Navy and had not presented sufficient evidence of an obligation to do so. [DE 206 at 14-18]. Since all agree John provided an authorization for Purdue to disclose the records at issue, the question becomes whether John was obligated to provide that authorization. John argues that reconsideration is warranted based in part on new evidence he appends to this motion.

1. John needed to show an obligated disclosure, and failed to do so

Since John's argument could be read to presume that something less than an obligated disclosure may satisfy the “stigma-plus” test for a claim based on deprivation of occupational liberty, the Court briefly addresses the law on this point. The stigma-plus test requires John to show that the state inflicted “reputational damage” on him, which in turn requires that he did not consent to the publication of the damaging material. The test has its origins in a case where a plaintiff sued under § 1983 in lieu of a state law defamation claim, Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693 (1976), and one court has commented that the reputational damage element “has always been

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grounded in common-law conceptions of defamation, ever since the test's origin in Paul.” Doe v. Trs. of Ind. Univ., 496 F.Supp.3d 1210, 1216 (S.D. Ind. 2020) (discussing the history of the test).

However, the contours of the disclosure requirement have not been precisely defined. In this case, the Seventh Circuit relied on John's initial allegation that he had a legal obligation to disclose his disciplinary records, and therefore did not need to confront the issue of whether there had to be a legal obligation, rather than some less compelling obligation. See Doe v. Purdue Univ., 928 F.3d 652, 662 (7th Cir. 2019). The Seventh Circuit compared Dupuy v. Samuels, 397 F.3d 493 (7th Cir. 2005), in which child care workers were required by state law to disclose to prospective employers that they were found to have committed child abuse, to Olivieri v. Rodriguez, 122 F.3d 406 (7th Cir. 1997), in which an officer fired for sexual assault “insisted that . . . [he] would have to tell potential employers why he was fired.” Purdue, 928 F.3d at 661-62. The Court noted that the plaintiff in Olivieri, where the disclosure was “voluntary and speculative,” could not sustain a stigma-plus claim, while the plaintiffs in Dupuy, where the disclosure was “compelled and certain,” could sustain a claim. So the obligation must be something more than “voluntary and speculative,” although an obligation might be strong enough even if it was somehow less than “certain.”

At the pleading stage, John alleged a “legal obligation” to disclose, which clearly satisfied the stigma-plus test. But that allegation was not supported in the summary judgment record. John never asked the Navy whether he was required to authorize Purdue's disclosure of his records, or whether an order or discipline would follow if he declined to authorize disclosure. During discovery in this case, including depositions of relevant Navy decisionmakers, John's counsel never asked those questions either. John wanted the Court to simply assume that an obligation existed, based on his own testimony that the Navy wanted to be kept “in the loop” about Purdue's

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investigation, and based on what counsel refers to as “military realities” so obvious they did not have to be spelled out in the record. But speculation, particularly when the relevant facts were ascertainable, does not establish a genuine dispute for trial.[3] And a strategic failure to ascertain and present supporting facts does not justify reconsideration. Caisse Nationale, 90 F.3d at 1270 (“Whether a matter of strategy or inadvertence, [the] failure to submit these facts to the court during summary judgment foreclose[s] [a] motion for reconsideration.”).

2. This issue has already been litigated, and John is not entitled to reconsideration based on evidence he declined to include in the summary judgment record

John did not present evidence supporting his initial allegation of a legal obligation. Defendants raised this issue in their brief in support of summary judgment:

John's stigma-plus theory requires him to come forward with evidence that he was obligated to authorize Purdue to disclose its official determination of responsibility to NROTC . . . However, there is no evidence that John was obligated to authorize the Navy to access Purdue's official determination. John testified in deposition
Q. You don't recall one way or the other anybody at the Navy telling you that the Navy wanted access to information from Purdue? A: No, I do not.
Lieutenant Redlawsk, the Navy official in charge of NROTC's investigation of Jane's allegation[,] corroborated that there was no compulsion.
Q: . . . Did you ever order [Plaintiff] to turn over information to the Navy about his Purdue investigation?
A: I wouldn't say that I ordered him. I don't recall ever giving him an order to do so.
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[DE 178 at 40-41 (record citations omitted)]. John's response[4] to that argument was as follows:

Defendants describe John's authorization for Purdue to release disciplinary case files to the Navy ROTC as “voluntary”; however, John did not so testify, but rather that the Navy wanted to be “in the loop,” and Purdue NROTC Executive Officer Craig Remaly testified the authorization form was one that Purdue requested in John's case.

[DE 187 at 31]. Defendants raised the issue again in opposition to John's summary judgment motion, arguing explicitly that “John has not even tried to prove a legal obligation to disclose.”

[DE 188 at 11]. John reaffirmed his position in the reply brief:

Defendants argue that John was not under a legal compulsion to authorize disclosure, but that ignores the record. As discussed in [John's opposition brief[5], John testified that the Navy wanted to be “in the loop,” and Purdue NROTC Executive Officer Craig Remaly testified the authorization form was one that Purdue requested in John's case; with Jane Doe having reported her accusations to the NROTC and the NROTC looking to Purdue for the investigation, John was in no position to refuse the authorization.

[DE 191 at 8 (citations omitted)].

The Court granted summary judgment to Defendants, citing the Seventh Circuit's decision in this matter, among other cases, indicating that obligated disclosure was necessary to sustain John's stigma-plus claim.[6] The Court expressed surprise that John had not even pointed to a Navy

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regulation that would have compelled disclosure, or established that he would need to disclose if he had wanted to reapply to NROTC. The Court speculated: “Perhaps John's claims would survive summary judgment” under those circumstances, but ultimately, “[i]f there was such an argument to be made, John has opted not to do so.” [DE 206 at 16-17 (emphasis added)].[7]

John now seeks reconsideration, appending further evidence to his motion. John's counsel explains: “[W]hen we did the original briefing, I guess we thought it was enough to say that he had no choice because that was, basically, the position that he had . . . So I present what I do, really, with a mind that this is an elaboration of what it meant, to say he had no real choice in the matter but to do the authorization.” [DE 212, 17:2-14].

John was aware of Defendants' arguments for dismissal, including the argument that there was no obligated disclosure....

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