Eighth Circuit dismisses Naca’s appeal

Margaret Moran, News Editor

In a per curiam decision filed on Jan. 16, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit found that former English professor Kristin Naca‘s appeal to continue her discrimination lawsuit against the college was dismissed.

Their decision affirms the decision handed down by the U.S. District Court for Minnesota in Sept. 2018.

In May 2015, a former student who served as Naca’s work-study assistant filed a complaint that Naca had instigated a sexual relationship with her shortly after her graduation. The college fired Naca in Sept. 2015 after a formal investigation.

Thirteen months later, Naca filed a lawsuit against Macalester, alleging 35 claims of discrimination on the basis of her practice of the religion Santería, sexual orientation, sex and her ancestry. In the September decision, the District Court rejected approximately two-thirds of the claims on the grounds that Naca had failed to state a claim.

The Eighth Circuit judges noted that at her most recent hearing on Oct. 17, 2019, Naca brought forth an allegation she had not made in district court. Naca argued that the departing provost, Kathy Murray, who left at the end of the 2014-2015 academic year, used the then-incoming provost, Karine Moe, faculty personnel committee and President Rosenberg as a “cat’s paw” to terminate Naca for her disability.

The “cat’s paw” idiom —derived from the fable “The Monkey and the Cat” ­—  means duping another person into doing something unpleasant. The Court was unmoved by the new theory.

“This court does not consider an argument raised for the first time on appeal unless it is purely legal and requires no additional factual development, or if a manifest injustice would otherwise result,” the judges wrote.

In an email to The Mac Weekly, the Macalester lead counsel Sean Somermeyer wrote that the college was “pleased” with the Eighth Circuit’s decision.

“At each step, the courts have carefully considered and thoroughly rejected Naca’s claims against Macalester as baseless,” Somermeyer wrote. “As the District Court found, Naca admitted to inviting a student to her home, making a pass at the student, and commencing a sexual relationship with the student shortly after graduation.”

“In the words of the District Court, ‘[t]his was extremely serious misconduct’ and ‘there is nothing at all suspicious about a college terminating a professor for committing such misconduct,’” he continued. “The Eighth Circuit agreed. Macalester remains committed to protecting students and we expect this will be the end of this lawsuit.”

Naca’s counsel, Peter Nickitas, did not respond to a request for comment.

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