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Jackson v. Office of Mayor of District of Columbia

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

December 28, 2018

Clarence Jackson, Appellant
v.
Office of the Mayor of the District of Columbia and District of Columbia Court of Appeals Admissions Committee, Appellees

          Argued November 6, 2018

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (No. 1:16-cv-02049)

          Sarah G. Boyce, appointed by the court, argued the cause on behalf of the amicus curiae in support of the appellant. Chad I. Golder, appointed by the court, was with her on brief.

          Clarence Jackson, pro se, was on brief for the appellant.

          Lucy E. Pittman, Assistant Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, argued the cause for the appellees. Karl A. Racine, Attorney General, Loren L. AliKhan, Solicitor General, and Caroline S. Van Zile, Deputy Solicitor General, were with her on brief.

          Before: Henderson, Griffith and Wilkins, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          Karen LeCraft Henderson, Circuit Judge.

         In 2010, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals Committee on Admissions ("Committee") denied Clarence Jackson's application to sit for the D.C. Bar Examination ("Bar"). Since then, Jackson has challenged that decision and, in turn, the handling of his challenge. His case reached the federal district court in 2016. The district court dismissed his complaint based on three alternative doctrines: the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, the Younger abstention doctrine and the doctrine of res judicata. Because none of the three doctrines applies, we reverse.

         I.

         Clarence Jackson sat unsuccessfully for the Bar four times. In 2010, he applied to sit a fifth time. He failed to pay the required fees or to provide proof of law school graduation and the Committee denied his application.

         Five years later, Jackson sued the Committee in the D.C. Superior Court ("State Complaint"). He alleged that the denial of his application violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, constituted a breach of contract and resulted in the intentional infliction of emotional distress. On April 1, 2016, the Superior Court granted without explanation the Committee's motion to dismiss the State Complaint.

         On or around April 5, 2016, Jackson submitted a petition to the D.C. Mayor's Office in an apparent attempt to seek review of the decision denying him a further opportunity to take the bar exam. The Mayor's Office denied his petition on the ground that he had already filed a lawsuit making the same claim. Jackson then petitioned for review in the D.C. Court of Appeals, but his petition was denied as untimely.

         On April 7, 2016, Jackson asked the Superior Court to explain why it dismissed the State Complaint. The request remained pending for more than one year.

         In the interim, Jackson filed the instant complaint ("Federal Complaint"). This time Jackson sued both the Committee and the Mayor's Office ("Defendants"). He alleged that the denial of his application and the rejection of his challenge to that denial violated the Sixth, Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, 0F [1] as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. He also reasserted his breach of contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims and asserted a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. In March 2017, the district court granted the Defendants' motion to dismiss the Federal Complaint. The district court construed the Federal Complaint as a suit against the District and characterized the claims contained therein as "effectively the same as those advanced [in the ...


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