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HAMILTON v. CITY COLLEGE OF THE CITY UNIV. OF NEW YORK

November 27, 2001

KEITH HAMILTON, PLAINTIFF
V.
CITY COLLEGE OF THE CITY UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Motley, Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Keith Hamilton brings this action under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.; the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 701-798; the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment (through 42 U.S.C. § 1983); and New York state contract law.

Before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons stated in this opinion, summary judgment is granted to defendants as to all the federal claims. As for the state law cause of action, the court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over that claim, and it is therefore dismissed without prejudice.

II. PARTIES AND CLAIMS

Plaintiff Keith Hamilton suffers from dyslexia, a neurobiological learning disability that can substantially interfere with an otherwise normally intelligent person's ability to acquire speech, reading, or other cognitive skills. The parties do not dispute that dyslexia is a disability under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act. While Mr. Hamilton was enrolled in the engineering program at defendant City College of the City University of New York, one of his math instructors, defendant Phi-Sheng Ding, allegedly failed to reasonably accommodate Mr. Hamilton's disability. Besides the College and Professor Ding, the other named defendants are Professor J. Barshay (chair of the Department of Mathematics) and Professor Alberto Guzman (assistant chair of the Department). Plaintiff has apparently joined Professors Barshay and Guzman in this action under a theory of respondeat superior.

The complaint does not list specific causes action. It merely states: "Defendant's [sic] actions violate the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq.; the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 701-798 (1985); the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States; and 42 U.S.C. § 1983." Compl. ¶ 23. Paragraph 24 of the Complaint adds an allegation that City College "breached its contractual agreement to provide reasonable accommodations for students," thereby "violat[ing] . . . state contract law." Mr. Hamilton seeks $3 million in general damages and pain and suffering as well as $10 million in punitive damages for willful and intentional discrimination.

III. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from plaintiff's version of events. Plaintiff Keith Hamilton was a student at City College in the Spring 1997 semester, registered in the School of Engineering. Before registering in the School of Engineering, Mr. Hamilton had contacted Mr. Joseph Ciccone, the Coordinator of the Office of Disabled Student Services, advising Mr. Ciccone of his disability. In August 1993 Mr. Ciccone issued a letter to Mr. Hamilton's instructors which stated that, in order to accommodate Mr. Hamilton's disability, "certain accommodations or modifications of standard classroom practices may be required." Ding Aff. Ex. A. For Mr. Hamilton, the accommodations were:

1. Extra time on exams (double time is recommended).

2. Use of a calculator when needed.

3. Use of a dictionary and/or a computer (word processer [sic]) for written work.

4. Flexibility about assignment deadlines.

Id. The letter went on to state that "Mr. Hamilton understands that he/she is expected to complete all assignments and meet the regular standards for passing the course." Id. The letter also refers Mr. Hamilton's professors to a manual prepared by the Office, "Reasonable Accommodations: A Faculty Guide to Teaching College Students with Disabilities." See Ding Aff. Ex. B. That manual states, in pertinent part, "[t]he objective of [special accommodations or ...


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