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SDNY Grants Summary Judgment in Race Discrimination Matter

Partners James E. Carroll and C. Alexa Abowitz won a major victory for academic clients in a race discrimination case. On August 24, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Cote, J.) granted summary judgment for a series of academic defendants in a case involving allegations of race discrimination, race-based conspiracy and retaliatory termination.

Plaintiff in this matter was a former professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. In a seventy page Amended Complaint plaintiff brought claims against the President of Union Theological Seminary, the majority of Union's tenured faculty, an adjunct professor at Union, a moving company (and that company's president), a property manager and four attorneys. (Some parties were previously dismissed.) Plaintiff claimed that all parties took actions to strip him of his rights either merely because he is black or because he was the only black professor with children. The plaintiff was removed from tenure for cause while the matter was on-going. The Court noted that plaintiff failed to make even a prima facie showing that the termination of his employment or any other action of which he complained was race-based. (Slip Op. at 9.) The record contained a single discriminatory comment, made by an individual who was not a defendant. In addition, plaintiff could not prove that he was similarly situated to other professors whom he claimed had received better treatment. Finally, with respect to the conspiracy claims, although plaintiff argued that the conspiracy at issue included fifteen defendants, endured for over eight years, survived changing administrations and grew even in the absence of its progenitor, the court noted "the evidence submitted on this motion could not reasonably establish any agreement to achieve unlawful ends." (Slip Op. at 22.)

Summary judgment was granted for all academic defendants in the matter.

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