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Sataki v. Broadcasting Board of Governors

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA


October 22, 2010

ELHAM SATAKI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BROADCASTING BOARD OF GOVERNORS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This action stems from allegations that Plaintiff was sexually harassed and assaulted by a co-worker at the Persian News Network and that her employer, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (the "BBG"), as well as several members and employees of the BBG, unlawfully facilitated the alleged sexual harassment, actively attempted to cover up the incidents of harassment, interfered with the investigation of her administrative complaint, and retaliated against her for complaining about her co-worker's harassing conduct as well as for criticizing BBG's management and mission.*fn1 Plaintiff also asserts that Defendants denied her request for a reasonable medical accommodation in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §§ 701 et seq., and failed to timely produce records requested by Plaintiff in violation of the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. §§ 552a et seq. Presently before the Court is Defendants' [45] Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff has failed to oppose or otherwise respond to Defendants' Motion. Accordingly, for the reasons set forth below, the Court shall GRANT-IN-PART Defendants' [45] Motion as conceded with respect to Count VI, and DENY-IN-PART Defendant's Motion as moot with respect to Counts I, II, III, IV, and V, which Plaintiff has already voluntarily dismissed from this action.

I. BACKGROUND*fn2

In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts seven separate claims in connection with her employment with the BBG. See Am. Compl., Docket No. [35]. Those claims may be briefly summarized as follows:

* COUNT I--FIRST AMENDMENT CLAIM.Plaintiff alleges that Defendants infringed her right to free speech in violation of the First Amendment by retaliating against her for her personal political views, her criticism of Voice of America management and failure to adhere to its mission to promote freedom in Iran, and other unspecified speech (the "First Amendment Claim"). Id. ¶¶ 10-12.*fn3

* COUNT II--FIFTH AMENDMENT CLAIM.Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated her Fifth Amendment right to due process by "covering up and deny[ing] her relief for sexual harassment," "retaliating against her to try and keep her quiet, destroy her mentally and physically and to force her out," and by tampering with, intimidating, and obstructing material witnesses to the alleged sexual harassment (the "Fifth Amendment Claim"). Id. ¶¶ 13-15.

* COUNT III--FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT CLAIM. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants impermissibly discriminated against her on the basis of her gender and national origin, facilitated the acts of sexual harassment, and retaliated against her for exercising her constitutional rights in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause (the "Fourteenth Amendment Claim"). Id. ¶¶ 16-18.

* COUNT IV--FOURTH AMENDMENT CLAIM. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated her Fourth Amendment right to be secure in her person and property by allowing her co-worker to assault and sexually harass her and by unlawfully "confiscating" her paychecks (the "Fourth Amendment Claim"). Id. ¶¶ 19-22.

* COUNT V--REHABILITATION ACT CLAIM.Plaintiff alleges that Defendants denied her request for a reasonable medical accommodation to be detailed to the Voice of America Los Angeles office in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §§ 701 et seq. (the "Rehabilitation Act Claim"). Id. ¶¶ 23-28.

* COUNT VI--PRIVACY ACT CLAIM. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants failed to timely produce records she requested in violation of the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a et seq. (the "Privacy Act Claim"). Id. ¶¶ 28-31.

* COUNT VII--WAGNERINJUNCTIVE RELIEF. Plaintiff alleges that she is entitled to interim injunctive relief during the pendency of an administrative proceeding and this litigation under Wagner v. Taylor, 836 F.2d 566 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (the "Wagner Injunctive Relief"). Id. ¶¶ 31-33.

Early in this action, Plaintiff filed a Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction. See Docket No. [11]. By Memorandum Opinion and Order dated June 1, 2010, this Court denied Plaintiff's request for a temporary restraining order. See Sataki v. Broad. Bd. of Governors, __ F. Supp. 2d __, 2010 WL 2195799 (D.D.C. June 1, 2010). By Memorandum Opinion and Order dated July 7, 2010, the Court also denied Plaintiff's request for a preliminary injunction. See Sataki v. Broad. Bd. of Governors, __ F. Supp. 2d __, 2010 WL 2679901 (D.D.C. July 7, 2010). In the course of rendering these two decisions, the Court held, inter alia, that Plaintiff was not entitled to Wagner Injunctive Relief because Plaintiff failed to show irreparable harm, a substantial likelihood of success on the merits, or the balance of the equities in her favor, and because the relief she sought would in fact alter, rather than preserve, the status quo. Id. at *15-24. Significantly, Plaintiff did notappeal the Court's decision denying her request for preliminary relief.

Thereafter, on June 15, 2010, Defendants moved to dismiss five of the seven claims in this action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and (b)(6);*fn4 Defendants simultaneously moved for summary judgment on a sixth claim -- i.e., Plaintiff's Privacy Act Claim (Count VI). See Defs.' Notice of Mot. to Dismiss or in the Alternative for Summ. J., Docket No. [45], at 1-2. With respect to the Privacy Act Claim, Defendants asserted that Plaintiff could not recover under the Privacy Act because she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies by bringing suit prior to a final determination and without first filing an administrative appeal. See Defs.' Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss or in the Alternative for Summ. J., Docket No. [45], at 17-18. Defendants also argued that Plaintiff's request for certain records actually fell under the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 552 et seq., and Plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies under that statute as well. See id. at 18-21.

On July 14, 2010, Plaintiff moved for a two-week extension of time to respond to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. See Pl.'s Mot. for Extension, Docket No. [64]. By Minute Order, Defendant was granted an extension to and including July 28, 2010 to file her opposition papers. See July 27, 2010 Min. Order. However, Plaintiff, who is represented by counsel in this action, failed to file any response by July 28, 2010, or at any time thereafter. As of the date of this Memorandum Opinion and the accompanying Order, the docket reflects that no response has been filed by Plaintiff.

Instead of filing an opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed without prejudice five of the seven claims asserted in the Amended Complaint. See Pl.'s Notice of Voluntary Dismissal of Certain Counts Without Prejudice, Docket No. [67]; Pl.'s Errata to Correct Notice of Voluntary Dismissal, Docket No. [68]. Specifically, Plaintiff dismissed her First Amendment Claim (Count I), her Fifth Amendment Claim (Count II), her Fourteenth Amendment Claim (Count III), her Fourth Amendment Claim (Count IV), and her Rehabilitation Act Claim (Count V), leaving as open "claims" in this action only Plaintiff's Privacy Act Claim (Count VI) and her request for Wagner Injunctive Relief (Count VII).*fn5 Id.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Under Local Civil Rule LCvR 7(b), if a party fails to file a memorandum of points and authorities in opposition to a motion "within the prescribed time, the Court may treat the motion as conceded." See also Twelve John Does v. Dist. of Columbia, 117 F.3d 571, 577 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (a district court may in its discretion "rel[y] on the absence of a response as a basis for treating [a] motion as conceded"). The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has explained that this rule "is a docket-management tool that facilitates efficient and effective resolution of motions by requiring the prompt joining of issues." Fox v. Am. Airlines, 389 F.3d 1291, 1294 (D.C. Cir. 2004). The decision of whether to enforce the rule "lies wholly with the district court." Fed. Deposit Ins. Co. v. Bender, 127 F.3d 58, 68 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (reviewing a predecessor to Local Civil Rule LCvR 7(b)).

III. DISCUSSION

On July 14, 2010, Plaintiff moved for a two-week extension of time to respond to Defendants' Motion, see Pl.'s Mot. for Extension, Docket No. [64], and the Court granted Plaintiff an extension to and including July 28, 2010, see July 27, 2010 Min. Order. Nevertheless, Plaintiff, who is represented by counsel in this action, failed to file any response by the designated date, or indeed, at any time thereafter. Now, almost three months later, the docket reflects that no response has been filed by Plaintiff. Defendants' Motion has been outstanding for over four months.*fn6

Accordingly, pursuant to Local Civil Rule LCvR 7(b), the Court shall GRANT-IN-PART Defendants' [45] Motion as conceded with respect to Count VI, and DENY-IN-PART Defendant's Motion as moot with respect to Counts I, II, III, IV, and V, which Plaintiff has voluntarily dismissed from this action in the time since Defendants first filed their motion. Additionally, because the only remaining "claim" in this action relates to Plaintiff's request for Wagner Injunctive Relief (Count VII), and because the Court denied that request on July 7, 2010 -- a decision Plaintiff elected not to appeal -- there are no viable claims remaining in this action. Therefore, this action shall be DISMISSED in its entirety and administratively closed.

An appropriate Order accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.


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