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Miniter v. Moon

September 7, 2010

RICHARD MINITER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SUN MYUNG MOON ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

Re Document Nos. 4, 10, 15

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GRANTING JENKINS AND SLEVIN'S MOTION TO DISMISS; DENYING THE WASHINGTON TIMES'MOTION TO DISMISS COUNTS ONE AND TWO OF THE COMPLAINT;DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE THE WASHINGTON TIMES'S MOTION IN THE ALTERNATIVE FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT;DENYING AS MOOT JENKINS AND SLEVIN'S MOTION FOR AN EXTENSION OF TIME TO FILE A REPLY

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on the motion to dismiss filed by defendants Sonya Jenkins and Jonathan Slevin's and defendant the Washington Times, LLC's ("the Washington Times" or "the Times") motion to dismiss counts one and two of the complaint or in the alternative for summary judgment. The motions to dismiss are filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and allege that the plaintiff failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted. For the reasons discussed below, the court grants Jenkins and Slevin's motion to dismiss, denies the Washington Times's motion to dismiss count one of the complaint, grants the Washington Times's motion to dismiss count two of the complaint and denies without prejudice the Washington Times's motion for summary judgment.*fn1

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND*fn2

In October 2008 the plaintiff began working for the Washington Times as a consultant to the Times's former President and Publisher, Thomas McDevitt. Compl. ¶¶ 18, 23. During the term of the plaintiff's employment as a consultant the newspaper began the process of hiring an Editorial Page Editor. Id. ¶ 41. The plaintiff applied for the position and proceeded through the Times's hiring process, which included interviews with McDevitt and defendant Sonya Jenkins, the Times's Vice President of Human Resources. Id. ¶¶ 43-44.

In February 2009, the plaintiff was hired by the Times as the Editorial Page Editor and Vice President of Opinion. Id. ¶ 45. The Times added the plaintiff's name to the newspaper's masthead and published a front-page article announcing his hiring, id. ¶¶ 47, 50. The Times paid the plaintiff an annual salary of $225,000, a $5,000 signing bonus and other benefits. Id. ¶¶ 46, 49.

During the spring of 2009, Jenkins approached the plaintiff on several occasions and asked him to sign a document attesting that Jenkins's son resided at the plaintiff's address so that her son could continue to attend an elementary school in the county in which the plaintiff resided. Id. ¶ 55. The plaintiff rejected each request, but alleges that Jenkins's persistence caused him "emotional and physical distress, including chest pain, headaches and back and stomach pain."*fn3 Id. Moreover, the plaintiff feared retaliation for refusing Jenkins's persistent requests. Id.

In June 2009, Jenkins informed the plaintiff that she had found someone else to sign the form. Id. ¶ 57. Shortly thereafter, Jenkins began an investigation into the plaintiff's "management style." Id. ¶ 58. The plaintiff states that even though the initial investigation produced largely favorable results, Jenkins launched a second investigation without cause and, together with McDevitt, ordered the plaintiff to work from home. Id. ¶¶ 59-60, 62. The plaintiff was instructed not to contact any of the employees in his department during his absence. Id. ¶¶ 60, 62.

In early September 2009, Jenkins contacted the plaintiff and proposed a new employment contract that would alter the plaintiff's responsibilities and lower his pay substantially while he worked from home. Id. ¶ 66. On September 22, 2009, Jenkins notified the plaintiff that if he did not agree to the new contract, the Times would stop paying his salary. Id. ¶ 67. The plaintiff did not agree to the new contract, and the Times stopped paying him effective September 22, 2009. Id. ¶¶ 67-68. The Times, however, left the plaintiff's name on the newspaper's masthead until November 23, 2009. Id. ¶ 68.

On December 8, 2009, the plaintiff filed suit alleging breach of contract, promissory estoppel, intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED"), false light, unfair trade practices and violations of the Lanham Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1125 et seq. The plaintiff named the following individuals and entities as defendants: Sun Myung Moon; Unification Church International; News World Communications, LLC of Delaware; News World Communications, Inc.; One Up Enterprises, Inc.; Preston Moon; the Washington Times; Beth Wolffe and the Wolffe Law Firm; Jonathan Slevin*fn4; and Sonya Jenkins. Id. ¶¶ 4, 6-9.*fn5

On December 15, 2009, defendants Jenkins, Slevin, Wolffe and the Wolffe Law Firm filed a motion to dismiss. Mot. to Dismiss Pl.'s Claims Against the Individual Defs. and the Wolffe Law Firm ("Defs.' Mot."). On December 30, 2009, defendant the Washington Times filed a motion to dismiss counts one and two of the complaint or, alternatively, for summary judgment on those counts.*fn6 Def. Washington Times's Mot. to Dismiss ("Times's Mot.").

The plaintiff subsequently filed "Notices of Voluntary Dismissal of Certain Defendants," dismissing without prejudice his claims against Sun Myung Moon, Preston Moon, Unification Church International, One Up Enterprises, News World Communications, LLC of Delaware, News World Communications, Inc., Beth Wolffe and the Wolffe Law Firm.*fn7 See generally Pl.'s Notices of Voluntary Dismissal. With the ...


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