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Venkareddy Chennareddy, et al v. Gene Dodaro Acting Comptroller General

March 30, 2012

VENKAREDDY CHENNAREDDY, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
GENE DODARO ACTING COMPTROLLER GENERAL, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Emmet G. Sullivan United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Pending before the Court*fn1 is defendant's renewed Motion for a More Definite Statement or, in the alternative, to Dismiss or Strike plaintiffs' sixth amended complaint. Also pending before the Court is plaintiffs' Cross-Motion for Reconsideration of the Court's denial of certain of plaintiffs' discovery requests. Upon consideration of the motions, the responses and replies thereto, the applicable law, the entire record in this case, and for the following reasons, the Court will GRANT the defendant's motion to strike plaintiffs' complaint and dismiss this action with prejudice. The Court will DENY plaintiffs' motion to reconsider the denial of their requests for discovery.

I.BACKGROUND

This case was originally filed in December 1987 by then-GAO-employee Venkareddy Chennareddy ("Chennareddy") as a general class complainant, and several other named and unnamed GAO employees, who sought to represent a class of GAO employees who had been allegedly discriminated against in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq.*fn2

During the initial stages of this case, the parties engaged in class discovery and plaintiffs unsuccessfully sought to certify the case as a class action pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. See Mar. 20, 1995 Class Certification Order ("Class Cert. Order"), Docket No. 202. The Court found that plaintiffs had met the "numerosity" requirement of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a), id. at 3-4, but that plaintiffs had not established commonality or typicality, id. at 4-9. The Court also found that plaintiffs had failed to allege that the purported discrimination "manifested itself in a particular employment practice leveled against all members of the proposed class." Id. at 4 (citing Gen. Tel. Co. of Sw. v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147, 159 n.15 (1982) ("Title VII prohibits discriminatory employment practices, not an abstract policy of discrimination.")); see also Class Cert. Order at 7 ("[P]laintiffs provide no basis for concluding that 1,500 employees suffer from a common discriminatory practice."). Plaintiffs' motion to alter the class-certification judgment was denied on March 31, 1999.

A.Fourth and Fifth Amended Complaints

After the case was randomly reassigned to this Court in 2007, the Court granted plaintiffs leave to file a fourth amended complaint.*fn3 Along with the fourth amended complaint, plaintiffs filed a motion to intervene on behalf of several other putative parties, and motion for discovery prior to the ruling on the motion to intervene. The motion to intervene was referred to Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson, who denied both plaintiffs' request for discovery prior to a ruling on the motion to intervene, see June 24, 2008 Minute Order, and the motion to intervene itself, see July 22, 2008 Minute Order. Plaintiffs appealed Magistrate Judge Robinson's denial of discovery, citing their need for evidence of discrimination that purportedly existed in the GAO's computer database in order to support the claims of the proposed intervenors. Docket No. 384. The Court affirmed Magistrate Judge Robinson's ruling on discovery on July 16, 2008, and affirmed Judge Robinson's ruling on the motion to intervene on December 17, 2008.

Defendant then moved for a more definite statement pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e) with respect to the fourth amended complaint, or in the alternative, to dismiss, arguing that the complaint failed to comply with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8 and 10. Docket No. 390. On February 4, 2009, Magistrate Judge Robinson granted defendant's motion for a more definite statement, ordering plaintiffs to "file an amended complaint which conforms to the requirements of Rules 8 and 10 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure . . . by no later than March 18, 2009." See Docket No. 412.*fn4 Plaintiffs appealed Magistrate Judge Robinson's order, asserting that no "short and plain" statement could be filed unless the plaintiffs were permitted discovery of the GAO's electronic databases. Docket No. 415, at 4.

The Court again affirmed Magistrate Judge Robinson's ruling, finding that the fourth amended complaint did not meet the requirements of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8 and 10 because it failed "to identify (1) any relevant characteristics of the named plaintiffs (i.e., age, race, or gender); (2) the types of discrimination allegedly suffered by the named plaintiffs (i.e., discrimination based on age, race, national origin, gender, or some combination); (3) the alleged events that form the basis of their claims; or (4) when such events occurred." Dec. 18, 2009 Opinion ("Dec. 18, 2009 Op."), Docket No. 433, at 33. The Court ordered plaintiffs to submit forthwith a complaint that "(1) includes separately numbered paragraphs (as opposed to headings); and (2) at a minimum, clearly identifies each of the named plaintiffs, including their individual claims against the GAO and the factual basis for those claims." Id. at 33-34.*fn5

The Court rejected plaintiffs' contention that they could not-or should not be required to-submit a more definite statement until they have been given access to the GAO's electronic personnel files, stating that such an approach would permit plaintiffs to "bypass the pleading stage of litigation entirely." Id. at 33. The Court found that "there is simply no support in the record for plaintiffs' contention that any information was wrongfully withheld from them." Id. at 34. The Court further explained that "plaintiffs are simply not entitled to discovery on the merits of their claims until they have properly pled such claims." Id. The Court explained that "[b]y focusing so extensively on the purported 'database' and the agency's allegedly wrongful withholding thereof, plaintiffs have lost sight of the pleading standards set forth in Rule 8, [and] the role of Rule 12 in permitting a defendant to test the legal sufficiency of a plaintiff's complaint." Id. at 31.

Plaintiffs moved for interlocutory appeal and for reconsideration of the Court's December 18, 2009 Order denying discovery of electronic data. The Court denied both motions, finding that plaintiffs "simply reiterated their position that they are entitled to discovery and expressed continuing disagreement with this Court's Orders regarding discovery and pleading standards." Jul. 22, 2010 Opinion ("Jul. 22, 2010 Op."), Docket No. 461, at 7.

On February 1, 2010, plaintiffs filed a fifth amended complaint, purportedly in response to the Court's December 18, 2009 Order for a more definite statement. The fifth amended complaint improved little upon the fourth amended complaint. The complaint failed to highlight the particular claims of any specific plaintiff and it attached voluminous exhibits, including 188 pages of interrogatory answers provided by the plaintiffs to the defendant in 1993. Defendant filed a renewed motion for a more definite statement and motion to dismiss or strike on March 30, 2010, arguing that the fifth amended complaint still did not meet the standard set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). Docket No. 445. The Court agreed, finding that plaintiffs had again failed to meet the pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a), and granted the motion for a more definite statement, ordering that,

Upon consideration of defendant's motion for a more definite statement, and the response and reply thereto, and substantially for the reasons articulated by defendants, the motion is GRANTED. By no later than March 31, 2011, plaintiffs shall file a sixth amended complaint in which each plaintiff shall specify the claim(s) of discrimination of each plaintiff. The sixth amended complaint shall contain at least the following information: the event(s) that form the basis of each plaintiff's claim(s) of discrimination; and the date on which each identified event occurred.

Feb. 17, 2011 Minute Order.

Rather than complying with the Court's second order for a more definite statement, plaintiffs filed a motion to stay the Order. See Docket No. 462. In their motion, the plaintiffs again asked the Court to reconsider its denials of plaintiffs' discovery requests. The Court denied plaintiffs' ...


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