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POLSBY v. THOMPSON

March 24, 2002

M. MAUREEN POLSBY, PLAINTIFF,
V.
TOMMY G. THOMPSON, SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS; DENYING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE A SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT

I. INTRODUCTION

II. BACKGROUND

A. Polsby I

The plaintiff originated her line of cases filed in federal district courts in 1988 with a complaint against HHS (hereinafter "Polsby I") alleging employment discrimination and acts of reprisal in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e. See Polsby I Mem. Op. dated Apr. 20, 1995 at 2 n. 2 (citing Civ. No. 88-2344 (D.Md.) (Chasonow, J.)). Subsequently, the plaintiff filed two additional civil actions against HHS, alleging substantively similar matters of discrimination and reprisal. See id. (citing Civ. No. 93-857 (D.Md.) (Chasonow, J.) and Civ. No. 94-3078 (D.Md.) (Chasonow, J.)). United District Judge Chasanow consolidated the plaintiff's complaints and adjudicated all the pending claims in a trial ending in March 1996. See Polsby v. Shalala, 925 F. Supp. 379, 382 (D.Md. 1996) (final ruling in Polsby I). In Polsby I, Judge Chasanow granted the plaintiff leave to file seven supplemental documents: three supplements to the complaints, three supplements to the oppositions to defendant's motions to dismiss, and one surreply in support of the opposition. See Polsby I Mem. Op. dated Apr. 20, 1995 at 2 n. 2 (granting the plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment). After the trial in March 1996, Judge Chasanow ruled for the defendant, determining that there had been no gender discrimination. See Polsby, 925 F. Supp. at 396.
B. Polsby II
After the Polsby I trial concluded, the plaintiff filed a complaint (hereinafter "Polsby II") in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, alleging a conspiracy among members of the federal government to pre-arrange an adverse outcome of Dr. Polsby's original employment-discrimination case. See Polsby II Am. Compl. at 2. The complaint alleged many of the same facts as those alleged in Polsby I.*fn1 See id.; Polsby, 925 F. Supp. at 379. United States District Judge Kennedy granted the plaintiff leave to amend her complaint three times in Polsby II. See Docket for Polsby v. Milkulski, Civ. No. 97-0611 (D.D.C.) (Kennedy, J.). In Polsby II, because the plaintiff "alleged no facts, reason, or motive to support her conspiracy theories," she failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted. See Polsby II Mem. Op. dated July 12, 1999 at 3, 7; FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). Judge Kennedy also determined that Dr. Polsby did not have standing under Article III of the Constitution. See Polsby II Mem. Op. dated July 12, 1999 at 4. Thus, Judge Kennedy granted the federal defendants' motion to dismiss Dr. Polsby's complaint. See Polsby II Order dated July 12, 1999 at 1.
C. The Pending Case
Dr. Polsby initiated the present case by filing yet another complaint in federal district court on February 12, 2001. In the instant matter, the court has already granted one motion by the plaintiff for leave to amend her complaint, filed in response to the defendants' motion to dismiss. See Order dated Nov. 8, 2001 at 1. In response, the defendant filed a renewed motion to dismiss arguing res judicata and lack of venue, which Dr. Polsby opposes. The plaintiff seeks leave to file a second amended complaint, and the defendant opposes this motion because the defendant views the amendment as futile. On March 19, 2002, the court ordered the defendant to file a supplement to its motion. See Order dated March 19, 2002. On March 24, 2002, the defendant filed the supplement and, on March 28, 2002, the plaintiff responded.
III. ANALYSIS
A. Legal Standard for Res Judicata
Res judicata bars a claim when there has been a final judgment on the merits in a prior suit involving the same parties or their privies and the same cause of action. See I.A.M. Nat'l Pension Fund v. Indus. Gear Mfg. Co., 723 F.2d 944, 946-47 (D.C. Cir. 1983). The four factors that must exist for res judicata to apply are (1) an identity of parties in both suits; (2) a judgment rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction; (3) a final judgment on the merits; and (4) the same cause of action in both suits. See Brannock Assocs., Inc. v. Capitol 801 Corp., 807 F. Supp. 127, 134 (D.D.C. 1992) (citing U.S. Industries, Inc. v. Blake Constr. Co., 765 F.2d 195, 205 n. 21 (D.C. Cir. 1985)). The purpose of res judicata is to "conserve judicial resources, avoid inconsistent results, engender respect for judgments of predictable and certain effect, and to prevent serial forum-shopping and piecemeal litigation." Hardison v. Alexander, 655 F.2d 1281, 1288 (D.C. Cir. 1981).
Determining whether a particular ruling fulfills each factor necessary for res judicata to apply requires a careful assessment of what each factor demands. First, a nonparty may be in privity with a party to the prior action if the nonparty's interests are "adequately represented by a party to the original action." See American Forest Res. Council v. Shea, 172 F. Supp.2d 24, 31 (D.D.C. 2001) (quoting Tyus v. Schoemehl, 93 F.3d 449, 454 (8th Cir. 1996)). Also, the doctrine of res judicata applies to all the parties' rights regarding matters that could have been litigated as well as those matters that were actually litigated. See I.A.M. Nat'l Pension Fund, 723 F.2d at 947. Finally, for res judicata to apply, the court must have made a final ruling based on the merits of the case. See U.S. Indus., 765 F.2d at 205-06. A traditional judgment on the merits of a case is one that disposes of the underlying cause of action. See Cromwell v. County of Sac, 94 U.S. 351, 352 (1877). More generally, a judgment is considered on the merits when a court renders a decision after considering the legal claim. See Harper Plastics, Inc. v. Amoco Chems. Corp., 657 F.2d 939, 943 (7th Cir. 1981); 18 ...

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