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POLSBY v. THOMPSON
March 24, 2002
M. MAUREEN POLSBY, PLAINTIFF,
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.
GRANTING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS;
DENYING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE
A SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT
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
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.
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.
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.
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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