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Johnson v. Maddox

November 12, 2002

EMANUEL JOHNSON, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHARLES C. MADDOX, DEFENDANT.



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

Document No. 27

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DENYING IN PART AND GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANT MADDOX'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

The pro se plaintiff, Emanuel Johnson, Jr., brings this employment discrimination and retaliation action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"). Mr. Johnson claims that his former employers at the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("the FBI") and the District of Columbia Office of the Inspector General ("the OIG") discriminated against him on the basis of his race and retaliated against him for previous Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") activity. The defendants named in the complaint are as follows: (1) defendants John Ashcroft and J.C. Carter, named in their official capacities as U.S. Attorney General and Assistant Director of the FBI's Washington Field Office, respectively (collectively, "the federal defendants"); and (2) defendants Anthony A. Williams, Charles C. Maddox, and Austin Anderson, named in their official capacities as Mayor of the District of Columbia, Inspector General of the District of Columbia, and Deputy Inspector General of the District of Columbia, respectively (collectively, "the D.C. defendants"). On June 21, 2001, the court dismissed the plaintiff's complaint against all but one of the defendants, Charles C. Maddox.

This matter is before the court on defendant Maddox's motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the court denies in part and grants in part the defendant's motion.

II. BACKGROUND

The pro se plaintiff details his allegations in a verified, or sworn, complaint. Mr. Johnson, a self-described black/African-American male, worked as a special agent at the FBI between the years 1973 and 1999. Compl. at 5. Mr. Johnson was the named plaintiff in a Title VII class-action lawsuit filed in this court in 1991 by black special agents against the FBI. Id. at 5-6; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A. That lawsuit settled in 1993. Compl. at 6. In May, 1999, the plaintiff retired from the FBI. Compl. at 5. On May 28, 1999, defendant Maddox hired Mr. Johnson to work at the OIG as an investigator. Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ("Def.'s Statement") *fn1 ¶¶ 28-30. Defendant Maddox knew about the plaintiff's involvement in the class-action lawsuit prior to his decision to hire Mr. Johnson. Id.

On June 21, 1999, the plaintiff began working at the OIG. Def.'s Statement ¶ 32. That same day, defendant Maddox met with former defendant Carter. Id. ¶¶ 39-40. At that meeting, Mr. Carter told the defendant that the FBI wo uld not support the OIG on matters to which the plaintiff was assigned. Id. The plaintiff claims that this meeting resulted in a "hanging threat," over the OIG because the OIG generally needed "significant help" from the FBI, such as arrest authority and access to FBI-owned vehicles. Mot. for Summ. J. at 27 (quoting Ex. D, Johnson Dep., at 318-20).

Two days later, David Bowie, Assistant Inspector General for Investigations at the OIG, reassigned the plaintiff from the OIG Public Corruption Unit to the OIG General Investigations Unit. Def.'s Statement ¶ 41. Mr. Maddox states that "[t]he FBI's decision to not work with [Mr. Johnson] did not cause concern because there was sufficient work within the OIG to carve out a demanding caseload for [Mr. Johnson], as well as maintain the work[ing] relationship between the FBI and OIG on other investigations." Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. H.

The reassignment shifted Mr. Johnson's duties from investigating D.C. Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") corruption to matters such as documenting absenteeism at D.C. Department of Corrections halfway houses. Compl. at 8; Def.'s Statement ¶ 45. Mr. Johnson believes the reassignment prevented him from maximizing the liaison opportunities he had developed with the MPD through his work at the FBI. Compl. at 9. The reassignment did not result in a diminution of pay or benefits. Mot. for Summ. J. at 20, Exs. J, Y.

On November 29, 1999, Mr. Johnson's first-level supervisor, Gregory Marsilio, rating Mr. Johnson's performance as "exceptional." Def.'s Statement ¶ 81. Later, on February 7, 2000, defendant Maddox met with Mr. Bowie and Alfred Miller, the OIG's Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Investigations, to discuss Mr. Johnson's performance. Id. ¶¶ 42, 92. Mr. Miller and Mr. Bowie served as the plaintiff's second and third-level supervisors, respectively. Id. ¶¶ 42-43. Defendant Maddox instructed Mr. Bowie to offer the plaintiff a choice of resignation or termination. Id. ¶ 97. Defendant Maddox claims he had become convinced that the plaintiff lacked the focus expected of an experienced senior investigator, citing the plaintiff's inability to "salvage" a report regarding halfway houses and his "excessive actions" in serving a subpoena. Mot. for Summ. J. at 25, Ex. H. On or around February 9, 2000, defendant Maddox purportedly asked Mr. Marsilio if he believed that the plaintiff was a "loose cannon." Compl. at 14. According to the plaintiff, Mr. Marsilio responded that Mr. Johnson was one of his "best agents." Id. Nonetheless, the OIG sent the plaintiff a termination letter on February 16, 2000, and the discharge was effective March 1, 2000. Def.'s Statement ¶ 100.

The plaintiff filed the instant complaint on November 15, 2000. The plaintiff alleges that the defendants discriminated against him based on his race and retaliated against him due to his prior EEO activity against the FBI. These actions, he contends, led to his retirement from the FBI in 1999 and his reassignment within and subsequent termination from the OIG in 1999 and 2000. Compl. at 3, 5, 9, 14.

On June 21, 2001, the court ruled on the defendants' motions to dismiss, dismissing all of the defendants except for defendant Maddox. Mem. Op. dated June 21, 2001. Subsequently, defendant Maddox filed a motion for summary judgment. In the summary-judgment motion, Mr. Maddox asserts that the plaintiff (1) failed to state a claim for race discrimination; (2) failed to make a prima-facie case of retaliatory reassignment; and (3) did not establish a prima-facie case of retaliatory termination. For the reasons that follow, the court grants the defendant's motion for summary judgment with regard to the first two arguments, and denies the motion as it pertains to the third argument.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for Motion for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Diamond v. Atwood, 43 F.3d 1538, 1540 (D.C. Cir. 1995). To determine which facts are "material," a court must look to the substantive law on which each claim rests. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A "genuine issue" is one whose resolution could establish an element of a claim or defense and, therefore, affect the outcome of the action. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must draw all justifiable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor and accept the nonmoving party's evidence as true. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. A nonmoving party, however, must establish more than "the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence" in support of its position. Id. at 252. To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must show that the nonmoving party "fail[ed] to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. By pointing to the absence of evidence proffered by the nonmoving party, a moving party may succeed on summary judgment. Id.

In addition, the nonmoving party may not rely solely on allegations or conclusory statements. Greene v. Dalton, 164 F.3d 671, 675 (D.C. Cir. 1999); Harding v. Gray, 9 F.3d 150, 154 (D.C. Cir. 1993). Rather, the nonmoving party must present specific facts that would enable a reasonable jury to find in its favor. Greene, 164 F.3d at 675. If the evidence "is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (internal citations omitted). Finally, the D.C. Circuit has directed that because it is difficult for a plaintiff to establish proof of discrimination, the court should view summary-judgment motions in such cases with special caution. Aka v. Washington Hosp. Ctr., 116 F.3d 876, 879-80 (D.C. Cir. 1997), rev'd on other grounds, 156 F.3d 1284 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (en banc); see also Johnson v. Digital Equip. Corp., 836 F. Supp. 14, 18 (D.D.C. 1993). Lastly, the court should construe a pro se plaintiff's filings liberally. Richardson v. United States, 193 F.3d 545, 548 (D.C. Cir. 1999).

B. The McDonnell Douglas Framework

To prevail on a claim of discrimination under Title VII, a plaintiff must follow a three-part burden-shifting analysis. McDonnell Douglas v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973). The ...


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