Suspended Rose-Hulman student’s case falters at 7th Circuit

A former Rose-Hulman student who sued the school after he was suspended and whose attorney was warned for criticizing a magistrate judge did not succeed in getting summary judgment turned around in his favor. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals also handed down an additional warning to the lawyer.

Justin Castelino enrolled as a transfer student at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in 2012 and received accommodations for his ADHD and a learning disability. Specifically, Castelino was granted an accommodation that allowed him to receive 100% extended time on tests and quizzes, which he was allowed to take in a distraction-free environment.

Castelino was reprimanded several times for academic misconduct during his time at the school, including copying another student’s work, submitting duplicate work in a course with another student and using unpermitted notes on an exam and lying about it. Following his third act of misconduct the Rules and Discipline Committee found Castelino guilty of repeated acts of academic misconduct. He was suspended for one quarter, after which he could apply for readmission.

Although Castelino later applied for readmission multiple times, he was denied by the Admissions and Standing Committee.

Thus, in March 2017, Castelino sued Rose-Hulman in federal court, alleging disability discrimination in violation of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as state-law claims for breach of contract, defamation, false advertising, invasion of privacy and harassment. He later amended his complaint, alleging malice and requesting punitive damages.

A magistrate judge recommended granting Rose-Hulman’s motion for sanctions and denying Castelino’s, which the Indiana Southern District Court adopted. It later granted summary judgment to Rose-Hulman in the case.

In the meantime, Castelino’s lawyer, John Thrasher, was handed two written warnings for his claims that Judge William T. Lawrence and Magistrate Judge Mark Dinsmore were both biased against his client or in favor of Rose-Hulman.

On appeal, Castelino sought reversal of the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Rose-Hulman, but the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in Justin Castelino v. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, 19-1905.

As to the ADA claim, the 7th Circuit found summary judgment for Rose-Hulman was proper because Castelino’s time-barred claims included two unpersuasive arguments. The first such argument was that his claims were governed not by Indiana’s two-year personal injury statute of limitations but by the four-year catch-all statute of limitations for federal claims found in 28 U.S.C. § 1658. Second, he argued Indiana’s continuing wrong doctrine should apply to toll the statute of limitations because Rose-Hulman engaged in a “course of conduct” that began while he was a student and continued to injure him after his suspension.

Additionally, the 7th Circuit found that the alleged “breaches of contract” Castelino discussed fell well within the bounds of Rose-Hulman’s academic judgment. It noted Castelino’s remaining arguments about defamation, harassment and false advertising were “even more insubstantial, and we consider them only briefly, bearing in mind his failure to develop them in any meaningful way.”

“Indeed, we are inclined to sanction Castelino’s attorney John Thrasher for his brief and arguments on appeal. Rose-Hulman, however, has not requested sanctions, so we will close with an observation and warning to Castelino’s counsel that the brief he submitted was deficient, and that future filings of this sort will result in an order to show cause why he should not be sanctioned,” Circuit Judge Ilana Rovner wrote for the unanimous 7th Circuit panel.

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