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Lawsuit Reinstated Against Virginia Law School

By LARRY O'DELL
Associated Press Writer

June 13, 2005

RICHMOND, Va. -- A federal appeals court Monday reinstated a lawsuit from a woman who claimed a migraine headache kept her from finishing a law school final exam. Carin Manders Constantine's pleas for additional time to complete the constitutional law final were rejected by George Mason University law school officials, and her lawsuit similarly seeking another chance was dismissed.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, however, unanimously gave her another shot at arguing she was a victim of disability discrimination and unconstitutional retaliation.

The appeals court rejected the public university's claim that the lawsuit was barred by the 11th Amendment, which gives states some immunity from being sued in federal court.

Constantine's suit says she suffers from "intractable migraine syndrome."

"I think that this is a huge step forward for everybody that has a disability ... for everybody in the United States that's seeking an education that happens to have a disability," she said.

Emily Lucier, spokeswoman for Attorney General Judith Williams Jagdmann, said the state was reviewing the court's decision and considering its options.

According to the appeals court, Constantine became ill while taking a final exam. She asked for additional time to complete the test, but exam administrators refused and she failed.

Her requests for a grade appeal and re-examination also were denied. About three months later, after her complaints appeared in the law school newspaper, the dean agreed to allow her to retake the test sometime in June 2003. The date was moved up, however, and Constantine refused to take the test.

GMU later gave Constantine another chance, but she claims school officials decided in advance to give her an "F" in retaliation for her criticism in the newspaper. She took the test -- and got an "F."

Constantine's attorney, Michael Jackson Beattie, said the failing grade delayed Constantine's graduation and scuttled her plans to clerk for a judge. He said Constantine is working as a law clerk in St. Petersburg, Fla., and is preparing to take the Florida bar exam.

Law Student Wins Federal Appeal Against Law School (Opinion)

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