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June 29, 1993



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES B. MORAN

Plaintiff Richard Rothman (Rothman) has filed a twelve-count complaint against defendant Emory University (Emory), from whose law school he graduated in 1992. Rothman suffers from a disabling seizure disorder commonly known as epilepsy, and the bulk of his complaint concerns charges that Emory discriminated against him on the basis of that disability. Emory now moves to dismiss the complaint and to transfer the case to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Emory's motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part. Its motion to transfer the case is denied.


 The court assumes the truth of the facts alleged in Rothman's complaint. Rothman is thirty years old and has suffered from a seizure disorder for twenty years. He has been under the care of a neurologist since 1973 and has taken anticonvulsant medications since 1974. Despite his disability, Rothman has attained a good deal of academic success, earning a B.A. from Columbia University in 1984 and an M.A. from the University of Chicago in 1987. In 1989 he entered the Emory University School of Law (the law school) in Atlanta, Georgia.

 During his first semester at Emory, the dean of students at the law school, Susan Stockwell, repeatedly summoned Rothman to her office. During their discussions she often told him that he looked unhappy and urged him to seek psychological counseling. Rothman replied that he thought her involvement in his affairs was counterproductive. According to Rothman, Stockwell's "arbitrary and capricious intermeddling interfered with plaintiff's coursework during Fall, 1989." After Rothman received a failing grade in a course on civil procedure and "mediocre" grades in other courses, Stockwell urged him to drop out of law school. Plaintiff believes that Stockwell urged other disabled students to drop out as well.

 In January 1990 Rothman met with Stockwell and law school dean Howard Hunter (Hunter) to discuss his failing grade. Stockwell and Hunter decided to put off a determination of whether Rothman would have to repeat the civil procedure course he failed. They told him that the ultimate decision would depend on his second semester performance in a second course on civil procedure. Plaintiff protested that their refusal to decide the issue promptly would hinder him during the second semester.

 One of Rothman's courses during the second semester was taught by Frank Alexander (Alexander). Rothman came to Alexander's class unprepared on several occasions and, as a result, Alexander threatened to remove him from the class. Rothman attributed his deficient preparation in Alexander's course to the "extra effort" he was expected to put into his civil procedure course.

 At the end of his second semester Rothman asked that he be given additional time to take his exams. He explained that additional time was necessary because of his disability and he provided a note from a neurologist to document his condition. Rothman requested that he be given an extra hour, and three of his professors acceded to his request. Alexander gave him only an extra half hour, however, and, unlike the other professors, he insisted that Rothman complete his entire exam in the same room as the other students. Rothman protested to Stockwell that Alexander's "partial accommodation" was insufficient and discriminatory. Rothman started Alexander's exam at the same time as the other students. During his extra half hour, as the others filed out of the room, he heard several classmates complain about the special treatment he was receiving. He had difficulty concentrating during his extra half hour because Alexander and several students lingered in the examination room to chat, and because Alexander also allowed some second-year students to use the room for a group study session while Rothman was still taking his exam. Alexander ultimately gave Rothman the lowest non-probationary grade that the law school allows, and the law school denied Rothman's request that the grade be removed from his transcript.

 Rothman's discussions with Stockwell concerning the law school's response to his disability continued into the summer of 1990. During one conversation, Stockwell informed Rothman that he would receive no further accommodations in examination procedure unless he provided the school with updated medical reports. In August 1990 Rothman passed Hunter in a law school hallway and Hunter glowered at Rothman for about fifteen seconds. As a consequence of this "intimidation" from Stockwell and Hunter, as well as his humiliation during his examination for Professor Alexander's class, Rothman did not ask for any accommodations for his disability during his second year of law school.

 During the spring of Rothman's second year, approximately twelve women filed complaints charging sexual harassment by a former professor at the school. Stockwell recommended to several of the women that they seek psychological counseling. Rothman wrote a letter to Hunter, which he also submitted for publication to Emory's student newspaper, criticizing the school's handling of the sexual harassment accusations.

 Rothman had several more minor scrapes with Hunter and Stockwell before he graduated, most concerning a confidential memorandum Hunter wrote to Stockwell suggesting that Rothman be required to seek psychological help. Rothman received his J.D. degree on May 11, 1992. On June 16, 1992, Hunter submitted a school certification concerning Rothman's bar application to the Illinois Board of Law Examiners. Attached to the certification was a letter from Hunter, marked "confidential," which stated that Rothman was openly hostile to students and faculty, that he had received counseling from Stockwell concerning his hostility, and that he attributed all of his difficulties to his "chronic epilepsy." As a result of the letter the Illinois Board of Law Examiners called Rothman in for an interview, during which Rothman and a committee representative discussed Hunter's allegations. The committee representative informed Rothman that nothing in the letter rendered him unfit to practice law, and plaintiff was admitted to the bar. Rothman took his oath as an attorney on November 5, 1992.

 Because plaintiff has advanced twelve separate claims why defendant should be liable to him for impeding his attaining the status he now has, the briefing on the legal issues within the restrictions of the local rules has been just that -- brief. We think that many of plaintiff's claims are wide of the mark. As to some, however, we are not persuaded, from the abbreviated arguments presented, that plaintiff has no chance to prevail under any set of facts. Perhaps, with respect to some of them at least, we can be so persuaded after further consideration. For now, though, we rule as hereafter set forth.


 Americans with Disabilities Act Claim ...

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