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Carmona v. Snow

March 26, 2007

MARIA V. CARMONA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN W. SNOW, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John Garrett Penn United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Defendant has filed a Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment [#14] ("Def.'s Mot.")*fn1 , which moves for dismissal of plaintiff's conspiracy claim brought pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 241 for lack of subject matter jurisdiction or for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Pursuant to Rules 12(b)(6) or 56 of the Federal Rules [of Civil Procedure], defendant moves to dismiss or for summary judgment on plaintiff's remaining claims - i.e., those brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 621.

Def.'s Mot., at 1-2 (emphasis added).*fn2 Plaintiff, who is pro se and has "never been represented by an attorney in any of [her] administrative proceedings[,]" Complaint [#1] ("Compl."), at ¶¶ 31-32, opposes defendant's Motion on the grounds "that Defendant has not made the requisite showing to entitle him to summary judgment; that Defendant has [] committed perjury in his representations before th[e] Court; and that there are genuine issues of material fact that remain in dispute such that they can only be resolved by a jury." Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment [#26] ("Pl.'s Opp."), at 2.

As explained more fully below, the Court concludes that plaintiff has raised no genuine issue of material fact with regard to her discrimination and retaliation claims, and her conspiracy claim should fail as a matter of law. Consequently, defendant's Motion will be granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, who is "a Hispanic White Female"*fn3 over the age of 40, has worked at the Department of Treasury's Office of the Inspector General ("OIG") since 1983. Compl., at ¶¶ 40-41, 100. She has filed at least seventeen administrative complaints and four civil actions, including the instant case. Compl.,at n.1. Plaintiff contends that defendant has engaged in "a long-term pattern of discrimination, retaliation, disparate treatment and . . . conspiracy [] against" her. Id. at ¶¶ 43-45. She further contends that defendant subjected her to "a hostile/harassing work environment[.]" Id. at ¶ 44.

Specifically, plaintiff alleges that defendant's failure to promote her beyond grade 14 is a prima facie case of age, national origin and gender discrimination.*fn4 Compl.,at ¶¶ 106-109 & n.5. Plaintiff also expresses dissatisfaction with her office space, which she further alleges in support of her age, national origin and gender discrimination claims. Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment [#26] ("Pl.'s Memo"), at 10.

With regard to her retaliation claim*fn5 , plaintiff alleges that she was forced to perform grade 7 level work, which she describes as "a humiliating ordeal . . . ." Compl.,at ¶¶ 206-213. Also in furtherance of her retaliation claim, plaintiff alleges that Treasury Inspectors General Jeffery Rush Jr. and Dennis Schindel made comments in public forums which she "found, and still find[s], . . . to be extremely oppressive, threatening, and intimidating[.]" Id.

And with regard to her conspiracy claim, plaintiff alleges the following:

In [] regards to conspiracy, I claim that, [] the U.S. Attorney has defended and is defending the Secretary of the Treasury in my three civil actions and as such has access to all my submittals in my three civil actions, that the U.S. Attorney has been aware of and is aware of indisputable evidence in support of my claims to a long-term pattern of discrimination, retaliation, disparate treatment, and a hostile/harassing work environment; and has been aware of and is aware of sufficient direct and circumstantial evidence of conspiracy by officials of the United States government being committed against me.

Compl., at ¶¶ 260-266 (emphasis added).

On March 16, 2005, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") issued a decision denying plaintiff's administrative claim. Id. at ¶¶ 34-37; see generally Plainitff's Exhibit A. Following the denial, which exhausted plainitff's administrative remedies*fn6 , she brought legal action in this Court. Compl., at ¶¶ 37-39.

LEGAL STANDARD

I. Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted should be denied "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99 (1957). Such a motion "necessitates a ruling on the merits of the claim[.]" Mortensen v. First Federal Sav. & Loan Asso., 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977). All of the plaintiff's factual allegations are accepted as true and all inferences are drawn in the plainitff's favor. Id. "If the court considers matters outside the pleadings before it in a 12(b)(6) motion, the above procedure will automatically be converted into a Rule 56 summary judgment procedure." Id. (citing 5 C. Wright and A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1350 (1969) (emphasis added)). A court "will not accept unsupported conclusions, unwarranted inferences, or sweeping legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegation" when addressing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Kelley v. Edison Twp., 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 23510, at *15 (D.N.J. April 25, 2006) (citation omitted).

II. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Upon considering a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, "no presumptive truthfulness attaches to plaintiff's allegations, and the existence of disputed material facts will not preclude the trial court from evaluating for itself the merits of jurisdictional claims." Mortensen, 549 F.2d at 891 n.16 (citing Gibbs v. Buck, 307 U.S. 66, 71-72, 59 S.Ct. 725 (1939) (other citations omitted)). The motion rests on the legal insufficiency of a claim and may be granted only if the claim "clearly appears to be immaterial and made solely for the purpose of obtaining jurisdiction or . . . is wholly insubstantial and frivolous." Gould Elecs., Inc. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000).

III. Motion for Summary Judgment

Just as when reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, when reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the record is viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Bryant v. Bell Atlantic Md., Inc., 288 F.3d 124, 132 (4th Cir. 2002). A court should not grant a summary judgment motion unless "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with any affidavits or declarations, show 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." Duncan v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., 425 F. Supp. 2d 121, 125 (D.D.C. 2006) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56) (emphasis added). "Material facts are those that 'might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.'" Id. (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (1986)). "[T]he non-moving party cannot rely on 'mere allegations or denials . . ., but . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there [are] genuine issues for trial.'" Worth v. Jackson, 377 F. Supp. 2d 177, 180-81 (D.D.C. 2005) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248) (alterations in original).

IV. Wider Latitude Afforded Pro Se Plaintiffs

Courts are guided by the principle that pro se plaintiffs are usually subjected to less exacting standards than plaintiffs who are represented by attorneys. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594 (1972). "[D]istrict courts have . . . strong incentives for ensuring adequate representation for pro se plaintiffs."*fn7 Ficken v. Alvarez, 331 U.S. App. D.C. 37, 146 F.3d 978, 981 (D.C. Cir. 1998). However, this enduring legal principal does not relieve an unrepresented plaintiff of the burden of establishing her prima facie case. See, e.g., Moore v. Agency for Int'l Dev., 301 U.S. App. D.C. 327, 994 F.2d 874, 876 (D.C. Cir. 1993).

ANALYSIS

I. Alleged Administrative Errors

Plaintiff devotes a sizeable portion of her Opposition to discussing what she believes to be errors of omission and commission made by adjudicators and defense counsel at the administrative phase of her case. See Pl.'s Opp., at 5; Pl.'s Memo, at 3. However, the Court expresses no opinion on the matter because plaintiff is entitled to "a de novo 'civil action' equivalent to that enjoyed by private-sector employees." Contreras v. Ridge, 305 F. Supp. 2d 126, 131 (D.D.C. 2004) (quoting Chandler v. Roudebush, 425 U.S. 840, 863, 96 S.Ct. 1949 (1976) (other citations omitted)). In other words, "'the court's inquiry is not limited to or constricted by the administrative record, nor is any deference due the agency's conclusion.'" Id. (quoting Doe v. United States, 261 U.S. App. D.C. 206, 821 F.2d 694, 697-98 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (other citation omitted)). Accordingly, the Court will not address the alleged administrative errors because they have no impact on its disposition of defendant's Motion.

II. Conspiracy Claim

The Court next considers plaintiff's conspiracy claim. Defendant argues that the claim should be dismissed because "18 U.S.C. § 241[,] which addresses civil rights criminal conspiracy violations[,] does not give rise to a private right of action." Def.'s Memo, at 15 (citing Cok v. Cosentino, 876 F.2d 1, 2 (1st Cir.1989); Risley v. Hawk, 918 F. Supp. 18, 21 (D.D.C. 1996)). Defendant also argues that plaintiff cannot legally sustain her conspiracy claim under the federal civil rights statutes. Id. In response, plaintiff argues "that she has provided sufficient indisputable evidence such that the Court should refer ...


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