Case: Cannon v. University of Chicago

1:75-02402 | U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

Filed Date: July 18, 1975

Closed Date: June 7, 1989

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

This is a case about a female medical school applicant who alleged that she was denied admission because of her gender and age in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and multiple federal statutes. In April of 1975, a 39-year-old female medical school applicant filed this lawsuit in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Represented by private counsel, she sued the medical schools at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, as well a…

This is a case about a female medical school applicant who alleged that she was denied admission because of her gender and age in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and multiple federal statutes. In April of 1975, a 39-year-old female medical school applicant filed this lawsuit in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Represented by private counsel, she sued the medical schools at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago, as well as a variety of university officials at each school, under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff sought injunctive relief, declaratory relief, and monetary damages.

Plaintiff claimed that each university, both of which received federal funding and were subject to state regulation, had policies of rejecting applicants over a certain age or on the basis of sex. As a 39-year-old female, each university's policy disfavored plaintiff's candidacy when her applications were rejected. She filed a complaint with the local office of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) in April of 1975 seeking an investigation of her rejections. But after three months without progress, she filed suit in federal court against HEW and the universities.

On January 15, 1976, the district court dismissed the action. 406 F. Supp. 1257 (N.D. Ill.), aff'd, 559 F.2d 1063 (7th Cir. 1976), rev'd, 441 U.S. 677 (1979). According to the court, the complaint failed to allege actionable discrimination because neither federal funding nor a detailed scheme of state regulation were enough to establish the state action requirement under § 1983. The court also held that Title IX did not imply a private right of action, so plaintiff (a private citizen) had no right to enforce Title IX in this suit.

Plaintiff appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal, which affirmed the district court's decision. Shortly after the Seventh Circuit handed down it decision though, Congress passed the Civil Rights Attorney’s Fee Awards Act of 1976. This Act authorized courts to award fees in suits enforcing Title IX to prevailing private parties. In light of the recent Congressional action, the Seventh Circuit granted a rehearing, but once again affirmed the district court's holding. 559 F.2d 1063 (7th Cir. 1976).

Plaintiff again appealed her case. This time, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to consider whether Congress intended a private right of action to be implied from Title IX for institutions receiving federal financial assistance. Reversing the lower courts, the Supreme Court held that it did, and plaintiff had a right to sue as a result.  The Court remanded the dispute for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. 441 U.S. 677.

On remand at the district court, plaintiff moved for preliminary injunction against the university and defendants moved for dismissal, arguing that Title IX only prohibited intentional discrimination, and that plaintiff had failed to plead intentional conduct. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of the plaintiff’s complaint, relying on U.S. Supreme Court decisions holding that Title VI required intentional conduct. 648 F.2d 1104. The plaintiff's subsequent petitions for certiorari were denied. 454 U.S. 811; 454 U.S. 1128.

On November 29, 1979, Cannon sued five other medical schools under Title IX and 42 U.S.C. 1983. She again sought monetary and injunctive relief based on similar facts as before. On October 31, 1981, the district court dismissed the complaint for failing to state a claim, holding that the doctrine of laches barred the suit based on the doctrine of laches. After the plaintiff appealed, the Seventh Circuit affirmed. 710 F.2d 351. 

The plaintiff filed another suit on September 18, 1984, suing the original two medical schools as well as the other five (so seven medical schools in total this time). Again, the facts remained the same, but this time the plaintiff alleged that the defendants had violated contracts with her and with the U.S. government. All seven defendants moved to dismiss on res judicata grounds, arguing that the issues had already been litigated and terminated in their favor. The district court agreed, and held in favor of the defendants, and awarded them costs and fees. 609 F. Supp. 1010. The Sevent Circuit affirmed on February 25, 1986, including the award of attorneys’ fees and costs. The U.S. Supreme Court again denied certiorari. 479 U.S. 1033.

After the plaintiff further litigated issues involving the fees, the district court threatened to impose additional sanctions on what was described as an “endless stream of redundant and meritless pleadings.” 116 F.R.D. 243. Ultimately, the district court awarded the defendants fees totaling more than $20,000. 1987 WL 4992. But the plaintiff continued to argue that two of the universities could not enforce their fee awards by insisting that a procedural rule had not be followed. On December 2, 1987, the district court held the plaintiff and her attorney in contempt. The plaintiff was assessed a $100 penalty for each day that she continued her refusal to pay; the attorney was barred from representing the plaintiff again for issues stemming out of the plaintiff’s denial from medical school. 676 F. Supp. 823.

Finally, on June 7, 1989, the district court issued one last order resolving minor issues related to the plaintiff’s continuing dispute about the contempt order. 1989 WL 64675. More than 14 years after the case began, the litigation finally came to a conclusion. 

Summary Authors

Jordan Katz (11/20/2021)


Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Buscemi, Peter (District of Columbia)

Days, Drew S. III (District of Columbia)

Eisenstein, Miriam R. (District of Columbia)

McCree, Wade Hampton Jr. (Michigan)

Silver, Jessica Dunsay (District of Columbia)

Wallace, Lawrence G. (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Attwood, Cynthia L. (District of Columbia)

Barnett, Walter W. (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Buscemi, Peter (District of Columbia)

Days, Drew S. III (District of Columbia)

Eisenstein, Miriam R. (District of Columbia)

McCree, Wade Hampton Jr. (Michigan)

Silver, Jessica Dunsay (District of Columbia)

Wallace, Lawrence G. (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Attwood, Cynthia L. (District of Columbia)

Barnett, Walter W. (District of Columbia)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Opinion

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

559 F.2d 1063

Aug. 27, 1976 Order/Opinion

Brief for the Federal Respondents

Supreme Court of the United States

March 3, 1978 Pleading / Motion / Brief

Brief for the Federal Respondents

Supreme Court of the United States

Nov. 2, 1978 Pleading / Motion / Brief

Reply Brief for the Federal Respondents

Supreme Court of the United States

Dec. 29, 1978 Pleading / Motion / Brief

Opinion

Supreme Court of the United States

441 U.S. 677, 99 S.Ct. 1946

May 14, 1979 Order/Opinion

Opinion

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

648 F.2d 1104

May 6, 1981 Order/Opinion

Opinion

Cannon v. University of Health Sciences

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

710 F.2d 351

June 14, 1983 Order/Opinion

Memorandum Opinion and Order

Cannon v. Loyola University of Chicago

609 F.Supp. 1010

Feb. 26, 1985 Order/Opinion

Resources

Title Description External URL

Cannon v. University of Chicago

Oyez

Oral Argument Jan. 9, 1979 https://www.oyez.org/cases/1978/77-926

Cannon v. University of Chicago, 441 U.S. 677 (1979)

U.S. Supreme Court

After she was refused admission to the University of Chicago medical school, Cannon sued under Title IX to compel her admission. She argued that the medical school was covered by the law because it r… May 14, 1979 https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/441/677/

Implied Private Rights of Action Under Federal Statutes: Congressional Intent, Judicial Deference, or Mutual Abdication

Donna L. Goldstein

Part I of this Note describes the development of the Supreme Court's implication standard and the erosion in recent decisions of the Cort v. Ash analysis. Part II summarizes the current standard, exa… March 1, 1982 https://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/flr/vol50/iss4/5/

Docket

Last updated May 11, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

State / Territory: Illinois

Case Type(s):

Education

Special Collection(s):

Civil Rights Division Archival Collection

Key Dates

Filing Date: July 18, 1975

Closing Date: June 7, 1989

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

A female medical school applicant who was denied admission to both Northwestern University and the University of Chicago.

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: Unknown

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

University of Chicago, Private Entity/Person

Northwestern Univerity, Private Entity/Person

Department of Health, Education and Welfare , Federal

Defendant Type(s):

College/University

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681 et seq.

Constitutional Clause(s):

Equal Protection

Availably Documents:

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Defendant

Nature of Relief:

None

Source of Relief:

None

Issues

Discrimination-basis:

Age discrimination

Sex discrimination

Affected Gender:

Female

Type of Facility:

Non-government non-profit