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Greggs v. Andrews University

United States District Court, Second Circuit

May 16, 2013

CHEYENNE GREGGS, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREWS UNIVERSITY; JOHN DOE, Pastor of Mount Carmel Seventh Day Adventist Church; NEWTON W, HOILETTE, Vice-President for Students and Member of the Sexual Harassment Committee; NANCY J. CARBONELL, Ph.D., Counseling, Psychology and Sexual Harassment Compliance Officer; NIELS-ERIK ANDREASEN, Andrews University President; DR. GLENDA-MAE GREENE, Student Services Assistant Vice-President; SPENCER CARTER, Andrews University Assistant Dean of Men; DEXTER SADDLER; PAUL FLYGER; and VINCENT DAVID, Andrews University Dean of Graduate Students, Defendants.

CHEYENNE GREGGS Plaintiff pro se Syracuse, NY.

ORDER AND REPORT-RECOMMENDATION

THÉRÈSE WILEY DANCKS, Magistrate Judge.

Pro se Plaintiff Cheyenne Greggs seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis against Defendant Andrews University, a not-for-profit corporation which derives its authority from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist; numerous University officials allegedly involved in his expulsion from the University for sexual misconduct in March of 1997 and/or the litigation that followed; two students who were alleged to have been involved in the event upon which the sexual misconduct charge was based; and John Doe, Pastor of Mount Carmel Seventh-day Adventist Church in Syracuse, New York. (Dkt. Nos. 1 and 3.)

I. ALLEGATIONS IN THE COMPLAINT

Plaintiff, an African American, was a graduate student at Andrews University ("University) in Berrien Springs, Michigan in the summer of 1996. (Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 1 and p. 15.) When Plaintiff began hearing rumors of homosexual activity on campus by male students and faculty, Plaintiff shared the rumors with University Dean of Graduate Students, Defendant Vincent David ("David") and asked him to investigate because homosexuality was against the rules in the University Student Handbook and against the traditions and beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church's biblical standards of morality. Id. at ¶¶ 3-4 and p. 3. According to Plaintiff, he told David that if the rumors were true, the University should know of the person's sexuality so students like Plaintiff, who were not gay, could have a choice whether to room with someone who was. Id. at ¶ 4.

David told Plaintiff he should mind his own business and said something to the effect "let's just say that birds of a feather usually flock together." Id. Plaintiff then informed David, "Well, if I find out, I'm going to expose everybody involved because I came all the way to Michigan to study music and get a doctors degree in music, not a doctor's degree in male anatomy." Id. at ¶ 6.

Six months later, on February 13, 1997, Defendant Newton W. Hoilette (Hoilette"), Vice-President for Students and Member of the Sexual Harassment Committee at the University, sent Plaintiff a letter informing him that a committee, chaired by Defendant Nancy Carbonell ("Carbonell"), University Counseling, Psychology, and Sexual Harassment Compliance Officer, had been formed to investigate a claim by Defendant Dexter Saddler ("Saddler") that he had been raped by Defendant Paul Flyger ("Flyger"). Id. at ¶¶ 9-10 and pp. 3, 15. Defendant Hoilette wrote: "This letter is to confirm the fact committee is interested in interviewing you because both Dexter Saddler and Paul Flyger have implicated you as being involved with the circumstances surrounding the accusations made by Dexter...." Id. at ¶ 10. Plaintiff claims that Defendants "forced, coerced, and intimidated" Dexter and Flyger into falsely naming him as a member of a homosexual ring in retaliation for Plaintiff having previously voiced his concerns about homosexuality on campus. Id. at ¶ 9.

Defendant Carbonell also wrote to Plaintiff on February 13, 1997, charging him with sexual harassment and advising him that the Sexual Harassment Committee had been instructed to conduct a thorough investigation of Saddler's sexual harassment complaint against Plaintiff pursuant to University Policy #2:273:5:3.[1] Id. at ¶ 15 and p. 16. Plaintiff was invited to attend a meeting of the Sexual Harassment Committee at which he would be given an opportunity to defend himself. Id. at p. 16. The letter also invited Plaintiff to review the official complaint against him before the meeting and informed him of the procedure to be followed. Id. Plaintiff was placed on notice that if he decided not to appear at the meeting "the committee will have no other choice than to regard the complaint to be true, and act accordingly. Id.

Despite having been invited to review the complaint against him, Plaintiff claimed at the March 3, 1997 meeting that he had been unable to effectively respond to the charges because when he requested copies of the charges that had been filed against him, the Committee refused to give him copies, claiming that they were confidential. Id. at ¶ 26. On March 19, 1997, Defendant Hoilette sent Plaintiff a letter informing him that the Sexual Harassment Committee had reported its findings and recommendations, which the University President had accepted, and that Plaintiff was dismissed from the University effective March 20, 1997. Id. at ¶ 30 and p. 18. Plaintiff's appeal from the determination was denied by University President Defendant Niels-Erick Andreasen ("Andreasen"). Id. at p. 19.

According to Plaintiff, the allegations against him were false, and the Defendants had conspired to engage in a massive fraud that included making false accusations against him concerning homosexual rape, which led to his dismissal from the University in violation of his rights to due process and equal protection, and his right to be free from discrimination, all in violation of the Michigan State Constitution, the United States Constitution, and the University's 1996/1997 Student Handbook. Id. at ¶¶ 31-33 and pp. 1, 9-12. Plaintiff also claims that Defendants fraudulently concealed that they had improperly relied on the procedures for dealing with sexual harassment complaints set forth in the Employer-Employee Policy, rather than the Student Handbook, until the statute of limitations had run. Id. at pp. 1, 9-12. Plaintiff claims that he did not learn that Defendants had not followed the procedures in the Student Handbook until December 17, 2009. Id. at p. 11.

II. PLAINTIFF'S APPLICATION TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS

After reviewing Plaintiff's in forma pauperis application (Dkt. No. 3), the Court finds that Plaintiff may properly proceed with this matter in forma pauperis.

III. LEGAL STANDARD FOR INITIAL REVIEW OF COMPLAINT

28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) directs that even when a plaintiff meets the financial criteria for in forma pauperis, "the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that... the action... (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(ii). In determining whether an action is frivolous, the court must look to see whether the complaint lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). "An action is frivolous when either: (1) the factual contentions are clearly baseless such as when the claims are the product of delusion or fantasy; or (2) the claim is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory." Livingston v. Adirondack Beverage Co., 141 F.3d 434, 437 (2d Cir. 1998) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

To survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, a complaint must plead enough facts to state a claim that is "plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). In determining whether a complaint states a claim upon which relief may be granted, "the court must accept the material facts alleged in the complaint as true and construe all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor." Hernandez v. Coughlin, 18 F.3d 133, 136 (2d Cir. 1994) (citation omitted). "[T]he tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained ...


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