Judge Explains Rulings Against N.J. Student

     (CN) – A New Jersey minor who claims he was punished more harshly than white students failed to convince a federal judge that her rulings against him were based on fraud.
     The West Windsor Plainsboro School District called police in March 2004 after finding a knife on the student, identified in court records as O.R. He was found delinquent and suspended for 10 days.
     O.R. filed the first of several lawsuits in September 2006, claiming white students were not referred to the police and received shorter suspensions after similar incidents. That claim was dismissed in August 2008.
     He later filed three more lawsuits in state court, alleging violations of the state’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and his common-law right of access to the courts.
     The student sued the school district and its employees again in 2008 under the open-records law and lost. He also lost a 2009 lawsuit adding claims of fraudulent concealment and intentional spoliation of evidence and records.
     On March 5, 2010, O.R. filed a federal lawsuit alleging due-process violations and race discrimination under the 14th Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
     U.S. District Judge Anne Thompson dismissed the complaint, and then refused to reconsider her dismissal and imposed $9,000 in sanctions against O.R.’s attorney, Rotimi Owoh, who had already been sanctioned by at least two other judges for frivolous pleadings.
     Owoh refused to pay, claiming the school district’s attorney, Eric Harrison, had submitted 12 phony student disciplinary reports as evidence in one of the state court actions.
     Harrison insisted that the school district’s IT director, Rick Cave, had provided about 425 student discipline reports on “weapons possession” or “violence” incidents, which were redacted merely to protect students’ identities.
     After the court denied Owoh’s motion for discovery of metadata, O.R. moved for written opinion on why the school district could not locate screen shots of the 12 reports and whether printing them could effectively delete them from the database.
     Thompson eventually granted his motion – on remand from the 3rd Circuit – and explained that O.R. “has not shown by clear and convincing evidence that Harrison engaged in fraud.”
     She noted that O.R.’s briefs supporting his motions were “confusing and difficult to follow,” and she could have dismissed them “for this reason alone.”
     “Instead, the court sought to understand plaintiff’s arguments and address them to the best of its ability,” Thompson wrote. “Having conducted another extensive review of plaintiff’s numerous filings concerning the issue of fraud, the court is not persuaded” that its previous judgments were based on fraud.
     “[P]laintiff has not shown that the 12 student disciplinary reports are missing, much less that Harrison engaged in any act of fraud,” she wrote. “Accordingly, the court denied plaintiff’s motion to set aside the judgment, motion for discovery, and motion for reconsideration.”
     She added, “This opinion in no way alters or amends, however, this court’s previous rulings on plaintiff’s motion to set aside the judgment, motion for discovery, or motion for reconsideration.”

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