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Washington v. Dist. of Columbia

January 11, 2008


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

Document No. 19




Today presents the question of whether a party may lose his job before his day in court. The plaintiffs, employees suspended with pay from the D.C. Department of Corrections ("DOC"), request that the court issue a preliminary injunction ordering the defendant*fn1 , the District of Columbia, not to terminate the plaintiffs' employment while their civil suit, challenging the constitutionality of ongoing disciplinary procedures, is pending in this court. The defendant, mindful of its personnel prerogatives, opposes such relief. In weighing the equities of a preliminary injunction the court, like the performer in a high-wire act, walks a fine line, balancing doubt against danger. Both tip against the movant here: the probabilities of success do not roll in the plaintiffs' favor and the prospect of irreparable injury has no clear definition. The court, therefore, cannot grant preliminary injunctive relief -- better to abide awhile and proceed after a sustained scrutiny rather than a hurried glance. The motion is denied, with special reference reserved to Justice Frankfurter's reflection that: "Mere speed is not a test of justice.

Deliberate speed is. Deliberate speed takes time. But it is time well spent."*fn2


A. Factual History

On June 3, 2006, two inmates escaped from the D.C. Jail. Pls.' Mot. for Prelim. Inj. ("Pls.' Mot.") at 2. They were recaptured without incident the next day. First Am. Compl. ¶ 6. The day after their capture, DOC Director Devon Brown issued written notification to twelve D.C. Jail employees, including the plaintiffs, putting them on paid administrative leave pending further investigation of the escape. Id. On July 26, 2006, at a press briefing Director Brown announced the summary firings of the plaintiffs for dereliction of duty. Id. ¶ 9. On August 1, 2006, the plaintiffs received written notice of their terminations, and on August 24, 2006, they learned that an administrative review would be conducted by the Office of Administrative Hearings ("OAH"). Pls.' Mot. at 5. On December 11, 2006, the OAH issued a report and recommendation concluding that the summary removals could not be sustained and recommending that the plaintiffs be reinstated. Id. On March 2, 2007, after a request from Director Brown for reconsideration, OAH affirmed its conclusions. Id. On March 16, 2007, Director Brown rescinded the summary removals but replaced them with non-summary termination notices predicated on the same allegations of misconduct and negligence. Id. at 6; Def.'s Opp'n to Pls.' Mot. for Prelim. Inj. ("Def.'s Opp'n") at 3.

B. Procedural History

The plaintiffs filed a complaint with this court on June 8, 2007. First Am. Compl. The complaint challenges the procedures by which the plaintiffs were initially terminated, then reinstated, and finally placed on leave pending termination. Id. ¶¶ 1-31. Specifically, the plaintiffs allege violations of their Fifth Amendment rights to Due Process, defamation and the intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Id. ¶¶ 32-52. On July 31, 2007, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss. And on August 28, 2007, the plaintiffs filed a motion for partial summary judgment. Those motions were under consideration when the court received an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order from the plaintiffs on December 20, 2007. The motion indicated that Dr. Henry Lesansky, the hearing officer supervising the plaintiffs' second round of administrative review, had recommended the plaintiffs' removal. Pls.' Mot. at 7. Director Brown adopted his recommendation and issued final notices of termination on December 14, 2007 that went into effect on December 17, 2007. Id. The parties reached a voluntary resolution to the motion for a temporary restraining order, and the court issued a consent order staying the terminations pending the disposition of the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction. Order (Dec. 21, 2007). The court now accords the motion its full consideration.


A. Legal Standard for Injunctive Relief

This court may issue interim injunctive relief only when the ...

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