FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
MASSACHUSETTS, Hon. Rya W. Zobel, U.S. District Judge.
J.E. Markham, II, for appellant.
J. Lapp, with whom Elizabeth H. Kelley was on brief, for
Thompson and Kayatta, Circuit Judges and Mastroianni,
MASTROIANNI, District Judge.
2006 and 2009 Megon Walker ("Walker") attended
Harvard Law School ("HLS"). Walker was a member of
the staff of a student-run law journal, the Journal of Law
and Technology ("JOLT"). During her final semester
at HLS, Walker delivered a draft article (the
"Note") to senior staff of JOLT. After concerns
arose among the senior staff regarding the Note, an
investigation was launched by HLS. The HLS Administrative
Board (the "Board") subsequently held a hearing and
found the Note contained plagiarism in violation of the HLS
Handbook of Academic Policies (the "Handbook").
Walker received a formal reprimand and a notation regarding
the matter was added to her transcript. Despite the
reprimand, Walker graduated on time from HLS. However, after
the notation was placed on her transcript, at least one law
firm rescinded a lucrative offer of employment.
to have the notation removed from her transcript, Walker
initiated this suit asserting claims for breach of contract
and defamation against the President and Fellows of Harvard
College ("Harvard"); Ellen Cosgrove
("Cosgrove"), then-Dean of Students at HLS; and
Lloyd Weinreb, a Professor at HLS and Chair of the Board in
2009 (together "Defendants"). After the
completion of discovery and a stipulation of dismissal as to
some claims, Defendants filed their Motion for Summary
Judgment. The district court granted summary judgment for
Defendants on all counts and dismissed the action. Walker has
appealed the ruling on two of the counts. After reviewing the
issues de novo, we affirm.
initiated this suit in May 2012. Jurisdiction is based on
diversity and the claims are brought under Massachusetts law.
Four counts were pending when Defendants filed their Motion
for Summary Judgment: Count I - breach of contract against
Harvard based on the Board's finding that Walker had
sufficiently "submitted" the Note for it to be
covered by the Handbook; Count II - breach of contract
against Harvard based on alleged failures of the Board to
comply with provisions in the Handbook; Count IV - defamation
based on the inclusion of the plagiarism findings in
Walker's HLS transcript; and Count VI - asserting an
entitlement to injunctive relief. Walker has appealed only the
district court's grant of summary judgment as to Counts I
and IV. We, therefore, set out the facts we deem relevant to
those counts in the light most favorable to her and draw all
reasonable inferences in her favor. See Martinez v.
Petrenko, 792 F.3d 173, 175 (1st Cir. 2015).
Preparation of the Note
first year student at HLS, Walker joined the staff of JOLT.
Walker first worked as a "sub-citer, " checking
citations against their original source material. During her
last year of law school, Walker applied to write a comment
for JOLT on a recently decided patent case. Her application
was accepted and she commenced work on the comment, which was
to be published in the spring of her third year.
acceptance of her application, JOLT informed Walker that an
initial complete draft of the Note would be due on February
1, 2009. The deadline for the final draft of the Note was
February 22, 2009. Walker understood that the piece she
turned in on (or after) the February 22, 2009 deadline would
be subjected to the rigorous editing and citation-checking
process she had helped with as a sub-citer. As that process
normally unfolded, an author was not permitted to make
changes to an article during the editing and
citation-checking process. At the conclusion of that process,
authors were permitted to make limited changes prior to
delivered a first draft of the Note to JOLT on February 2,
2009. She turned in a second draft on February 8, 2009, and a
third draft on February 16, 2009. Around the time the third
draft was due, Walker began experiencing problems with her
laptop. On the day she sent the third draft to JOLT, her
laptop was infected with a computer virus. While working on
her computer with IT support, Walker saw Anna Volfstun
("Volfstun"), JOLT's Submissions Editor. She
told Volfstun about the virus and explained that due to the
virus, the Note would require significant additional work to
be made ready for publication. The next day, on February 17,
2009, Walker attended a JOLT student writing committee
meeting where she discussed the virus causing her to lose
data from her computer.
February 20, 2009, Doug Kochelek ("Kochelek"), the
JOLT editor in charge of student articles, sent an email to
remind Walker and other students their final draft articles
were due on February 22, 2009. Kochelek said the articles
would be "subcited" the following weekend before
being returned "after spring break for [authors']
last round of review with opportunity for changes."
Walker responded, via email, on February 22, 2009: "I
doubt that I can send [the Note] before 10 tonight. Footnotes
and proofreading are taking all weekend." When Kochelek
asked Walker when she would be sending ...