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Alfred L. Stone v. Joseph P Walsh

December 6, 2010


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


In this civil action brought pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the plaintiff alleges that the District of Columbia, through its Department of Employment Services ("DOES"), terminated his unemployment benefits without due process of law. He names as defendants the DOES and its director, Joseph P. Walsh, Jr. The defendants move to dismiss this action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(5)*fn1 and (b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure [Dkt. No. 9]. In his response to the defendants' motion, the plaintiff moves for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 [Dkt. Nos. 19, 20]. Upon consideration of the parties' submissions and the entire record, the Court will grant the defendants' motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) and will deny the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.


The allegations in the complaint are as follows. "[O]n or about November 13th, 2007, Plaintiff was laid off from employment as a plumber with A-Advance LLC, d.b.a. John G. Webster Company [("A-Advance")], located [in] Beltsville [Maryland]." Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief from Unemployment Statute Violative of Due Process; Denial of Benefits Without Opportunity for Prior Administrative Hearing Before Denying Benefits and Declaring Benefits Were Wrongfully Received and Payment Was Due ("Compl.") at 3. In November 2007, the plaintiff applied for unemployment benefits with the DOES, was deemed eligible to receive them and collected weekly benefits until May 2008, "when the funds were exhausted." Id. at 3-4. In July 2008, the DOES notified the plaintiff in writing that he qualified for an additional twelve weeks of benefits, which he collected until his return to work "on or about August 2nd, 2008." Id. at 4. In October 2008, the plaintiff represents that "his employer[,] SOJAM," "ordered [him] not to return to work . . . because of a dispute . . . over the payment of a shift premium for a new assignment." Id. He applied again for unemployment benefits but SOJAM contested payments "because they . . . alleged the Plaintiff left his employment voluntarily." Id. The plaintiff successfully appealed to the DOES, which "paid the claim." Id.

In December 2008, a DOES employee "contacted the Plaintiff by telephone [] and . . . represented that it had been determined that he . . . was ineligible for unemployment compensation benefits in the District of Columbia [] because [] the claim should have been filed in Maryland. Id. at 4-5. On July 15, 2009, the State of Maryland denied the plaintiff's claim as to SOJAM under Maryland law, and advised him of his right to appeal the decision to "the Circuit Court for Baltimore City or one of the Circuit Courts in a county in Maryland. Id. at 5; see Plaintiff's Response to the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss; and, Plaintiff's Motion Seeking Summary Judgment ("Pl.'s Resp.") [Dkt. No. 19], Exhibit ("Ex.") C (Decision of the State of Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation). "[O]n or about January 23rd, 2009," the plaintiff "received a second written determination [from the DOES] representing that an overpayment had occurred . . . for the period [between] July 12, 2008 [and] August 2nd, 2008; and, payment was demanded . . . in the amount of $1,436." Compl. at 5; Pl.'s Resp., Ex. B (Notice of Determination of Overpayment). On February 7, 2009, the plaintiff appealed the overpayment determination to the "Unemployment Appeals Board," Pl.'s Resp., Ex. B, but the DOES "refused or failed to schedule a hearing date for the appeal of their determination." Compl. at 5. "[O]n or about March 31st, 2009," the plaintiff "received a third determination" concerning the overpayment and a demand for $6,462. Id.

The plaintiff filed this civil action on December 14, 2009. He seeks "[a] timely, adequate notice detailing reasons for the proposed termination of his benefits and setting forth his right to retain an attorney . . . [,a]n opportunity for a prior evidentiary hearing [with the] opportunity to confront and cross examine adverse parties and witnesses", and a written decision. Compl. at 9.


I. Standards of Review

A court may dismiss a complaint on the ground that it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if, assuming the facts as alleged by the plaintiff to be true and drawing all inferences in the plaintiff's favor, it appears that the plaintiff can prove no facts "consistent with the allegations in the complaint" to support the claim. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 563 (2007) (citations omitted). Courts will grant a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 if "the pleadings . . . and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2). A fact is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the case under the substantive governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When ruling on a Rule 56(c) motion, the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d 889, 895 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (citing Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000)).

II. Legal Analysis

1. The Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment

The plaintiff asserts that he is entitled to summary judgment because "[t]he Defendant's motion is predicated upon evidence that was fabricated; [Def's Ex. 3] thereby, it was submitted to commit a fraud upon the Court." Pl.'s Resp. at 1. The exhibit to which the plaintiff refers is the DOES' "Notice of Determination of Overpayment" dated January 28, 2009. Unlike the plaintiff's proffered overpayment notice of that same date covering pay periods from July 12, 2008 to August 2, 2008, Pl.'s Resp. Ex. B, the defendants' exhibit covers pay periods from October 18, 2008 to January 17, 2009, and the overpayment amount is $5,026. The plaintiff claims that "[t]he fabricated overpayment notice was never sent to [him] prior to April 2nd, 2010." Id. He thus concludes that "[t]he evidence was fabricated to prejudice and mislead the Court about the nature of the claims in the Plaintiff's complaint" and, therefore, is inadmissible. Id.; see also id at 3-4 (¶ 6 of Pl.'s Facts Not in Dispute).

The defendants dispute the fabrication charge but also contend that the disputed document is not material because the "[p]laintiff has admitted that he received a notice that instructed him to file any appeal of the DOES determination with the Office of Administrative Hearings ("OAH")][.]" Defendants' Response to Plaintiff's " 'Facts Not in Dispute' " [Dkt. No. 23] ΒΆ 6. The record supports, if anything, an inadvertent omission. The overpayment amount of $1,436 listed in the plaintiff's exhibit and that of $5,026 listed in the defendants' exhibit equal $6,462, which is the overpayment amount the plaintiff alleges is listed in a third notice he received on March 31, 2009, Compl. at 5, which neither party has supplied to the Court. In any event, the information relevant to the due process claim discussed later appears in both the challenged exhibit and the plaintiff's exhibit. Thus, even if the defendants' exhibit is proven to be ...

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