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Naca v. Macalester College

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

September 18, 2017

KRISTIN NACA, Plaintiff,

          Peter J. Nickitas, PETER J. NICKITAS LAW OFFICE, L.L.C., for plaintiff.

          Sean R. Somermeyer, Kathlyn E. Noecker, and Terran C. Chambers, FAEGRE BAKER DANIELS LLP, for defendant.


          Patrick J. Schiltz United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Kristin Naca was employed as a “Faculty Diversity Fellow” and then as an assistant professor of poetry by defendant Macalester College (“Macalester”). Macalester fired Naca after one of her former students reported (1) that Naca solicited sex from her 11 days before she graduated and (2) that Naca had sex with her three days after she graduated. Naca brought this lawsuit against Macalester, alleging, in essence, that Macalester fired her not because she solicited sex from and then had sex with a student, but because Macalester was hostile to Naca on account of her race or ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, disability, and religion.

         Naca's original complaint was stricken for violating the command of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) that a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief” and the command of Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1) that each allegation in a complaint must be “simple, concise, and direct.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1). As the Court explained:

Naca's complaint-which weighs in at a remarkable (in a bad way) 81 pages and 250 numbered paragraphs and culminates in 26 claims for relief-does not come close to complying with Rule 8. The complaint sets forth in numbing detail just about every slight that Naca alleges she suffered during her tenure at Macalester. And the allegations in the complaint are not “simple, concise, and direct”; instead, they are rife with purple prose and personal invective.

ECF No. 6 at 2. The Court gave Naca an opportunity to file an amended complaint, but ordered that the complaint not exceed 10, 000 words.

         Naca filed an amended complaint. Although the complaint met the letter of the Court's order-it came in at 9, 641 words-the complaint actually increased the number of claims from 26 to 35. ECF No. 8. Macalester responded by filing a motion to dismiss. ECF No. 40. At the hearing on that motion, the Court dismissed about two-thirds of Naca's claims from the bench. ECF No. 64.

         Naca now seeks to amend her complaint to add Brian Rosenberg (the President of Macalester) as a defendant, and to bring seven claims against him. ECF No. 55. The circumstances giving rise to Naca's request can be briefly summarized as follows:

         After this lawsuit was filed on September 28, 2016, Naca and her supporters took to social media to draw attention to this lawsuit, to publicize Naca's allegations and her denial of Macalester's allegations, and to attract support and donations for Naca. Macalester's independent student newspaper-The Mac Weekly-became aware of Naca's lawsuit and asked both Naca and Rosenberg to comment. In response, Naca told The Mac Weekly that her termination was a “clear violation of [her] due process rights and a blatant act of discrimination made under false pretenses.” ECF No. 61-1 at 2. Also in response, Rosenberg issued a statement to The Mac Weekly, the following two sentences of which were quoted in the newspaper:

Kristin Naca's employment at Macalester was terminated as the result of a serious violation of the college's policies relating to Title IX protections, following a complaint about her conduct with a student. . . . Unfortunately, Naca's response to these findings . . . has been to attack, intimidate and retaliate against the survivor who brought forward the complaint.

Id. (The reference to “attack, intimidate and retaliate” is a reference to the fact that, before suing Macalester in federal court, Naca sued her alleged victim in state court.)

         Naca now wants to sue Rosenberg for commenting on her lawsuit in this way. Specifically, Naca wants to bring a defamation claim against Rosenberg because, she says, his assertion was false in three respects: (1) she did not commit “a serious violation of the college's policies”; (2) her alleged victim was not a “student” because she had graduated three days before they had sex; and (3) her alleged victim was not a “survivor, ” because the use of the word “survivor” implies that the alleged victim was sexually assaulted, and the alleged victim was not sexually assaulted (as the alleged victim herself admitted in a letter to Naca). ECF No. 55-1 ¶¶ 250-264. Naca also wants to bring six retaliation claims under various civil-rights statutes, on the theory that her filing of the lawsuit was protected activity, and Rosenberg's statement about the lawsuit constituted unlawful retaliation for engaging in that protected activity. Id. ¶¶ 265-271.

         Magistrate Judge Steven E. Rau denied Naca's motion for leave to amend her complaint to add Rosenberg as a defendant and to bring seven claims against him. ECF No. 63. This matter is before the Court on Naca's objection to Judge Rau's order. ECF No. 66. The Court has conducted a de novo review. See Magee v. Trs. of the Hamline Univ., Minn., 957 F.Supp.2d 1047, 1062 (D. Minn. 2013). Based on that review, ...

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