Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

THOMAS v. RENO

October 23, 1996

JOHNNIE C. THOMAS, Plaintiff,
v.
JANET RENO, United States Attorney General, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SPORKIN

 This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. The Court heard argument on the motion on October 16, 1996. After considering the motion, all opposition thereto, and the arguments by the parties, the Court hereby grants Defendant's motion for summary judgement.

 BACKGROUND

 In 1993, Ms. Carole George, a female African-American employee at the Immigration and Naturalization Service ("INS"), sought counseling from the INS Office of Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") and subsequently filed a formal class complaint under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Ms. George's complaint did not identify any class members other than herself. Ms. George also filed several individual complaints with EEO during that period.

 On December 12, 1995, Ms. George entered into a settlement agreement with INS to resolve the complaints she had filed against the agency (the "Settlement Agreement"). *fn1" At the time she entered into the Settlement Agreement, Ms. George's class complaint was pending in the administrative process. Ms. George was appealing two INS final decisions to dismiss the class complaint. Those final decisions had followed the recommendations of two separate administrative judges to dismiss Ms. George's complaint, made on April 22, 1994 and August 1994. The second administrative judge had found that the proposed class was overly broad and did not meet any of the four prerequisites of a class action required by Rule 23(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

 On February 13, 1996, the Equal Opportunity Employment Council ("EEC") issued a decision vacating both of the Agency's final decisions on Ms. George's complaint and remanding the complaint to INS for further consideration. Ms. Winona Horn, director of EEO at INS, took the position in a letter to the EEC dated March 6, 1996 that the class complaint should be dismissed pursuant to the Settlement Agreement. However, on February 29, 1996, Ms. George sent a letter to the EEC opting out as the class agent on the class complaint and designating Mr. Johnnie Thomas as the new class agent.

 Mr. Thomas filed his pro se class complaint in this case on March 11, 1996. Prior to filing the complaint, Mr. Thomas had never filed any formal complaint with the INS Office of EEO.

 In her motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, Defendant argued that: (1) the "class" which Plaintiff purports to represent does not exist due to the Settlement Agreement and that (2) Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and cannot serve as a class representative. Plaintiff opposed Defendant's motion on the grounds that the motion is based on affirmative defenses which cannot support a motion to dismiss, and that summary judgment should not be granted in the alternative because genuine issues of material fact are still in dispute.

 ANALYSIS

 The Court hereby grants Defendant's motion for summary judgment on the basis of both grounds raised in her motion. It is not fair to allow Plaintiff to substitute as class agent for the non-certified class in this case; such an outcome would make a mockery of the Settlement Agreement. It is also settled law that Plaintiff must exhaust his administrative remedies before he can serve as class representative.

 Plaintiff claims that Ms. George's individual settlement did not and could not settle the class EEO discrimination complaint. In particular, Plaintiff claims that a class agent proceeding pro se cannot bind a class and that Defendants failed to give notice of the Settlement Agreement to absent class members.

 But there was no accepted class complaint in place when Ms. George entered into the Settlement Agreement in December 1995. No other alleged "class" members have any rights or interests just by being part of an amorphous group named by a single plaintiff in an administrative complaint. Plaintiff, along with every other "current or former African American at INS headquarters," had no right to be informed about settlement of any claims that were not part of an accepted class complaint that he did not initiate himself.

 To uphold Plaintiff's position would turn the class action process into a tag team form of litigation. If upheld, it would be almost impossible to settle lawsuits like the one asserted by Ms. George. No member of the class is bound by Ms. George's settlement. A new class action could be convened at any ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.