A Massachusetts federal judge recently ruled that Americans with Disabilities Act and related claims against New England Law | Boston can move forward in a lawsuit against the school for expelling a student with learning disabilities who failed two courses.
On April 29, District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton of the U.S. Court for the District of Massachusetts denied the law school's motion to dismiss three claims: an ADA claim; a claim based on the federal Rehabilitation Act barring discrimination in programs receiving federal money; and a Massachusetts Equal Rights Act claim. Gorton's order also dismissed three other claims, including breach of contract; violations of the Massachusetts Constitution's Declaration of Rights; and violations of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act. Brodsky v. New England School of Law, No. 1:09-cv-10007 (D. Mass.).
According to court papers, the plaintiff, Seva Brodsky, was expelled after failing two courses in the spring of 2005, and later learned from medical testing that his "memory and organizational deficits" likely stemmed from an accident in the early 1980s.
The plaintiff claimed he presented medical evidence to the school at a readmission hearing in November 2005 and was told that academic success in a relevant program would boost his chances for readmission.
The plaintiff claimed he was again denied readmission to New England Law | Boston following a second hearing in 2006 despite successfully completing six courses at the University of Haifa School of Law's Global Law Program in Israel.
Gorton's opinion noted that "Congress recently amended the ADA, in response to what it perceived to be an inappropriately narrow definition of 'substantially limited' being applied in the federal courts."
"Although Brodsky has at least alleged a disability that substantially limits his ability to learn, the Court notes that he faces a substantial obstacle in proving the same," Gorton wrote. "In particular, it is less than clear how Brodsky's poor 'executive functioning' and memory abilities impacted his performance in two law school classes but not others. Nevertheless, Brodsky is not required to make such a showing at the pleading stage and his failure to allege other manifestations of his disability does not automatically foreclose his ADA claim."
Brodsky's lawyer, Waltham, Mass., solo practitioner James M. Baron, said in a statement that he and his client are "excited about the opportunity to move this case forward, so that Mr. Brodky will be able to resume his legal studies."New England Law | Boston's attorney Louis A. Rodriques, a Boston lawyer who co-chairs Bingham McCutchen's labor and employment practice group, did not respond to requests for comment. New England Law | Boston did not immediately respond to a request for comment.