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Childers v. Slater

September 18, 2000

PEGGY CHILDERS,
PLAINTIFF,
V.
RODNEY SLATER, SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina, United States District Judge

Document Nos. 85, 86, 88, 89, 90, 91

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Granting the Plaintiff's Motion to Reopen Discovery Vacating in Part the Grant of Summary Judgment to the Defendant

I. INTRODUCTION

This Title VII matter comes before the court upon the plaintiff's motions for limited reopening of discovery and for limited reconsideration of the court's order granting partial summary judgment to the defendant. The plaintiff, Peggy Childers, is an African-American woman and a former employee of the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA"), an agency within the United States Department of Transportation. In 1997, Ms. Childers filed a pro se action alleging race and sex discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. The defendant is Rodney Slater, Secretary of Transportation, named in his official capacity as head of the FAA.

For the reasons stated below, the court grants the plaintiff's motion for limited reopening of discovery and vacates in part the order which granted summary judgment to the defendant.

II. BACKGROUND

Peggy Childers was employed by the FAA as a Communications Management Specialist. At the time her claims of discrimination and retaliation arose, Ms. Childers was the only African-American woman in her division. *fn1 See Compl. ¶ 6(b). On April 25, 1997, after timely filing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge and receiving a right-to-sue letter, Ms. Childers filed a pro se complaint in this court. *fn2

Ms. Childers's complaint alleged more than twenty-six claims of race and sex discrimination and retaliation. *fn3 By Memorandum Opinion dated March 23, 1999, the court concluded that Ms. Childers was entitled to proceed to trial on four of these claims: (1) retaliatory discipline through placement on a performance improvement plan; (2) retaliatory failure to promote in 1993; (3) retaliatory denial of permanent reassignment in 1994; and (4) discriminatory denial based on race of permanent assignment in 1994. See generally Mem. Op. With respect to the remaining claims, however, the court determined that Ms. Childers had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies, make a prima facie case, or carry her burden of proving that the employer's proffered reasons for its actions were pretextual. See id. at 5-9, 13.

On August 18, 1999, Ms. Childers filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis ("IFP") and for appointment of counsel. See generally Pl.'s Mot. to Proceed IFP and for Appt. of Counsel. In support of her motion, Ms. Childers, who has been on disability since injuring her spine in 1995, stated that her current monthly "net income annuity" is $1,200.58, from which she pays a mortgage of $819.30 and approximately $170.00 for utilities. See id. at 2. In addition, prior to submitting her motion, Ms. Childers consulted with ten attorneys and three lawyer referral services, but did not succeed in finding anyone who would take her case on a contingency-fee basis. See id. at 2-5.

The defendant opposed Ms. Childers's motion on the ground that her complaint lacked sufficient merit to warrant appointment of counsel. See Def.'s Response to Pl.'s Mot. to Proceed IFP and for Appt. of Counsel at 4. Indeed, the defendant informed the court that the plaintiff's remaining claims had "only barely survived summary judgment." Id. at 3 (emphasis added). The court evaluated the parties' arguments according to the scheme set out in Poindexter v. FBI, 737 F.2d 1173 (D.C. Cir. 1984), *fn4 and concluded that Ms. Childers had made the requisite showing for appointment of counsel and IFP status. Accordingly, the court granted the plaintiff's motion and directed the court clerk to appoint counsel from the Civil Justice Act pro bono panel to represent the plaintiff. See Order dated August 31, 1999.

With the guidance of newly appointed counsel, the plaintiff filed two motions, the first for limited reopening of discovery, and the second for reconsideration of the court's finding that she had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies with respect to her claim that the defendant wrongfully denied her a promotion in 1994. Both motions implicitly seek to ameliorate difficulties that Ms. Childers encountered as an impecunious, pro se plaintiff. The court will consider each motion turn.

III. MOTION FOR LIMITED REOPENING ...


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