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Ava Ramey v. U.S. Marshals Service

December 13, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: James S. Gwin, United States District Judge:


[Resolving Doc. Nos. 30, 31, 41]

In this Privacy Act and retaliation case over protected speech and union activity, Plaintiff Ava Ramey, a former Court Security Officer and local union president, brings claims against Defendant U.S. Marshals Service. Pending are cross motions for summary judgment. [Doc. 30; Doc. 31.] For the following reasons, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment and GRANTS the Defendant's motion for summary judgment on all Plaintiff's claims.1/

I. Background

In exercising its statutory responsibility to "provide for the security of" the federal courts, 28 U.S.C. § 566(a), Defendant U.S. Marshals Service contracts with private companies to employ Court Security Officers ("CSOs"). CSOs provide on-the-ground security at the courthouses-monitoring 1/ Because Plaintiff's Reply Brief to Defendant's Motion in Opposition of Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is twenty pages longer than allowed under Local Civil Rule 7(e), Plaintiff asks the Court for leave to extend the page limit. [Doc. 41.] Defendant opposes the motion and says Plaintiff's Reply Brief contains an exhibit which was not produced in discovery. [Doc. 42.] In granting Defendant's motion for summary judgment on all claims the Court considered Plaintiff's non-conforming Reply Brief and accompanying exhibits. The Court thereforedismisses as moot Plaintiff's motion for leave and Defendant's opposition.

Gwin, J. the doors, patrolling the grounds, and screening visitors, for example. For CSOs in the "Twelfth Circuit", which includes the District Court and the Superior Court in the District of Columbia, the U.S. Marshals Service contracts with MVM Inc, a private security staffing company. [Doc. 31 at 2.]

MVM employed Plaintiff Ava Ramey as a CSO under the Twelfth Circuit Contract until it fired her in 2006 after the U.S. Marshals determined that she had violated security protocol and performance standards. The U.S. Marshals ordered an investigation into Ramey after learning she had made an unsolicited visit to the Chief Judge of the Superior Court during one of his weekly open-chambers sessions. [Doc. 30 at 5.] Specifically, the Marshals asked MVM to investigate whether Ramey had improperly bypassed her reporting chain of command in meeting directly with the Chief Judge and also whether she had left her post unguarded to make the visit, a violation of security protocol. [Doc. 30 at As part of its investigation, MVM interviewed Plaintiff Ramey. [Doc. 30 at 6.] Ramey admitted she visited the Chief Judge and recounted the conversation as follows:

The first question that I told [the Chief Judge] that was a concern for me was that some judges did not want you to wear your issued weapon. The second question was that some judges wanted you to remove the weapon and equipment when walking them to the subway. The third question was that if [a CSO] made an arrest inside DC Superior Court, the only place to take them is the control room where all of the cameras are for the building and that would compromise security. [Doc. 31-18 at 2; Doc. 30-8 at 4.] Ramey also told the investigator that she visited the Chief Judge during her scheduled morning break, shortly after 10:00 am. [Doc. 36 at 12.] Security camera video, however, showed Ramey leaving her post around 9:00 am. [Doc. 30-2 at 63.]

MVM ultimately concluded that Ramey: (1) was not on an authorized break when she visited Gwin, J. the Chief Judge and had left her post unattended; (2) failed to follow the chain of command in speaking directly to the Chief Judge; and (3) had not been candid with MVM during its investigation. [Doc. 36 at 18; Doc. 30-2 at 57.] MVM submitted these findings to the U.S. Marshals, along with a disciplinary recommendation that Plaintiff be suspended for ten days. [Doc. 36 at 18.] However, the U.S. Marshals Service, which retained the ultimate authority to make suitability determinations, disagreed with MVM's recommendation. [Doc. 36 at 19.] Given the "serious nature" of Ramey's breach combined with her "previous documented infractions", the U.S. Marshals directed MVM to remove Plaintiff Ramey from performing services under the Twelfth Circuit Contract. [Doc. 36 at 19.] After Ramey refused a different assignment, MVM terminated her. [Doc. 36 at 3.]

Against this backdrop, Plaintiff brings three counts against the U.S. Marshals Service. First, she alleges that the Defendant directed MVM to remove her from the Twelfth Circuit Contract in violation of her First Amendment rights to speech and assembly. [Doc. 1 at 12-13.] Second, she alleges that the Defendant retaliated against her for whistleblowing in violation of the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C § 3730(h). [Doc. 1 at 13-14.] And third, she alleges that the Defendant's directive to remove her from the Contract was based on inaccurate information and an incomplete investigation, a violation of the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a(e). [Doc. 1 at 14-15.]

II. Legal Standard

A. Summary Judgment

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, 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. ...

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