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Washington v. Dist. of Columbia

March 18, 2008

CYNTHIA WASHINGTON ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

Document Nos. 5, 12

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GRANTING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS; DENYING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE A SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT

I. INTRODUCTION

This case concerns a prison break, mass personnel terminations, mass personnel reinstatements and the various efforts undertaken by the defendant*fn1 (the District of Columbia) and the plaintiffs (D.C. Jail security officers) to enlist this court in a tug-of-war over the right of the D.C. Department of Corrections ("DOC") to subject its employees to a second round of disciplinary review and firings after an administrative appeals board found the preliminary round deficient. Because administrative review of these events has not concluded but in fact continues in the pertinent D.C. agencies, the facts before the court are undeveloped, the issues unripe and the suit as a whole is untimely. In other words, the plaintiffs have failed to exhaust their administrative remedies for challenging their terminations under applicable D.C. law. Both their constitutional due process claims and their common-law tort claims are based on events properly remedied in the first instance through the procedures dictated by D.C.'s Comprehensive Merit Protection Act ("CMPA"), D.C. Code §§1-601.1 et seq. Because this case is not properly before it, the court grants the defendant's motion to dismiss. Because the plaintiffs' pending motion for leave to file a second amended complaint would not cure any of the deficiencies cited herein, the court denies it.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Factual History

On June 3, 2006, two inmates escaped from the D.C. Jail. Am. Compl. ¶ 3. They were recaptured without incident the next day. Id. ¶ 6. The day after their capture, DOC Director Devon Brown issued written notification to twelve D.C. Jail employees, including the plaintiffs, placing them on paid administrative leave pending further investigation of the escape. Id. On July 20, 2006, the DOC Office of Internal Affairs ("OIA") released the report of its investigation, which determined that the plaintiffs' neglect of their duties and intentional conduct had contributed to the escape. Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss at 5. On July 26, 2006, at a press briefing Director Brown announced the summary firings of the plaintiffs for dereliction of duty. Am. Compl. ¶ 9. The plaintiffs were not apprised of this decision in advance. Id. ¶ 9. On the same day as the terminations, D.C. officials amended the District of Columbia Personnel Manual ("DCPM") to extend the deadline for sending written notification to summarily terminated D.C. employees from three days to thirty days. Id. ¶ 12. On July 28, 2006, the scope of the amendment was broadened, resulting in its application to one of the plaintiffs. Id. ¶ 13.

The plaintiffs did not receive formal notice of their terminations until August 1, 2006. Id. ¶ 15. On August 24, 2006, they received more comprehensive written notices, instructing them that an administrative review would be conducted by the Office of Administrative Hearings ("OAH"). Id. ¶ 15. Director Brown and the OAH then entered into a memorandum of understanding to effectuate the procedures described in the August 24, 2006 notices and to assure the plaintiffs that "administrative proceedings are held by a body that is independent of the DOC." Id. ¶ 16. The DCPM requires that a final decision on summary removal be issued within 45 days of the delivery of a summary removal notice. Id. ¶ 17. To afford the OAH adequate time to reach a decision, this deadline was extended to December 15, 2006. Id. ¶ 21. 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. ¶ 21. On January 9, 2007, Director Brown submitted remand notices, directing the OAH to reconsider its decision. Id. ¶ 22. On March 2, 2007, OAH affirmed its conclusions. Id. ¶ 23. On March 16, 2007, Director Brown rescinded the summary removals but replaced them with 20-day non-summary termination notices predicated on the same allegations of misconduct and negligence. Id. ¶ 28.

B. Procedural History

The plaintiffs filed a complaint with this court on June 8, 2007. The complaint challenges the procedures by which the plaintiffs were initially terminated, then reinstated, and finally placed on leave pending termination. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1-31. Specifically, the plaintiffs bring claims of Fifth Amendment due process violations, defamation and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Id. ¶¶ 32-52. On July 31, 2007, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss. On August 28, 2007, the plaintiffs filed a motion for partial summary judgment, even though discovery had not yet commenced. Then, on September 18, 2007, the plaintiffs filed a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. 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 disciplinary review, had recommended the plaintiffs' removal. Pls.' Mot. for Prelim. Inj. 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. On January 11, 2008, the court denied the request for a preliminary injunction to reinstate the plaintiffs. Order (Jan. 11, 2008). The court now devotes its full attention to the defendant's motion to dismiss.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). The complaint need only set forth a short and plain statement of the claim, giving the defendant fair notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Kingman Park Civic Ass'n v. Williams, 348 F.3d 1033, 1040(D.C. Cir. 2003) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2) and Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). "Such simplified notice pleading is made possible by the liberal opportunity for discovery and the other pre-trial procedures established by the Rules to disclose more precisely the basis of both claim and defense to define more narrowly the disputed facts and issues." Conley, 355 U.S. at 47-48 (internal quotation marks omitted). It is not necessary for the plaintiff to plead all elements of his prima facie case in the complaint, ...


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