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Washington v. Metropolitan State University of Denver

United States District Court, District of Colorado

April 14, 2015

JEFFREY WASHINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF METROPOLITAN OF DENVER, Defendant.

ORDER

Lewis T. Babcock, Judge.

This case is before me on Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc # 27]. After consideration of the motion, all related pleadings, and the case file, I deny Defendant’s motion.

I. Facts

The following facts are undisputed for purposes of Defendant’s motion unless otherwise noted.

Plaintiff Jeffrey Washington (“Washington”), an African American, was a student at Metropolitan State University of Denver (“Metro State”) from 2008 through the filing of Defendant’s Motion. Motion, pp. 1-2; Response, p. 2. Metro State is one of the constituent institutions of the Auraria Higher Education Center (“AHEC”) in Denver.

Washington first held office with Metro State’s Student Government Assembly (“SGA”) beginning in September of 2010 when the then- SGA president appointed him to a vacant student senate seat. Motion, p. 2; Response, p. 2. Washington then ran in and won a special election in January of 2011 and served in the student senate until January of 2012. Id.

In January of 2012, Washington decided to run for SGA president and chose S.H., a Caucasian, as his running mate. Id. At that time, A.M., another student at Metro State, was the Chairperson of the Election Commission. Id. Three other Metro State students also served on the Election Commission, and Jake Kasper, who worked in Metro State’s administration, served as an advisor to the Election Commission. Id. There were no African American members of the Election Commission at the time of the 2012 election. Response, p. 9; Reply, p. 7.

In January and February of 2012, Washington and S.H. met with A.M. and the Election Commission. Motion, pp. 2-3; Response, pp. 2-3. During Washington’s meeting with A.M., they discussed the Elections Code which would govern the SGA elections. Motion, p. 3; Response, p. 2. Washington was involved in the writing and approval of the Code while serving in the student senate and understood that he would be disqualified if he was found to have committed three minor violations. Id. S.H. was likewise involved in the approval of the Elections Code. Id. During one of these meetings in early 2012, Washington and S.H. were given ACEH’s policies and requirements for campaign posters, and they prepared posters in accordance with them around this same time. Response, p. 9; Reply, p. 7.

The Elections Code provided that

The Commission shall disqualify a campaigner from further participation in campaigning or in the election itself only upon a finding that the campaigner has committed three separate minor violations, a repetition of two identical minor violations, or one major violation.

Ex. 3 to Motion, § 6.04.02. The Elections Code defined a “minor violation” as

... one that may impact fair election procedures. Minor violations may not cause harm to the election process and may include remediable actions. Minor violations do not require proven harm, but only evidence in opposition to this Code as written. Failure to be aware of applicable rules and codes shall not be considered a defense to an alleged violation.

Id. at § 1.01.25(b).

On March 28, 2012, A.M. issued Washington and S.H. a written violation for using SGA resources for the purpose of campaigning. Ex. 4 to Motion. On April 4, 2012, the Election Commission found that “it was more likely than not that [Washington] was utilizing the resources of the SGA offices for the purposes of campaigning in violation of § 5.03.4 of the Elections Code” and thereby committed a first minor violation. Id. Washington did ...


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