Monday, February 5, 2018

God And Columbia

A recent decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

Appellant David Roemer, proceeding pro se, sued the New York Attorney Grievance Committee ("State Committee") as well as Columbia University's general counsel, Jane Booth, and president, Lee Bollinger, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Roemer is a retired high school science teacher who has repeatedly offered to give a lecture on the cosmological argument for God's existence at Columbia University ("Columbia"), offers that Columbia repeatedly declined. In October 2016, Booth wrote to Roemer advising him that continued efforts to contact members of the Columbia community could be considered harassment. Roemer responded by filing an ethics complaint against Booth with the State Committee, which was dismissed. Before the district court, Roemer sought injunctive relief against the defendants for depriving him of the right to free speech and violating the Establishment Clause. The district court sua sponte dismissed the complaint as frivolous. Roemer subsequently moved for the district court judge to recuse himself and for default judgment against Bollinger. The district court denied the recusal motion, and this appeal followed. We assume the parties' familiarity with the underlying facts, the procedural history of the case, and the issues on appeal.

The court

 On appeal, however, we agree with the district court that Roemer's complaint was frivolous. Roemer provides no legal argument but only cursorily states that he is "certain" that he is "right" and that the district court wrongly concluded that he had no cause of action, Appellant Br. at 12, and has therefore arguably abandoned his claims. See Tolbert v. Queens Coll., 242 F.3d 58, 75 (2d Cir. 2001). In any event, his claims are meritless. Neither Columbia employee is a state actor. See Am. Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sullivan, 526 U.S. 40, 49-50 (1999) (explaining that an action brought under § 1983 must be based on an alleged deprivation by an individual acting under color of state law). And Roemer lacks standing to challenge the State Committee's decision not to discipline Booth. See In re Attorney Disciplinary Appeal, 650 F.3d 202, 203-05 (2d Cir. 2011) (per curiam).

(Mike Frisch)

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