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WITTY v. JONES

March 4, 1983

Niki WITTY, Plaintiff,
v.
Hon. Ed JONES, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREEN

 JUNE L. GREEN, District Judge.

 In this action plaintiff challenges her removal from the position of manager of the House Beauty Shop of the United States House of Representatives. She has sued the chairman and staff director of the Subcommittee on Services of the Committee on House Administration, alleging that the discharge violated her rights to due process and equal protection under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

 Because the Court finds that plaintiff has failed to state a cognizable claim under the Fifth Amendment, it grants defendants' motion to dismiss. The Court does not reach defendants' claims to immunity.

 I.

 Background

 The House Beauty Shop was established approximately 50 years ago. It operated as a private concession until 1967. In that year, the House created a select committee to supervise the Beauty Shop. The Speaker of the House appointed the Select Committee's three members. H.R.Res. 1000, 90th Cong., 1st Sess., 113 Cong.Rec. 35143 (1967).

 Effective January 3, 1978, the Select Committee on the House Beauty Shop was abolished and the Beauty Shop was placed under the jurisdiction of the Committee on House Administration. H.R.Res. 315, 95th Cong., 1st Sess., 123 Cong.Rec. 36343-36344 (1977). House Resolution 315 transferred the staff of the House Beauty Shop to the payroll of the House of Representatives. See H.R.Rep. No. 756, 95th Cong., 1st Sess. (1977) (committee report on H.R.Res. 315); 123 Cong.Rec. 36298-36303 (1977) (debate on H.R.Res. 315). The Subcommittee on Services of the Committee on Administration became responsible for oversight of the House Beauty Shop. Id. ; Rule 16(a), Rules of Procedure of the Committee on House Administration, 97th Congress (1981).

 Our plaintiff, Niki Witty, began employment at the House Beauty Shop during 1976 as the assistant manager. In April 1979, Ms. Witty became manager. Representative Ed Jones, chairman of the Subcommittee on Services, wrote Ms. Witty on March 22, 1982: "It is with regret that we must inform you that your services as Manager of the House Beauty Shop will be terminated at the end of the pay period ending April 18, 1982." Complaint, para. 11.

 Based on "conversations and communications with persons in authority with the Subcommittee" and on "well known personnel policies of the Subcommittee," plaintiff believed that her employment was permanent, absent cause for termination. Complaint, para. 8. Plaintiff alleged that these understandings created a property interest in her job under the Due Process Clause, which defendants violated when they discharged her without a hearing and allegedly without cause. Id., P 11.

 Ms. Witty alleged further that Representative Jones and staff director Thomas Marshall appointed an unqualified male on the basis of "close personal relationship" to replace her. Complaint, para. 12. Plaintiff contended that the defendants discriminated against her on the basis of age and sex, and that they knew or should have known that her age (62) and sex would impose an "unusually severe burden" in finding comparable employment. Id., PP 35-36. Reading the complaint broadly, Ms. Witty claimed that such conduct violated the equal protection component and the interest in liberty covered under the Due Process Clause.

 For relief, plaintiff sought $1 million as compensatory damages; $3 million as punitive damages; a declaratory judgment that the discharge was arbitrary, capricious, ...


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