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Jackson v. Sigma Pi Fraternity International Inc.

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

July 11, 2013

SHAWN JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
SIGMA PI FRATERNITY INTERNATIONAL INC., et al. Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

THOMAS B. RUSSELL, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon Plaintiff Shawn Jackson's motion styled, "Plaintiff's Civil Rule 59 and Civil Rule 60 Motion to Alter, Amend, Correct and/or Set Aside the Court's Judgment - Order of August 24, 2012." (Docket No. 25.) Defendants Sigma Pi Fraternity International Inc. and Gamma Upsilon of Sigma Pi (collectively Defendants) have responded. (Docket No. 26.) Plaintiff has not replied, and the time for such reply has now passed. This matter is now ripe for adjudication. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Motion, (Docket No. 25), is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

The underlying action arose from a party hosted on February 19, 2010, by the Gamma Upsilon Chapter of Sigma Pi (Chapter) at Murray State University (MSU). During that party, Plaintiff, an African American, was ejected from the festivities. He alleges, among other things, that members of the fraternity violated his constitutional rights in doing so.

Plaintiff was enrolled at MSU during the spring semester of 2007 continuing through fall 2009. He stated in his deposition that he could not recall whether he was enrolled during the spring semester of 2010. ( See Docket No. 25-2, at 12.) In the days leading up to the party, its organizers advertised the event to MSU students on the social networking site Facebook. The invitation indicated the date and time of the event, its location, and the cost of attending. The invitation also enumerated a list of conditions for entry, including:

ALL MSU SOCIAL POLICIES APPLY!!!
> You must have your MSU ID with the M# in order to get in.
....
> We have the right to deny anyone entry (We will be limiting entry!!!)
....
>>> REMEMBER! FRATERNITY PARTIES ARE A PRIVILEGE FOR U.S. AND ALL OTHER GREEK ORGANIZATIONS!!! WE WILL NOT TOLERATE DISRESPECT TOWARDS THE UNIVERSITY POLICIES OR US! DOING SO WILL RESULT IN YOUR EXPULSION FROM THE PARTY AND FUTURE PARTIES!

(Docket No. 15-1; see also Docket No. 17.) These restrictions were supplemental to MSU's Greek Social Policy, which required that all attendees of Greek-sponsored events be issued and wear wristbands to designate his or her age.

Plaintiff learned of the party on Facebook and notified its organizers through the website that he would attend. He attended the party with his cousin, Antonio Jackson (Antonio), and Antonio's step-sister, Cindy. Upon arriving at the party, Plaintiff paid his and Antonio's entrance fee. ( See Docket No. 25-2, at 26.) Antonio and Cindy received wristbands upon entering, but Plaintiff did not. Antonio states in his affidavit: "Some individuals were given a wristband, and some were not. There were some entering who did not get a wristband. I did." (Docket No. 25-1, at 2.) Shortly after arriving, Plaintiff proceeded to purchase two beers from someone who he thought, but was not sure, was a member of the Chapter. (Docket No. 25-2, at 26.) In his deposition, Plaintiff acknowledged that the party's hosts maintained a list of printed names of invitees and that entrants were required to sign by their name upon arrival. (Docket No. 25-2, at 27.) When asked in his deposition whether he "agree[d]... that the party would not have been generally open to the general public, " Plaintiff responded, "I would... the party wouldn't be generally open to the general public." (Docket No. 25-2, at 37.)

Roughly 45 minutes after arriving at the party, Plaintiff was approached by a "really drunk guy, " asking, "Where the F is your wristband?" (Docket No. 25-2, at 40.) Plaintiff responded, "Man, what's wrong with you?... Don't be putting your hands on me." (Docket No. 25-2, at 40.) Plaintiff then suggested that the two move their conversation toward the entrance, which they did. (Docket No. 25-2, at 40.) Plaintiff conferred with the hosts at the door to whom he paid his entrance fee to, stating in his deposition: "I believed that they told him, and they know that they - that I paid my way in. They should have gave me a wristband then, but, obviously, they didn't. And all of it would have been over if they would have just give me a wristband because all of them just said that I just paid my way in." (Docket No. 25-2, at 41.) Plaintiff states the drunken partygoer then tried to fight him and repeatedly ordered him to leave. ( See Docket No. 41-44.) Another attendee restrained the drunken partygoer, and then, according to Plaintiff, "I guess they must have talked it over and so all of them told me I would have to leave." (Docket No. 25-2, at 44-46.) Specifically, Plaintiff recalls, "I don't know who it was, but it was like is seven or eight people that told me I had to leave.... They told me that I would have to - they just told me that I would have to leave the - that I would have to leave the party." (Docket No. 25-2, at 47.)

Around that time, Plaintiff again encountered the drunken partygoer, who repeated his inquiry as to the whereabouts of Plaintiff's wristband. ( See Docket No. 25-2, at 48.) While exiting the property, Plaintiff heard "two or three people" saying, "[G]et the F out of here, " and yelling racial slurs. (Docket No. 25-2, at 49-50.) According to Plaintiff, Antonio and Cindy were still inside the party. (Docket No. 25-2, at 50.) As he was walking away, Plaintiff felt "two or three rocks... hit [him] in [his] left leg." (Docket No. 25-2, at 50.) Antonio states in his affidavit that he saw "at least one individual throw a rock" and heard the racial slurs being yelled. (Docket No. 16-1.) Plaintiff then walked home alone and does not recall Antonio returning home until 4:00 or 5:00 a.m., or possibly even 8:00 a.m. the following morning. (Docket No. 25-2, at 53.)

In his present Motion, Plaintiff asserts that "[t]here are several factual inaccuracies referred to in the court's recited background in the Opinion, " which, in light of Plaintiff's deposition testimony, [1] "should clearly convince this court that the ultimate decision should be altered and amended accordingly." (Docket No. 25-1, at 2.) Plaintiff essentially raises six arguments: (1) in regard to his claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, the Court incorrectly found (a) that Plaintiff "was removed because he lacked a wristband, not because he was an African American" and (b) that the ejection and subsequent racial slurs were part of the same transaction; (2) in regard to his claim under 45 U.S.C. § 1985, the Court erred in finding he failed to set forth a cognizable claim that Defendants engaged in a conspiracy to infringe upon his constitutional rights; (3) in regard to his claim under the Kentucky Human Rights Act (KHRA), Ky. Rev. Stat. § 344.120, the Court mistakenly found that the party was closed to the public; (4) in regard to his outrage claim, the Court erred in dismissing his claim by relying on cases where the conduct fell short of "the high level of racial discrimination" present here; (5) that he should be allowed to recover damages, pursuant to Ky. Rev. Stat. § 446.070, for the Chapter's alleged violation of state alcohol laws; and (6) that the Court erred in dismissing his suit against the unknown members of the Chapter and other unnamed defendants. Although Plaintiff brings the present Motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) as well as Rules 60(b)(1) & (6) and 60(d), the Court finds that because Plaintiff timely filed his Motion under Rule 59(e), a motion under that Rule is the proper vehicle for the relief Plaintiff seeks; therefore, the Court need not consider the more stringent requirements for setting aside a judgment under Rule 60.

STANDARD

"A motion to alter or amend judgment must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of the judgment." Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). A Rule 59 motion should not be used to reargue a case on the merits. See Whitehead v. Bowen, 301 F.Appx. 484, 489 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians v. Engler, 146 F.3d 367, 374 (6th Cir. 1998)). Instead, "[u]nder Rule 59, a court may alter or amend a judgment based on: (1) a clear error of law; (2) newly discovered evidence; (3) an intervening change in controlling law; or (4) a need to prevent manifest injustice.'" Leisure Caviar, LLC v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serv., 616 F.3d 612, 615 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Intera Corp. v. ...


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