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MORPURGO v. BOARD OF HIGHER EDUC. IN NEW YORK

November 18, 1976

Anna Selma Vinje MORPURGO, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF HIGHER EDUCATION IN CITY OF NEW YORK, as Board of Trustees for the City University of New York, the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York, and John/Jane Doe, employees, former employees et al., Defendants. Anna Selma Vinje MORPURGO, Plaintiff, v. UNITED STATES of America et al., Defendants. Anna Selma Vinje MORPURGO, Plaintiff, v. PROFESSIONAL STAFF CONGRESS/CUNY (PSC) et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEINFELD

EDWARD WEINFELD, District Judge.

Plaintiff was formerly employed by the New York City Board of Higher Education ("BHE") as an adjunct lecturer at Queensboro Community College ("QCC"), a division of the City University of New York, and was enrolled in a doctoral program at City University of New York ("CUNY"). Appearing pro se, she commenced three separate actions under the Civil Rights Act *fn1" against various agencies and individuals, charging a multiplicity of wrongful acts and conduct originating, for the most part, about CUNY's termination of her studies leading to a doctorate degree and its refusal to renew her contract as an adjunct lecturer at QCC. With the passage of time, and as she sought admission to other educational programs and research projects and awards of scholarships and fellowships with their stipends, her charges were broadened to encompass all who came within her path before, at the time of and subsequent to her rejections.

 This Court previously dismissed two of plaintiff's original complaints and a first amended complaint, observing that although a plaintiff appearing pro se deserves to have his complaint viewed by a less stringent standard than when drafted by a lawyer, *fn2" the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure nevertheless remain applicable to such a plaintiff, particularly one who, as the plaintiff here, appears to be an educated person.

 We now have before us the amended complaints in the three actions, which name as defendants the United States of America, the present and two former Attorneys General of the United States, the Secretary of State of the United States, Princeton University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the BHE, the New York State Division of Human Rights, the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY ("PSC") (a union of which plaintiff is a member), the attorneys who represented plaintiff in connection with an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") grievance, and various individuals, some of whom are officials of named defendants sued in both their official and individual capacities.

 Defendants in all three actions have moved on various grounds to dismiss the complaints, and perforce we consider each motion separately. In order to set the motions in proper perspective, it is desirable, to the extent that one can discern the thrust of plaintiff's allegations, to set them forth under her respective complaints.

 75 CIVIL 186 (AMENDED COMPLAINT)

 In this action, the first instituted by plaintiff in this Court, she sues the BHE, its employees, and various unnamed defendants for conspiracy and failure to prevent a conspiracy to deprive her of her constitutional and civil rights. Plaintiff alleges that, although she was qualified, the defendants refused to accept her into several graduate programs and that they wrongfully denied her scholarships and financial aid for those programs and for other programs in which she had been enrolled. Plaintiff also alleges that the defendants, in order to further, cover up or justify their unlawful acts, generated and maintained false and scandalous records concerning her and conspired with unspecified persons to slander plaintiff, to withhold records and references from academic deans and would-be sponsors of plaintiff, thereby foreclosing them from making favorable determinations about her, to punish or bribe BHE and QCC employees in order to prevent them from supporting plaintiff's grievances or giving testimony favorable to plaintiff in unspecified proceedings, to punish faculty members and students who indicated support of plaintiff in her charges, and to incite "racist, sexist, and religious militants and... narcotics addicts... to retaliate against plaintiff as a common enemy."

 75 CIVIL 3840 (SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT)

 In this action, plaintiff broadens her conspiracy charges in her first complaint to include federal officials. She charges that the conspiracy originated when she was matriculated at Hunter College, CUNY and from there spread throughout the United States and abroad. Essentially, she claims that the United States of America, past and present Attorneys General of the United States, the Secretary of State and unspecified federal agencies subjected her to intensive wiretapping and other "counterintelligence" activities, classified her as "undesirable" and engineered an immense conspiracy to deny her admittance into various doctoral programs and to prevent her from obtaining employment or matriculation in scientific research projects although she was fully qualified. Plaintiff alleges that nearly every person involved in her dismissal as an adjunct lecturer at QCC and in the decisions not to accept her into the various programs to which she applied took action pursuant to "confidential federal directives" and later engaged in a massive cover-up conspiracy to stymie plaintiff's investigations into the "real reasons" behind her rejections. Thus, the BHE, its employees and CUNY employees - now allegedly acting under federal government directives - are again claimed to have falsified plaintiff's records and examination scores, to have spread false information about her, and to have coerced others into abandoning her cause, all in order to prevent her from continuing her academic career. Similarly, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Princeton University, allegedly complying with federal directives, unlawfully rejected her applications to various doctoral programs. Defendant Mary Mothersill, who as Chairperson of the American Philosphical Association's Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession investigated plaintiff's labor grievance against the BHE, is alleged to have discovered evidence of the conspiracy among the various defendants, but to have joined the conspiracy by withholding that evidence from plaintiff. Finally, as noted, all these defendants are charged with covering up their participation in the original conspiracy.

 75 CIVIL 4913 (AMENDED COMPLAINT)

 This action includes a new group of defendants. It focuses primarily on the decision in 1972 not to rehire plaintiff as an adjunct lecturer in philosophy at QCC. Plaintiff repeats many of the allegations contained in her prior complaints, but also charges that the PSC, plaintiff's registered collective bargaining representative at the college, employees of the EEOC and of the New York State Division of Human Rights, and the law firm that represented plaintiff with respect to her EEOC complaint all joined in the conspiracy to deprive her of her rights and, in furtherance thereof, misprocessed or otherwise mishandled her grievances advanced in arbitration proceedings and, subsequently, in complaints filed with the Division of Human Rights and with the EEOC. Again, all defendants are alleged to be part of a conspiracy to cover up all evidence of the wrongful actions they are purported to have taken.

 MOTION BY THE BOARD OF HIGHER EDUCATION

 The BHE, its employees and CUNY employees move for dismissal of the complaints against them on the grounds that (1) the claims are barred by res judicata; (2) plaintiff has failed to exhaust administrative remedies; and (3) the complaints fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

 As in the instance of the other defendants in these actions, the complaints against the BHE and other "municipal defendants" are incredibly muddled, vague and conclusory. The claims that are at least minimally understandable and that can be culled from the constant stream of invective running through plaintiff's complaints may, however, be summarized as follows:

 In her first action, plaintiff claims that the BHE has denied her equal rights to participate in various higher educational programs and to share in educational grants. As part of this alleged denial of plaintiff's rights, the BHE is claimed to have maintained records of various libelous statements about plaintiff, to have slandered plaintiff and encouraged unnamed persons to slander her, to have prevented investigations into plaintiff's grievances by rearranging files and by barring access to records, to have bribed and threatened employees to cause them to withhold favorable testimony about plaintiff, and to have incited unnamed militants, drug addicts and criminals to "retaliate" against plaintiff in unspecified ways.

 In the second action, expanded to include federal officials, she reiterates many of the charges against the BHE in her first complaint and further claims that the BHE and CUNY employees falsified her examination scores and academic evaluations in order to effect her dismissal from the doctoral program at CUNY. In this complaint, however, she alleges that these actions were mandated by confidential directives issued by unspecified federal agencies and were in furtherance of a vast conspiracy to deprive her of her civil rights. The municipal defendants are charged with participation in a similarly widespread cover-up conspiracy to prevent plaintiff from discovering the truth about the circumstances surrounding the BHE's actions.

 In her third action, expanded to include, among others, her union representatives and her attorneys, plaintiff again charges the municipal defendants with participation in a conspiracy and a cover-up conspiracy, both of which had as their object denials and infringements of plaintiff's constitutional rights. QCC's decision in 1972 not to rehire plaintiff as an adjunct lecturer in philosophy is claimed to have been taken in furtherance of the conspiracy and to have been discriminatory. BHE is apparently alleged to have engineered this decision and is charged with intimidating and misleading persons who might have supported plaintiff in her efforts to be reinstated or hired elsewhere. Plaintiff also claims that the ...


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