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Woodruff v. McPhie

January 23, 2009

PHILLIP S. WOODRUFF, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEIL MCPHIE, CHAIRMAN, U.S. MERIT SYSTEMS PROTECTION BOARD, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reggie B. Walton United States District Judge

Memorandum Opinion

Phillip S. Woodruff ("the plaintiff") brought this pro se lawsuit against the Chairman ("the defendant") of the United States Merit Systems Protection Board's (the "Board") Office of Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO Office") claiming that the EEO Office improperly dismissed his administrative complaint on venue grounds and his employment status. Complaint ("Compl.") ¶¶ 1-2. The defendant now seeks dismissal of this action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), Defendant's Motion to Dismiss ("Def.'s Mot."), which is challenged by the plaintiff. Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and Motion to Dismiss Defendant's Motion to Dismiss as Untimely Filed ("Pl.'s Opp'n"). Upon consideration of the parties' submissions, the Court will grant the defendant's motion to dismiss.

I. Background

The plaintiff was formerly employed by the Department of Transportation's ("Department") Federal Aviation Administration as a Supervisory Public Affairs Specialist. Def.'s Mot., Exhibit ("Ex.") 1 ("Board Appeal") at 1.*fn1 His employment was terminated on June 30, 2005. Id. at 2. Following the plaintiff's termination, he filed an administrative appeal with the Board's Washington Regional Office alleging age and disability discrimination and retaliation by the Department. Id. On September 22, 2005, the plaintiff and the Department entered into a settlement agreement resolving the plaintiff's Board appeal. Id., Ex. 2 ("Board's Initial Decision") at 1. However, shortly thereafter, the plaintiff filed a Petition for Review ("Petition") with the Board requesting that the Initial Decision settling his administrative appeal be vacated because the administrative law judge overseeing the settlement had: (1) denied his request for accommodations for his disabilities; (2) failed to rule on pending motions; (3) engaged in ex parte communications; (4) improperly considered current EEO laws and the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (the "OW Act"); and (5) coerced him into signing the settlement agreement without giving him adequate time to review it. Id., Ex. 3 ("Board Petition") at 1-2; Compl. at 1. The Board subsequently denied the plaintiff's Petition, concluding, inter alia, that the administrative law judge "made no error in law or regulation that affec[ted] the outcome" of the case. Def.'s Mot., Ex. 4 ("Board's Final Order") at 1-2. On April 14, 2006, the plaintiff filed a petition for judicial review with the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; however, the plaintiff withdrew that appeal on August 24, 2006. See Woodruff v. Dep't of Transp., 197 F. App'x 929, 929 (Fed. Cir. 2006).

While the plaintiff's Petition was still pending before the Board, the plaintiff contacted the defendant's EEO office and filed a formal complaint of discrimination against the administrative law judge citing the same reasons set forth in his Petition. Def.'s Mot., Ex. 5 ("Formal EEO Complaint"). The Board's EEO office subsequently issued a decision dismissing the plaintiff's formal EEO complaint for failure to state a claim and for an improper collateral attack on the Board's adjudicatory process. Id., Ex. 6 ("Dismissal of Formal EEO Complaint") at 1. Ultimately, on April 14, 2006, the plaintiff filed his judicial complaint with this Court against the Board's Chairman for failing to review and investigate the plaintiff's discrimination allegations against the Board's administrative law judge. The defendant has now moved for dismissal of the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

II. Standard of Review

Dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is proper if a plaintiff's complaint does not "state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Under this rule, a plaintiff need not allege specific details that prove the veracity of a claim; rather, a properly pleaded complaint only need contain a clear and concise statement of the claim sufficient to place a defendant on "notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957). However, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief [in his complaint] requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do . . . ." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, ___,127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (internal quotation marks and brackets omitted). In evaluating a motion to dismiss, the Court "must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint," Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, ___, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (per curiam) (citations omitted), and "grant [the] plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences from the facts alleged . . . ." Trudeau v. Fed. Trade Comm'n, 456 F.3d 178, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (citation omitted). On the other hand, the Court need not accept inferences that are unsupported by the facts set forth in the complaint or "legal conclusion[s] couched as . . . factual allegation[s] . . . ." Id. (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). However, "[a] court may dismiss a complaint only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002) (quoting Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984)). Finally, for the purposes of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court may consider only the facts alleged in the complaint, any documents attached as exhibits, and matters about which the Court may take judicial notice. EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C. Cir. 1997). (citations omitted).

III. Legal Analysis

A. The Plaintiff's Motion to Dismiss

As an initial matter, the Court must address the plaintiff's argument that the defendant's motion to dismiss must be denied as untimely. The plaintiff contends in his motion to dismiss that the defendant's first request for an extension of time, filed on August 21, 2006, was untimely as it was filed 61 days after the filing of the complaint. Pl.'s Opp'n at 1. Additionally, the plaintiff raises concerns that he was not contacted by the defendant before the first request for an extension of time was filed, that his opposition to the first extension was not docketed in a timely fashion, and that he was never given the opportunity to respond to the defendant's second request for an extension of time. Id. at 1-2. The defendant has not responded to this motion.

Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a "United States officer or employee sued only in an official capacity must serve an answer to a complaint . . . within 60 days after service on the United States attorney." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a)(2). When, as here, the last day of this period falls on a Sunday, "the period runs until the end of the next day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, legal holiday, or day when the clerk's office is inaccessible." Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(a)(3). Thus, the defendant's response was not due until Monday, August 21, 2006.*fn2 Accordingly, the plaintiff's argument that the defendant's motion for extension of time was untimely filed is without merit.

The plaintiff's remaining arguments in his motion to dismiss center around the defendant's purported failure to follow the general requirements that an attempt be made to contact opposing counsel (or an opposing party) before requesting from the Court an extension of time to file a responsive motion to the plaintiff's complaint. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(b)(1) addresses the extension of filing requirements, stating "the court may, for good cause, extend the time: (A) with or without motion or notice if the court acts, or if a request is made, before the original time or its extension expires." Fed. R. Civ. P. 6(b)(1). The Court therefore has discretion to grant timely requests for extensions and did so here by entering a minute order granting the defendant's timely requests for two extensions of time. Accordingly, the Court will deny the plaintiff's motion to dismiss the defendant's dismissal motion on the ground that it was filed untimely.

B. The Defendant's Motion to Dismiss

(1) Is the plaintiff precluded from initiating action against the Board under ...


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