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Devin Brian Howell v. Vincent Gray

February 14, 2012

DEVIN BRIAN HOWELL PLAINTIFF,
v.
VINCENT GRAY, MAYOR OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy Berman Jackson United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Devin Brian Howell brings this action against the District of Columbia ("D.C.," "District"), Vincent Gray in his official capacity as the Mayor of D.C., Laura Nuss in her official capacity as the Director of the D.C. Department on Disability Services, and Irvin Nathan in his official capacity as the Attorney General for D.C. Plaintiff's complaint [Dkt. # 3] alleges that defendants acted negligently and in violation of federal law by failing to provide plaintiff with vocational rehabilitation funding and services pursuant to D.C. Code Section 7-761.01 et seq. and its accompanying regulations, 29 D.C.M.R. § 100 et seq. Defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiff's claims in full, or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, failure to state a claim, and improper defendants [Dkt. # 4].

In addition, Mr. Howell seeks to amend his complaint to substitute claims alleging that the denial of his past benefits resulted from the District's systematic failure to train, supervise, investigate, and review counselors [Dkt. # 13].

Because the Court finds that plaintiff's proposed amendments would be futile, it will deny plaintiff's motion to amend. The Court will also grant defendants' motion to dismiss the original complaint for failure to state a claim, without reaching the issues of subject matter jurisdiction or improper defendants.

I. Background

A. Factual Background in Original Complaint

Plaintiff Devin Brian Howell is a resident of the District of Columbia. Compl. ¶ 8. He alleges that his diagnosed learning disabilities qualify him for vocational rehabilitation benefits and services from the District. Id. ¶ 19. Mr. Howell attended Kingsbury Day School, an elementary and high school for students with learning disabilities. Id. ¶¶ 13--14. His education was funded by D.C. Public Schools ("DCPS"), pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et. seq. Compl. ¶¶ 13--14. Mr. Howell alleges that upon graduation, the D.C. Rehabilitation Services Administration ("RSA") informed some special education Kingsbury graduates of their rights to further benefits, but failed to inform Mr. Howell that he was also eligible for these benefits. Compl. ¶ 15. As a result, Mr. Howell attended Montgomery Community College for three years without the benefits to which he was allegedly entitled. Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss at 2--3.

Mr. Howell's complaint alleges that he first learned that he might be eligible for vocational benefits and services, and contacted the RSA in March 2011 -- after having completed his three years of community college. Compl. ¶ 16. He claims that after he sent all the requested documentation to prove his qualification for benefits, it took two months for his assigned administrator, Rahmaty Fereshteh, to contact him, at which point she told him that his file was empty and she had not received the documentation. Id. ¶¶ 18--20, 22. Mr. Howell claims that he then faxed the documents to Ms. Fereshteh twice more. Id. ¶¶ 24--25. When he finally received a second phone call from Ms. Fereshteh, she told him that she was an RSA intern and that her tenure with the RSA would end that day. Id. ¶ 27. The complaint alleges that during the period from late March to late May, Ms. Fereshteh never made an appointment for Mr. Howell or provided him with any information regarding his legal rights and protections, and that as of the filing of his complaint with this Court on June 6, 2011, the RSA had not returned any of his phone calls or taken any administrative action relating to his file. Id. ¶¶ 28, 30.

Although defendants challenge some of those allegations pertaining to the events occurring between March and July 2012, the parties agree that plaintiff is currently engaged in an administrative process with the District to obtain funding for the 2011--2012 school year. Def.'s Reply to Pl.'s Resp. to Def,'s Mot. to Dismiss ("Def.'s Reply") at 4. So, what is at issue in this case is plaintiff's failure to receive funds, benefits, or services during the three years he attended community college prior to the 2011--2012 school year. See Pl's Resp. to Defs.' Newly Filed Ex. "A" per Ct. Order [Dkt. # 16] at 4 (stating that "[t]he challenged action here is Defendants' failure to comply with its RSA obligations to [p]laintiff during his community college years," and "[t]he question as to how much the agency pays for the current 2011--2012 academic year has no relevance or bearing upon the federal issues in this case sub judice. The issues in this case concern prior years of services, benefits and funding per-se.").

The complaint alleges that defendants violated D.C. Code § 7-761.01 et seq. (Count I);*fn1 29 D.C.M.R. § 100 et seq. (Count II); 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count V); the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. ("ADA") (Count VI); and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (Count VII); and that they acted negligently (Counts III and IV). It also asks the Court to compel the District of Columbia to perform its duty under 28 U.S.C. § 1361 (Count VIII). Notably, it does not allege that defendants violated the IDEA. To remedy these alleged violations, the complaint demands "all funding for college and training," "compensation for prior years that defendants have failed to provide funding," and attorney's fees. Compl. ¶ 59.

B. Amended Complaint

The allegations in the amended complaint are substantially similar to those in the original complaint. The amended complaint alleges that the District of Columbia did not notify plaintiff of his eligibility for post-secondary benefits, services, and funding, and that, as a result, he did not apply and did not receive benefits, services, or funding for community college.*fn2 Am. Compl. ¶ 19--20, 22. The amended complaint further alleges that plaintiff's injuries were the result of the RSA's policies, which include: x "Deliberate indifference in failing to train counselors and re-train counselors to follow agency guidelines and protect the constitutional rights of beneficiaries in providing benefits, services and funding for disabled citizens; x "Deliberate indifference to properly supervise counselors; x "Deliberate indifference and failure by Defendants to maintain a proper system for the investigation and review of incidents of counselors violating agency duties to disabled citizens."

Am. Compl. ¶ 23. Finally, the amended complaint alleges the following "systematic flaws in [d]efendants [sic] review process": x "Defendants [sic] failure to investigate ineffective, or incompetent counselors who intentionally violate agency duties to citizens;

x "Defendants and counselors failed to maintain logs, or records of actions to identify and inform known special needs students of their rights to benefits, services and funding;

x "Information on any efforts to inform known special needs students of their rights to benefits, services and funding is not documented and reviewed for accuracy by supervisors;

x "Defendants frequently permitted conclusions to be drawn on the basis of incorrect or contradictory information."

Am. Compl. ¶ 24.

The amended complaint alleges that plaintiffs violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count I); the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 (Count II); the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (Count III); and 29 D.C.M.R. § 100 et seq. (Count IV). It also asks the Court to compel the District of Columbia to perform its duty under 28 U.S.C. § 1361 (Count V). Finally, it demands compensation for all denied past services, benefits, and ...


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