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Barbara A. Nichols v. Eric H. Holder

December 14, 2011

BARBARA A. NICHOLS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ERIC H. HOLDER, JR., ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES, AND U.S. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth Chief Judge United States District Court for the District of Columbia

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Barbara A. Nichols, proceeding pro se, brings this action against Eric H. Holder, Jr., Attorney General of the United States, and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In a 140-page complaint, Nichols alleges that she was subjected to discrimination on the basis of her race while employed at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and that the EEOC mishandled two complaints that she filed with the Commission. Before the Court is defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint [Dkt. # 4] for failure to make "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2), and to comply with the rule that "[e]ach allegation must be simple, concise, and direct." FED. R. CIV. P. 8(d)(1). In the alternative, defendants move to dismiss the claims against the EEOC on the grounds that this Court has no subject matter jurisdiction to hear those claims and Nichols has no private right of action to bring them. Upon consideration of the motion, the opposition thereto, and the record of this case, the Court concludes that the motion must be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

In her complaint, Nichols states that from 1977 to 2007 she was employed by the agency now known as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and now located within the United States Department of Justice. Compl. ¶¶ 5--6. In 2000, she filed an administrative complaint alleging employment discrimination in violation of Title VII. Nichols v. Truscott, 424 F. Supp. 2d 124, 130 (D.D.C. 2006). Her complaint was investigated; after a three-day hearing an EEOC administrative law judge found no discrimination. Id. The Department of Justice adopted the decision of the administrative law judge, and Nichols brought suit in federal district court. The district court dismissed certain claims because Nichols had not exhausted her administrative remedies, id. at 133--35, and entered summary judgment against her on the remaining claims. Id. at 135--43.

Nichols filed a second administrative complaint in 2006, again alleging employment discrimination in violation of Title VII. Compl. ¶¶ 55--58. In addition to making new allegations, Nichols "restate[d] the issues involving years 1996--1999," which she had "raised in her 2000 complaint" but now asserted "were never adjudicated." Id. ¶ 57. The complaint was investigated, id. ¶¶ 137--77, but no hearing was held. Id. ¶ 182. Instead, an administrative law judge entered summary judgment against Nichols. Id. ¶ 183. The Department of Justice adopted that decision, id. ¶ 190, and Nichols appealed to the Director of the EEOC Office of Federal Operations, who affirmed it. Id. ¶¶ 203--04. After her motion for reconsideration was denied, id. ¶ 220, Nichols brought this action.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Nichols Cannot Sue the EEOC for Mishandling Her Complaint

Defendants argue that Nichols cannot sue the EEOC for mishandling her administrative complaint. They are correct. "Congress has not authorized, either expressly or impliedly, a cause of action against the EEOC for the EEOC's alleged negligence or other malfeasance in processing an employment discrimination charge." Smith v. Casellas, 119 F.3d 33, 34 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (per curiam). Because "no cause of action against the EEOC exists for challenges to its processing of a claim," such a challenge is "properly dismissed . . . for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Id. This Court therefore does so.

B. Nichols's Complaint Violates Rule 8

Defendants next argue that the length and incoherence of Nichols's complaint violates Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 and precludes them from preparing an appropriate response to her remaining claims. Memo. in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss ("Defs.' Memo.") at 4. In her opposition and sur-reply, leave to file which is hereby granted, Nichols reiterates her substantive allegations without addressing defendants' argument that she has presented them in an impermissibly garbled and inflated form. Defendants' arguments are well-taken and their motion will be granted.

Rule 8(a)(2) provides that any pleading asserting a claim for relief must include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2). As the Second Circuit has explained:

The statement should be plain because the principal function of pleadings under the Federal Rules is to give the adverse party fair notice of the claim asserted so as to enable him to answer and prepare for trial. The statement should be short because '[u]nnecessary prolixity in a pleading places an unjustified burden on the court and the party who must respond to it because they are forced to select the relevant material from a mass of verbiage.'

Salahuddin v. Cuomo, 861 F.2d 40, 42 (2d Cir. 1988) (quoting 5 CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT & ARTHUR MILLER, FEDERAL PRACTICE & PROCEDURE § 1281, at 365 (1969)) (citations omitted); see also Ciralsky v. CIA, 355 F.3d 661, 669 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (quoting Salahuddin, 861 F.2d at 42(quoting 5 WRIGHT & MILLER § 1281, at 365)); Brown v. Califano, 75 F.R.D. 497, 498 (D.D.C. 1977) ("The purpose of [Rule 8] is to give fair notice of the claim being asserted so as to permit the adverse party the opportunity to file a responsive answer, prepare an adequate defense and determine whether res judicata is applicable."). Moreover, Rule 8(d)(1) requires the allegations supporting that claim to be "simple, concise, and direct." FED. R. CIV. P. 8(d)(1).

"Taken together," these rules "underscore the emphasis placed on clarity and brevity by the federal pleading rules." Ciralsky, 355 F.3d at 669 (quoting In re Westinghouse Sec. Litig., 90 F.3d 696, 702 (3d Cir. 1996)) (quoting 5 WRIGHT & MILLER ยง 1217, at 169 (2d ed. 1990)) (referring to a superseded version of Rule 8). Their enforcement "is largely a matter for the trial court's discretion; Rule 41(b) authorizes the court to dismiss either ...


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