United States District Court, District of Columbia
May 24, 2000
BARBARA KUNDRAT, PLAINTIFF,
THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Urbina, District Judge.
Granting Unopposed Motion for Leave to Amend Complaint; Granting
the Superior Court Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
This Title VII discrimination and retaliation case comes before
the court upon the plaintiff's unopposed motion for leave to
amend the complaint and the two original defendants' motion to
dismiss. The two parties named as defendants in the original
complaint, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and the
Joint Committee on Judicial Administration (collectively "the
Superior Court" or "the Superior Court defendants"), filed a
joint motion to dismiss on the ground that they are non sui
juris (not suable entities). The plaintiff filed an opposition
to the motion to dismiss, but the defendants did not file a
reply. The plaintiff also filed a motion for leave to amend the
complaint to add the District of Columbia as a defendant. The
Superior Court defendants filed their written consent to the
For the reasons set forth below, the court will grant the
plaintiff leave to amend her complaint and will grant the
Superior Court defendants' motion to dismiss.
The plaintiff, Barbara M. Kundrat, is a white woman who was
employed as Deputy Clerk of the D.C. Superior Court from January
1993 until her resignation in August 1998. See Am.Compl. ¶¶ 9,
21. Ms. Kundrat has a law degree and a Master's degree in
management from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of
Management. Id. ¶ 10. When Ms. Kundrat began her tenure as
Deputy Clerk, she supervised nearly 600 Superior Court employees.
Id. ¶ 11. As Deputy Clerk, she was first supervised by and
reported to the Clerk of the Superior Court ("the Clerk"), Fred
At some unspecified time in 1994, Mr. Beane was succeeded as
Clerk by Duane Delaney, an African-American man. Ms. Kundrat
alleges that once Mr. Delaney assumed the Clerk's position, he
discriminated against her by taking away portions of her duties,
excluding her from meetings
she had previously attended, removing support staff from her
supervision, forbidding her from using support staff in the
performance of her duties and denying her training opportunities.
See Am.Compl. ¶¶ 12, 15. Beginning in 1996, Ms. Kundrat
alleges, Mr. Delaney began to "reclassify" the position of her
subordinates and award them pay increases without affording her
any input. Id. ¶ 13. Specifically, in October 1996, Mr. Delaney
hired an African-American man, Louis Kelly, as Operations
Management Specialist and reassigned "the majority" of her job
duties to him. Id. ¶ 14.
In 1997, Ms. Kundrat filed an internal equal employment
opportunity grievance complaining of racially discriminatory
treatment by Mr. Delaney and sexual harassment by other
employees.*fn2 See Am. Compl. ¶ 16. She alleges that when Mr.
Delaney found out about her internal grievance, he stopped
speaking to her and retaliated by requiring her to submit a daily
time log which was not required of other employees. Id. ¶ 17.
In January 1998, Ms. Kundrat filed a charge of discrimination
and retaliation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
("EEOC"). See Am.Compl. ¶ 18. The following month, she followed
up with a memorandum to the Superior Court's EEO officer and
Personnel Director which described the alleged hostile
environment and sexual harassment. Id. ¶ 19. Ms. Kundrat
alleges that in retaliation for her grievances, Mr. Delaney
deprived her of all non-clerical duties, as well as the authority
to act in his absence, which he delegated to other employees who
had been her subordinates. See Am. Compl. ¶ 20.
Finally, on August 4, 1998, Mr. Delaney issued a notice of
proposed suspension to Ms. Kundrat. Id. ¶ 20. Ms. Kundrat was
so distraught by the suspension notice that she left the building
immediately and resigned her position as Deputy Clerk the
following day, August 5, 1998. Id. ¶ 21. She essentially
characterizes her resignation as a constructive discharge which
became necessary because Mr. Delaney had made her "work situation
so intolerable that she could not continue in her position
without injury to her mental health." Id. ¶ 21.
On April 30, 1999, the EEOC sent Ms. Kundrat a "Dismissal and
Notice of Rights" which informed her that it was "unable to
conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of
the statutes" and that she had the right to bring suit in federal
or state court within 90 days of receiving the Notice. On August
4, 1999, Ms. Kundrat filed a three-count pro se*fn3 complaint
in this court, alleging gender discrimination, racial
discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.
("Title VII"). She seeks reinstatement to the position of Deputy
Clerk of the Superior Court, backpay and benefits, compensatory
damages for emotional distress and loss of personal and
professional reputation ("esteem"), and attorneys' fees and
costs. See Am.Compl., Prayer for Relief ¶¶ 2-5. On September
10, 1999 the Superior Court and Joint Committee filed an answer.
A. The Plaintiff's Unopposed Motion for Leave to Amend the
Ms. Kundrat filed a motion for leave to amend her complaint,
and the Superior Court defendants submitted a letter dated May
19, 2000 which consents to
the proposed amendment. Accordingly, finding that the Superior
Court defendants consent to the proposed amendment and that they
will not be prejudiced thereby,*fn4 the court will grant the
plaintiff leave to amend her complaint. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)
(once the defendant has filed a responsive pleading, a party may
amend its pleading "only by leave of court or by written consent
of the adverse party"). A major consequence of the amendment is
that the District of Columbia is now a party defendant.*fn5
B. Motion to Dismiss Superior Court Defendants as Non Sui
1. Legal Standard for Motion to Dismiss
The Superior Court defendants move to dismiss the complaint
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) for lack of
personal jurisdiction. A motion to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction tests not whether the plaintiff will prevail on the
merits but instead whether or not the court may properly exercise
jurisdiction over the movants. See Scheuer v. Rhodes,
416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974). In deciding such a
motion, the court must accept as true all well-pleaded factual
allegations and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the
plaintiff. See Maljack Prods. v. Motion Picture Ass'n,
52 F.3d 373, 375 (D.C.Cir. 1995). The court need not, however, accept as
true the plaintiff's legal conclusions. See Taylor v. F.D.I.C.,
132 F.3d 753, 762 (D.C.Cir. 1997). In applying the foregoing
standard for motions to dismiss, however, the court recognizes
that because Title VII is a remedial statute which is generally
broadly construed, this matter "should not be dismissed at the
pleadings stage unless it appears to a certainty that
plaintiff(s) are entitled to no relief under any state of the
facts, which could be proved in support of their claims." See
Escalera v. New York City Hsg. Auth., 425 F.2d 853, 857 (2d
Cir.), cert. den., 400 U.S. 853, 91 S.Ct. 54, 27 L.Ed.2d 91
2. Can the Superior Court Defendants be Sued in Their Own
Like the plaintiff and the defendants, the court finds only two
decisions in this Circuit which discuss the precise question at
issue on this motion, namely, whether the Superior Court or its
Joint Committee on Judicial Administration may be sued eo
nomine (in their own names). In Thompson v. District of
Columbia, 1980 WL 123 (D.D.C. 1980), the late Judge Gasch held
that neither the D.C. Superior Court nor its Joint Committee on
Administration is an entity suable in its own name. Eleven years
later, in Galloway v. The D.C. Courts, 1991 WL 229949 (D.D.C.
1991), this court suggested there might be merit in the opposite
view, but only in dictum. It appears that the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ("the D.C. Circuit") has not
addressed this exact issue.*fn6
There is ample authority in this Circuit, however, for the
general proposition that if a department or agency of a
municipality is not a corporate body, it cannot be sued as such.
3 McQuillin Municipal Corporations § 12.40, at 242 (rev.3d ed.
1990). Both this court and the local courts of the District of
Columbia have consistently applied this rule to dismiss claims
against governmental agencies or departments of the District of
Columbia. See Trifax Corp. v. D.C., 53 F. Supp.2d 20, 26 (D.D.C.
1999) (Kessler, J.) (Office of Inspector General, Dep't. of
Health, Dep't. of Administrative Services and DHS); Gales v.
D.C., 47 F. Supp.2d 43, 48 (D.D.C. 1999) (Robertson, J.); Arnold
v. Moore, 980 F. Supp. 28, 33 (D.D.C. 1997) (Lamberth, J.)
(dismissing claims against D.C. Department of Corrections);
Cooke-Seals v. D.C., 973 F. Supp. 184, 186 (D.D.C. 1997)
(Robertson, J.) (MPD); Milliner v. D.C., 932 F. Supp. 345, 347
(D.D.C. 1996) (Harris, J.) (DHS's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services
Admin.); Jenkins v. Government of D.C., 1996 WL 440551, *1 n. 2
(D.D.C.) (Dep't of Corrections Medical Unit), appeal dis. as
moot, 1996 WL 761945 (D.C.Cir. 1996); Aleotti v. Baars,
896 F. Supp. 1, 6 (D.D.C. 1995) (Friedman, J.) (D.C. Metropolitan
Police Department), aff'd summarily, 107 F.3d 922, 1996 WL
680175 (D.C.Cir. 1996) (table, text in WestLaw); Bennett v.
D.C. Dep't. of Corrections, 1995 WL 601049, *1 (D.D.C. 1995)
(Friedman, J.); Ali v. Barry, 1995 WL 350788, *1 (D.D.C. 1995)
(Friedman, J.) (Psychiatric Services facility); Zervas v. D.C.,
817 F. Supp. 148, 150 (D.D.C. 1993) (Harris, J.) (Fire Dep't. and
Office of Personnel); Fields v. D.C. Dep't. of Corrections,
789 F. Supp. 20, 22 (D.D.C. 1992); Gallion v. D.C. DHS, 1992 WL
44360, *1 (D.D.C. 1992) (Harris, J.); Byrd v. D.C., 1991 WL
336038, *3 (D.D.C. 1991) (Hon. Joyce Green, J.) (Department of
Corrections); Gainza v. D.C. Dep't. of Corrections, 1991 WL
166580, *2 (D.D.C. 1991) (Sporkin, J.); Owens v. Government of
D.C. Dep't of Hsg. and Community Dev., 1988 WL 113813, *1
(D.D.C. 1988); Kerkam v. D.C. Bd. of Ed., 672 F. Supp. 519, 520
(D.D.C. 1987) (Penn, J.), rev'd o.g., 862 F.2d 884 (D.C.Cir.
1988); Crew v. Barry, 1979 WL 33, *2 (D.D.C. 1979) (Parker, J.)
(Office of Human Rights and Commission on Human Rights); Ray v.
D.C., 535 A.2d 868, 870 n. 2 (D.C. 1987) (Fire Dep't., Board of
Police & Fire Surgeons and Police & Fire Clinic); Turner v.
D.C., 532 A.2d 662, 675 (D.C. 1987); Braxton v. National
Capital Hsg. Auth., 396 A.2d 215, 216-17 (D.C. 1978); Miller v.
Spencer, 330 A.2d 250, 251 n. 2 (D.C. 1974) (Department of
Sanitation).*fn7 This court has applied the non sui juris rule
specifically in the Title VII context: "In a Title VII suit
against the District of Columbia, only the District of Columbia,
and not its departments or agencies, may be the proper
defendant." Raney v. D.C., 892 F. Supp. 283, 289 (D.D.C. 1995).
Moreover, in the only instance where this court based its
decision on the
specific question whether the Superior Court is suable in its own
name, this court answered that question in the negative and
dismissed the complaint as to the Superior Court. See Thompson
v. District of Columbia, 1980 WL 123 (D.D.C. 1980). In
Thompson, Judge Gasch followed the U.S. Supreme Court's
decision in Blackmar v. Guerre, 342 U.S. 512, 72 S.Ct. 410, 96
L.Ed. 534 (1952), which held that the Civil Service Commission
was not a suable entity. The Supreme Court reasoned,
When Congress authorized one of its agencies to be
sued eo nomine, it does so in explicit language, or
impliedly because the agency is the offspring of such
a suable entity.*fn8 Since the Civil Service
Commission is not a corporate entity which Congress
has authorized to be sued,*fn9 a suit involving the
action of the Commission generally must be brought
against the individual commissioners as members of
the United States Civil Service Commission.
Blackmar, 342 U.S. at 515, 72 S.Ct. 410. Judge Gasch noted that
the D.C. Court of Appeals had already applied the Supreme Court's
reasoning to bar suit against D.C. agencies which were
established by Congress (like the Superior Court). See
Thompson, 1980 WL 123 at *2 (citing Braxton v. National Capital
Hsg. Auth., 396 A.2d 215
, 217-18 (D.C. 1978) (National Capital
Housing Authority, an entity created by Congress, is non sui
juris)). With that in mind, Judge Gasch considered whether
Congress had rendered the Superior Court sui juris. The Judge
correctly found that the legislation which vested the judicial
power of the District of Columbia in the Superior Court and Court
of Appeals did not authorize those courts to be sued either
expressly or by implication. See Thompson, 1980 WL 123 at *2
(citing D.C.Code § 11 — app. 431 (Supp.V, 1978)). Therefore, the
Judge concluded that the Superior Court is not a suable entity.
Conversely, this court has never held that the Superior Court
and the Joint Committee are suable entities, nor has it allowed a
party to prosecute claims against those entities in their own
only opinion of this court to suggest that the Superior Court
might be a suable entity did so only in dictum. See Galloway
v. The D.C. Courts, 1991 WL 229949, *2 to *3 (D.D.C. 1991). In
Galloway this court acknowledged that "[a]n entity formed by
Congress may not be sued unless the legislature, either
explicitly or implicitly, authorizes such suit." Id. at *2
(citing Braxton, 396 A.2d at 216-17). Galloway cited a
treatise, however, which states that "when an entity `performs
functions peculiar to such bodies which are performed separately
from the functions of the municipality, these bodies are
responsible as corporations and may sue or be sued as such.'"
Galloway, 1991 WL 229949 at *2 (quoting 3 McQuillin, Municipal
Corporations, § 12.40 (rev.3d ed. 1990)).*fn10 Applying this
standard, Galloway opined, "it appears that the Superior Court
of the District of Columbia is sui juris" because that court
"performs functions separate from those of the municipality,"
such as resolving disputes, issuing warrants and holding persons
in contempt. See Galloway, 1991 WL 229949 at *3. Significantly,
however, the Galloway court took the same action it would have
taken had it held that the Superior Court is non sui juris: it
granted the Superior Court's motion to dismiss the claims against
it for lack of jurisdiction. The court explained,
Because plaintiff appears to have a cause of action
against the Superior Court of the District of
Columbia and the District of Columbia, and because
plaintiff can obtain any relief to which he is
entitled under the law from either the Superior
Court or the District of Columbia, it is not
necessary to further complicate this litigation by
allowing the case to continue against other . . .
organizations that may be non sui juris. . . .
Accordingly, the District of Columbia Courts . . .
shall be dismissed as party defendants.
Galloway, 1991 WL 229949 at *3 (emphasis added). Likewise, in
the instant case it appears that Ms. Kundrat's cause of action
lies against the District of Columbia,*fn11
and she can proceed
against the District directly without naming the Superior Court
and Joint Committee as defendants.
In any event, the court does not discern any compelling basis
for departing from the overwhelming weight of precedent in this
Circuit which holds that "[i]n the absence of explicit
statutory authorization, bodies within the District of Columbia
government are not suable as separate entities." Milliner v.
D.C., 1993 WL 837384, *1 (D.D.C. 1993) (citing Hinton v.
Metropolitan Police Department, 726 F. Supp. 875 (D.D.C. 1989)
(emphasis added) (Revercomb, J.)). The plaintiff has not pointed
to any statute which explicitly provides that the D.C. Superior
Court or its Joint Committee on Judicial Administration can be
sued eo nomine.
Congress created the Joint Committee on Judicial Administration
in the D.C. Self-Government Reorganization Act of 1973, Pub.L.
No. 93-198, 87 Stat. 792. That act specifically defines the
purpose, powers and legal status of the Joint Committee, but it
contains no language authorizing the Joint Committee to sue or be
sued in its own name. When Congress wished to authorize a
federally created entity to sue and be sued in its own name, it
knows how to do so and does so explicitly. Cf. former
12 U.S.C. § 1725(c)(4) (repealed 1989) (Congress authorized Federal Savings
and Loan Insurance Corp. "[t]o sue and be sued, complain and
defend, in any court of competent jurisdiction");
12 U.S.C. § 1819(a) (Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. "shall have power . . .
and be sued, and complain and defend, in any court of law or
equity, State or Federal"); D.C.Code § 32-262.5(b) (PBC subject
to suit); D.C.Code § 31-1511 (explicitly providing that Board of
Trustees of U.D.C. is "a body corporate" which may "sue or be
sued" and may "complain or defend in its own name in any court of
competent jurisdiction"); D.C.Code § 5-803(b) (explicitly
providing that D.C. Redevelopment Agency has power to sue and be
sued). In light of the Supreme Court's clear statement that "an
agency established by Congress may not be sued eo nomine unless
Congress has authorized the entity to be sued by explicit
language or by implication," see Blackmar, 342 U.S. at 514-15,
72 S.Ct. 410, this court declines to waive or bypass the
requirement of Congressional authorization.
Accordingly, the court joins Thompson v. D.C. in concluding
that neither the D.C. Superior Court nor the Joint Committee is
suable eo nomine. See Marin v. Committee on Admissions, 1998 WL
1181013, *2 n. 1 (D.D.C. 1998) (agreeing with defendants'
contention that the D.C. Court of Appeals' Committee on
Admissions is non sui juris) (dictum), recon. den., 1999 WL
1273458 (D.D.C.), aff'd o.g., 1999 WL 1215950 (D.C.Cir.
1999).*fn12 Consequently, the court will dismiss the complaint
as to the Superior Court defendants. Due to the amendment of the
complaint, however, the District of Columbia remains as a party
For the foregoing reasons, the court will grant the plaintiff
leave to amend her complaint and will grant the Superior Court
defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground that
they are non sui juris. An Order directing the parties in a
fashion consistent with this Memorandum Opinion is separately and
contemporaneously executed this 24 day of May, 2000.