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Vejo v. Portland Public Schools

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

November 30, 2018

MARGARITA VEJO, Plaintiff,
v.
PORTLAND PUBLIC SCHOOLS, a public entity; ROBERTA COOPER, individually and in her official capacity; PETRA CALLIN, individually and in her official capacity; LEWIS & CLARK COLLEGE, an Oregon public benefit Corporation; and DOES 1 THROUGH 50, inclusive, Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER

          Ann Aiken United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Margarita Vejo asserted federal and state law discrimination claims, among other claims, against defendants Portland Public Schools ("PPS"), Petra Callin ("Callin"), and Roberta Cooper ("Cooper") (collectively "defendants").[1] In September 2016, this Court denied in part defendants' Motions for Summary Judgement (doc. 47) on the discrimination claims, ruling that plaintiff had presented sufficient evidence to establish a genuine issue of material fact about whether defendants had intentionally discriminated against her and that individual defendants Callin and Cooper were not entitled to qualified immunity. Now, defendants ask that, in light of the Ninth Circuit's recent decision reversing this Court's qualified immunity determination, this Court reconsider the denial of summary judgment on plaintiffs' state law discrimination claim and dismiss that claim against all three defendants, (doc. 95) For the reasons stated below, the motion for reconsideration is GRANTED. Upon reconsideration, defendants' renewed motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         The factual background of this case is well known to the parties and will not be reproduced here. On September 8, 2016, this Court issued an Opinion and Order granting in part and denying in part defendants' motions for summary judgment. Vejo v. Portland Pub. Sck, 204 F.Supp.3d 1149 (D. Or. 2016). As relevant here, the Court granted defendants' motion with respect to all of plaintiff s claims except (1) plaintiffs federal law discrimination claims against Callin and Cooper in their individual capacities under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and (2) plaintiffs state law discrimination claims against all three defendants pursuant to Or. Rev. Stat. § 659A.4O3, which prohibits discrimination on account of race, religion, or national origin in places of public accommodation. Id. at 1180. With respect to those claims, the Court determined that plaintiff had presented sufficient evidence to establish a genuine issue of fact about federal and state law violations and that Callin and Cooper were not entitled to qualified immunity on the federal claims. See Id. at 1174 (equal protection claims); id. at 1174 n. 17 (qualified immunity); id. at 1175 (state law discrimination claims). The Court observed that, to establish a violation of either the Equal Protection Clause or Or. Rev. Stat. § 659A.4O3, plaintiff had to present evidence that defendants had terminated plaintiffs internship because of her race, religion, or national origin. Id. at 1172, Relying on the same evidence for both the federal and state law discrimination claims, the Court determined that plaintiff had met her burden to avoid summary judgment based on (1) evidence that defendants terminated plaintiffs internship without warning; (2) evidence that plaintiff had not had any problematic interaction with a student; (3) statements that Cooper had made to plaintiff; and (4) plaintiffs testimony that defendants were aware of her race, national origin, and religion. Id. at 1173.

         Defendants filed a direct appeal of the Court's qualified immunity determination and, on June 6, 2018 the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded. Vejo v. Portland Pub. Sch, 737 Fed.Appx. 309 (9th Cir. 2018). In its memorandum opinion, the Ninth Circuit determined that plaintiff had failed to present evidence that Callin had intentionally discriminated against her and that plaintiffs evidence regarding Cooper's motivations was insufficient to establish that Cooper that intentionally discriminated against her. Id. at 311-12. Accordingly, the Ninth Circuit concluded that both Callin and Cooper were entitled to qualified immunity with respect to plaintiffs federal law discrimination claims. Id.

         In response to the Ninth Circuit's decision, defendants filed a Motion for Order Dismissing Plaintiffs Public-Accommodation Claim (doc. 95).

         STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         In their motion, defendants ask the Court to revisit its denial of summary judgment on plaintiffs state law discrimination claims in light of the Ninth Circuit's ruling on plaintiffs related federal claims.

         I. Reconsideration of Interlocutory Orders

         "'As long as a district court has jurisdiction over the case, then it possesses the inherent procedural power to reconsider, rescind, or modify an interlocutory order for cause seen by it to be sufficient.'" City of Los Angeles, Harbor Div. v. Santa Monica Baykeeper, 254 F.3d 882, 885 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting Melancon v. Texaco, Inc., 659 F.2d 551, 553 (5th Cir. 1981)). The Ninth Circuit's decision demonstrates that this Court's denial of summary judgment on plaintiffs state law discrimination claims was based, in part, on an erroneous determination, Therefore, the Court finds sufficient cause for this Court to reconsider its denial of defendants' motion for summary judgment on plaintiffs state law discrimination claims.

         II. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgement is appropriate if "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party has the burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the moving party shows the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and identify facts which show a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324. "Summary judgment is inappropriate if reasonable jurors, drawing all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, could return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor." Diaz v. Eagle Produce Ltd. P'ship, 521 F.3d 1201, 1207 (9th Cir. 2008).

         DISCUSSION

         There is a close identity between discrimination claims brought under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and those brought under Oregon's public accommodation discrimination statute, Or. Rev. Stat. § 659A.4O3. Both require proof of intentional discrimination. To prevail on an equal protection claim, a plaintiff "must first prove that the defendants purposefully discriminated against her" because of her protected status. Lowe v. City of Monrovia,775 F.2d 998, 1010 (9th Cir. 1985). Likewise, to prevail on a claim under section § 659A.4O3, a plaintiff must show that the plaintiff "was treated in an 'unequal' manner because of [a protected status]" and that "that treatment resulted in an injury[.]" Allen v. U.S. Bancorp,264 F.Supp.2d 945, 954 (D. Or. 2003) (quoting King v. Greyhound Lines,656 P.2d 349, 352 (Or. Ct. App. 1982)). In its prior Order, this Court determined that plaintiff had presented sufficient evidence that defendants had intentionally discriminated against her. Vejo, 204 F.Supp.3d. at 1173. That ...


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