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Evans v. District of Columbia

September 27, 2005

MAURICE EVANS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul L. Friedman United States District Judge

OPINION

This matter is before the Court on defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or, in the alternative, for summary judgment under Rule 56. Upon consideration of the arguments made by the parties, the Court will grant summary judgment for defendants on plaintiff's deprivation of property due process claim, and will dismiss plaintiff's deprivation of liberty claim for failure to state a claim. The Court also will dismiss plaintiff's claims for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress for failure to state a claim.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Maurice Evans was employed by the District of Columbia for 26 years, most recently as Supervisory Investigator for the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration ("ABRA"). See Complaint ¶ 7. On February 13, 2003, defendant Maria Delaney, director of the ABRA, informed plaintiff that he had been placed on paid administrative leave. See Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative Summary Judgment ("Pl. Opp.") at 1. That same day, in a District of Columbia Council oversight hearing on the ABRA, Ward 4 Councilman Adrian Fenty stated that plaintiff had improperly and illegally interfered with an ABRA investigation of the Macombo Lounge, a nude dancing establishment located in Ward 4. See id. at 2. Plaintiff alleges that Councilman Fenty also discussed information in plaintiff's personnel file at the meeting. See id.

On February 22, 2003, The Washington Post published an article reporting plaintiff's suspension. See Arthur Santana, "Liquor Control Official Faulted by D.C. Inquiry," The Washington Post (February 22, 2003), Ex. B to Pl. Opp. According to plaintiff, the article disclosed information from a confidential report of the D.C. Office of the Inspector General ("OIG") and from plaintiff's personnel file. See Pl. Opp. at 2. The article reported Councilman Fenty's accusations of corruption and statements that plaintiff's behavior was "atrocious." Id.

On February 28, 2003, Delaney informed plaintiff by letter that his suspension had ended, but that he would receive a written warning regarding his involvement in the investigation of the Macombo Lounge and his duties as Supervisory Investigator would be curtailed pending the resolution of an ongoing OIG investigation. See Pl. Opp. at 2-3. On February 29, plaintiff and his attorney met with the Chairman of the ABRA Board of Commissioners, who advised plaintiff to retire or face termination. See id. at 3. According to plaintiff, the Chairman suggested a transfer to another agency because the ABRA Board would not support plaintiff in the face of a controversy involving members of the Council. Plaintiff inquired about transferring to the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, but the Director of that department told plaintiff that he was "too Hot!" Id. at 3-4.

The Washington Post published another article detailing plaintiff's situation on March 6, 2003. See David Nakamura, "City's Chief ABC Inspector Allowed to Return to Work," The Washington Post (March 6, 2003); Pl. Opp. at 4. The article quoted Councilman Fenty as alleging that plaintiff had impeded the investigation of the Macombo Lounge and as expressing his dissatisfaction with plaintiff's reappointment. See id. at 4. The article also stated that the Office of Personnel had found plaintiff's conduct did not warrant termination.

On March 28, 2003, plaintiff received a 15-day termination notice from Delaney, stating that plaintiff would be terminated for disciplinary reasons effective April 17, 2003. See Pl. Opp. at 5. The letter stated that as a Supervisory Inspector, plaintiff held a Management Supervisory Service position and thus was an at-will employee, terminable at will without any right to appeal. See Letter from Maria Delaney to Maurice Evans (March 28, 2003), Ex. F to Pl. Opp. Plaintiff alleges that "in order to mitigate damages arising out of this improper and illegal termination," he was forced to retire on April 17, 2003. See Compl. ¶ 12. After his resignation, plaintiff spoke to one D.C. government official and two potential employers in the private sector who stated that plaintiff was "to [sic] controversial to hire because of issues reported on television and in the newspaper." Pl. Opp. at 5.

On November 11, 2003, plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court asserting due process claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as well as common law claims of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Defendants now move to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for summary judgment.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Applicable Legal Standards

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure may not be granted unless it appears beyond doubt that plaintiff can prove no set of facts that supports his claim entitling him to relief. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1117 (D.C. Cir. 2000). In evaluating a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept the factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of plaintiff. See Razzoli v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 230 F.3d 371, 374 (D.C. Cir. 2000); Taylor v. FDIC, 132 F.3d 753, 761 (D.C. Cir. 1997); Harris v. Ladner, 127 F.3d 1121, 1123 (D.C. Cir. 1997). While the complaint is to be construed liberally in considering a motion to dismiss, the Court need not accept inferences drawn by plaintiff if those inferences are unsupported by facts alleged in the complaint, nor must the Court accept plaintiff's legal conclusions. See Kowal v. MCI Communication Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994).

When addressing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court generally may not look outside the facts contained within the four corners of the complaint, see Gordon v. National Youth Work Alliance, 675 F.2d 356, 361 (D.C. Cir. 1982), unless it treats the motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment. See FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b); Currier v. Postmaster Gen., 304 F.3d 87, 88 (D.C. Cir. 2002); 2 JAMES WM. MOORE ET AL., MOORE'S FEDERAL PRACTICE ¶ 12.34(2) (2002 ed.).

Summary judgment shall be granted if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits or declarations, if any, demonstrate that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). Material facts are those that "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When considering a motion for summary judgment, "the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences ...


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