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Gardner v. Wise

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

July 26, 2019

JOHN B. GARDNER, Plaintiff,
v.
TANNA E. WISE; ROBERT NEUGEBOREN; and HUNTINGTON LAMBERT, Defendants.

          JOHN B. GARDNER, PRO SE PLAINTIFF.

          ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JOHN R. TUNHEIM CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff John B. Gardner was admitted to the Harvard Extension School's Masters in Liberal Arts program in January 2019, and was administratively removed later that month. (Compl., Ex. C (“Ex. C”) at 1, Mar. 14, 2019, Docket No. 1-3; Letter at 1, Mar. 14, 2019, Docket No. 3-1.) Gardner brought this action against Harvard staff and officials on March 14, 2019, seeking reinstatement into the program and alleging that the school discriminated against him based on his status as a veteran in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. (Compl. at 4, Mar. 14, 2019, Docket No. 1; Letter (“Letter 4”) at 1, Apr. 1, 2019, Docket No. 8.) Gardner also submitted an application to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”). (Appl., Mar. 14, 2019, Docket No. 2.) Finally, on April 12, 2019, Gardner filed a motion for a temporary restraining order (“TRO”), again seeking immediate reinstatement into the Harvard Extension School. (Mot., Apr. 12, 2019, Docket No. 9.)

         On April 25, 2019, Magistrate Judge David T. Schultz filed a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) recommending that the matter be dismissed without prejudice. (R. & R. at 6, Apr. 25, 2019, Docket No. 11.) Gardner objects. (Objs., May 13, 2019, Docket No. 12.) Because Gardner has failed to satisfy basic pleading standards and has not stated a claim upon which relief may be granted, the Court will overrule Gardner's objections, adopt the R&R, deny Gardner's application to proceed IFP, and dismiss this action without prejudice.

         BACKGROUND

         Gardner's association with the Harvard Extension School (“HES”) is unclear. Early in 2018, Gardner was in contact with HES administrators. (See, e.g., Compl., Ex. B at 5-16.) Gardner alleges that in March 2018, a Harvard official threatened to find him in violation of Harvard's student code after Gardner inquired about Harvard Innovation Lab's protocols for handling personal data. (Letter at 3.) In the fall of 2018, Gardner took a course at HES. (Letter at 2.) Gardner alleges that Defendant Tanna Wise, his teaching assistant for that course, discriminated against him by delaying her email responses and feedback to him as compared to other students in the class. (See Letter at 2; Compl., Ex. A (“Ex. A”) at 26-27, Mar. 14, 2019, Docket No. 1-1.) During the fall of 2018, Gardner emailed Wise several times regarding his section grade, his concerns about possible discriminatory or disparate treatment, and his belief that Wise's LinkedIn page was inaccurate. (See Letter (“Letter 3”), Ex. 1 at 2-3, Mar. 21, 2019, Docket No. 5-1.) At some point in 2018, Wise filed a university complaint against Gardner. (See Ex. C at 3.) On January 15, 2019, Gardner was admitted to HES. (Letter at 1.) He was administratively removed on January 31, 2019. (Id.)

         In addition to reinstatement into Harvard's Extension School, Gardner seeks injunctive relief preserving the communications between Gardner and the Defendants, dismissing Wise's university complaint, and mandating that Wise correct her LinkedIn profile. (Compl. at 4.)

         The Complaint in this action does not include enumerated paragraphs, but instead asks the Court to “[p]lease see included documents.” (Id.) The included documents, totaling 114 pages, contain email threads between Gardner and the Defendants, emails between Gardner and third-parties, Gardner's commentary on the email threads, and internet links. (See generally Ex. A; Ex. C; Compl., Exs. B, D, Mar. 14, 2019, Docket Nos. 1-2, 1-4.) Gardner then filed the motion for a TRO. (Mot.) Gardner initially alleged that the discrimination against him was based on his status as a veteran. (Letter 4 at 1.)

         The Magistrate Judge recommended that Gardner's IFP application be denied and the case be dismissed for three reasons. First, the Magistrate Judge found that the Complaint did not comply with the pleading standards required by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (R. & R. at 2-3.) Specifically, the Magistrate Judge found that the pleadings did not contain “a short and plain statement of the claim” as required by Rule 8(a)(2); did not contain “simple, concise, and direct” allegations as required by Rule 8(d); were not in numbered paragraphs as required by Rule 10(b); and contained no factual allegations, instead relying entirely on attached exhibits. (Id.) Second, the Magistrate Judge found that Gardner had failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because veteran status is not protected under Title VI. (Id. at 4-5 (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000d).) Finally, the Magistrate Judge found that, even considering the exhibits filed with the Complaint, Gardner failed to allege any facts showing that his veteran status motivated Defendants' actions. (Id. at 5.)

         DISCUSSION

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Upon the filing of a report and recommendation by a magistrate judge, “a party may serve and file specific written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2); accord D. Minn. L.R. 72.2(b)(1). “The district judge must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); accord D. Minn. L.R. 72.2(b)(3). To be proper, the objections must specifically identify the portions of the report and recommendation to which the party objects and explain the basis for the objections. Turner v. Minnesota, No. 16-3962, 2017 WL 5513629, at *1 (D. Minn. 2015). “Objections which are not specific but merely repeat arguments presented to and considered by a magistrate judge are not entitled to de novo review, but rather are reviewed for clear error.” Montgomery v. Compass Airlines, LLC, 98 F.Supp.3d 1012, 1017 (D. Minn. 2015).

         II. GARDNER'S OBJECTIONS

         A. ...


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