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SEMAAN v. MUMFORD

January 25, 1967

Khalil I. SEMAAN, Plaintiff,
v.
L. Quincy MUMFORD, Librarian of Congress, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SIRICA

 SIRICA, District Judge.

 This is a suit by a former employee of the Library of Congress for restoration to his position on the basis that his removal was invalid. He claims that he was denied the procedural rights of a permanent *fn1" employee by the manner of his separation. The primary contention of the Librarian of Congress, the defendant, is that the plaintiff was still a probational (conditional) employee when separated and that he did not have the rights claimed.

 A motion by the defendant for summary judgment was granted. Plaintiff appealed and the Court of Appeals reversed with an opinion which enunciated a doctrine of estoppel whereby the plaintiff might prevail if certain alleged facts could be proven. *fn2" According to the Court of Appeals, the elements of this estoppel, if supported by facts, would be that the plaintiff

 
"was led by the Library to believe he was permanent, that he relied on this course of conduct to his detriment, and that the Library, by refusing to afford him the safeguards of a permanent employee, sought to adopt a position inconsistent with its prior conduct. Since these facts would constitute an estoppel, it was error to deny him the opportunity of proving them." *fn3"

 Upon remand the defendant again moved for summary judgment, supporting the motion by additional exhibits and affidavits. The District Court denied this motion, finding that sufficient facts had been alleged by the plaintiff to constitute an estoppel, if such facts were proven. *fn4" In making this determination the District Court subjected this second motion for summary judgment, together with the additional exhibits and affidavits, to the guidelines provided by the Court of Appeals. With the law of the case thus developed, this cause was then tried before me without a jury.

 It is the opinion of this Court, now that the trial has been concluded, that judgment must be entered in favor of the defendant, the Librarian of Congress, and for two separate reasons. First, this action no longer presents a case, controversy or justiciable issue so as to vest this Court with the requisite jurisdiction. Second, assuming jurisdiction, the plaintiff has failed to establish facts constituting an estoppel against the defendant.

 FINDINGS OF FACT

 1. On March 7, 1960, plaintiff was appointed by the Library of Congress to the position of Bibliographical and Reference Librarian, GS-11, in the Near Eastern Section, Orientalia Division of the Reference Department. His appointment was classified as "Indefinite," subject to a satisfactory investigation and to a trial period of one year.

 2. This trial period of one year was known as a "probational" period at the time of plaintiff's appointment but pursuant to a regulation promulgated on September 2, 1960, the terminology for this trial period was changed to "conditional." *fn5" This change in terminology had no effect on plaintiff's status. The new regulation of September 2, 1960, neither converted him to an unconditional indefinite employee nor lengthened the customary qualifying period of one year, now termed a "conditional" period.

 3. Although plaintiff's position was an "indefinite" one, the only distinction between such an appointment and a "permanent" position is that the former is expected to last more than one year but not to continue permanently. Both indefinite and permanent employees possess identical rights as they might be involved in this litigation. Both types of employees serve a qualifying period of one year as conditional employees.

 4. At the time of his appointment the Library deemed the plaintiff's academic qualifications more than adequate; however, because his personnel records from his previous employment indicated a history of inter-personal difficulties with respect to colleagues, the Library had reservations about plaintiff's personal qualifications. In plaintiff's case, then, the one-year qualifying (conditional) period was more than customary; it was a period during which the Library would determine whether plaintiff could fit himself into the actual working atmosphere of the Library. This the Library officials would do with a view toward his difficulties in previous working relationships.

 5. The job description *fn6" for plaintiff's position provided that his job entailed, inter alia, supervising the work of the accessions assistant, general supervision over the Section's collections, recommending book acquisitions, and serving as Head of the Section in the absence of the Section Head.

 6. Because this position required special Near Eastern language skills and background, the position was extremely difficult to fill. Consequently, even though there were reservations about appointing the plaintiff, he was selected ...


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