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Theodore E. Powell v. American Federation of Teachers

August 13, 2012


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


Plaintiff Theodore Powell, proceeding pro se, brings this case against Defendants American Federation of Teachers ("AFT"), Washington Teachers Union ("WTU"), and several individual Defendants alleging a failure to represent and support Plaintiff while he was employed at the District of Columbia Public Schools ("DCPS"). Pending before the Court are several motions filed by Plaintiff. Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court will treat these motions as objections to the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola. In that Report and Recommendation, Magistrate Judge Facciola recommended that Defendant WTU's Motion to Dismiss be granted because this Court does not have jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims. Based upon a de novo review of the parties' papers,*fn1 the relevant law, and the entire record in this case, the Court concludes that it lacks jurisdiction over this case. Therefore, the Court will ADOPT Magistrate Judge Facciola's recommendation and will GRANT WTU's Motion to Dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. The Court will also GRANT Defendant AFT's Motion to Dismiss as conceded and alternatively for lack of jurisdiction. Finally, the Court will DENY Plaintiff's Motion to Take Judicial Notice, Motion to Stay, and Motion to Strike.


Plaintiff Theodore Powell is a former physical education teacher at Woodson High School. See Complaint ("Compl."), included in Original File from Superior Court [Docket No. 6-1], at 12.*fn2 Plaintiff's complaint includes a number of claims, all of which amount to a failure by the Defendant unions and their agents to properly support and represent Plaintiff. First, Plaintiff alleges that he was injured when he was assaulted by students at the school. See id. at 8-9, 12. The dates of the alleged assaults are not clear from the record. Plaintiff states that he is suffering from nerve damage in his feet and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the assaults. Id. at 9, 12. According to Plaintiff, WTU failed to support and represent him in resolving this matter and "was negligent in its efforts to get involved and implement a strong safe plan for success, as a part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement." Id. at 8.

Secondly, Plaintiff alleges that WTU did not provide him with adequate legal representation in his criminal case.*fn3 See id. at 8-9. Plaintiff claims that the WTU lawyer who was assigned to represent him was deceitful, attempted to coerce Plaintiff into accepting a guilty plea, and provided poor representation, in violation of Plaintiff's rights to due process and a speedy trial under the 5th, 6th, and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution. See id. Plaintiff alleges that he asked WTU for a new lawyer, but WTU refused to help him. Id. at 9.

Plaintiff was placed on paid leave on December 10, 2009. Id. at 10. Plaintiff alleges that he asked WTU for support and representation at a Fitness-for-Duty exam, but WTU refused to represent him. Id. Plaintiff challenges the doctor who performed the Fitness-for-Duty exam and states that the doctor "provide[d] false information" about Plaintiff to WTU, causing Plaintiff to be terminated under false pretenses. See id. According to Plaintiff, WTU should have recommended another doctor to perform the exam, and Plaintiff was damaged by WTU's lack of support and representation. See id. at 10-11. Plaintiff also alleges that he contacted AFT for support and representation, but they refused to help him. Id. at 11. Plaintiff seeks reinstatement to his position at Woodson High School or another high school with full benefits, back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, 100 percent retirement benefits, and "8 million dollars in cash." Id. at 12-14.

Plaintiff filed his Complaint in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on February 9, 2011. On March 1, 2011, Defendant AFT filed a Motion to Dismiss in the Superior Court. On March 8, 2011, Defendant WTU removed this case to this Court. Defendant WTU filed a Motion to Dismiss on March 21, 2011. On March 22, 2011, this Court entered an order advising Plaintiff to respond to both Motions to Dismiss by no later than April 19, 2011 and May 10, 2011, respectively. The Court cautioned Plaintiff that if he did not respond, the Court may treat the motions as conceded and dismiss the case. See Order, March 22, 2011 [Docket No. 9] at 2. Plaintiff filed an opposition to WTU's Motion to Dismiss only, and the Court referred that motion to Magistrate Judge Facciola for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to Local Civil Rule 72.3(a)(3). On January 30, 2012, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Take Judicial Notice. Magistrate Judge Facciola issued his Report and Recommendation on February 16, 2012, and Plaintiff filed a Motion to Stay within 14 days of that Report and Recommendation. The Court will treat Plaintiff's Motion to Stay as an objection to Magistrate Judge Facciola's entire Report and Recommendation. Plaintiff also filed, on April 27, 2012, a Motion to Strike all Reply Memorandums of the Defendants. All motions are now ripe for determination by the Court.


A.Rule 72

Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Rule

72.3 of the Local Rules of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia authorize the referral of dispositive motions to a magistrate judge for a report and recommendation. When a party files written objections to any part of the magistrate judge's recommendation, the Court considers de novo those portions of the recommendation to which objections have been made, and "may accept, reject, or modify the recommended decision; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions." Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3); see also Local Civil Rule 72.3(c).

B.Rule 12(b)(1)

Federal district courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994), and a Rule 12(b)(1) motion for dismissal presents a threshold challenge to a court's jurisdiction, Haase v. Sessions, 835 F.2d 902, 906 (D.C. Cir. 1987). On a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the Court has jurisdiction. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992). In evaluating such a motion, the Court must "accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint," Wilson v. Dist. of Columbia, 269 F.R.D. 8, 11 (D.D.C. 2010) (citing Leatherman v. Tarrant Cnty. Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 164 (1993)), and should review the complaint liberally while accepting all inferences favorable to the plaintiff, see Barr v. Clinton, 370 F.3d 1196, 1199 (D.C. Cir. 2004). Because subject matter jurisdiction focuses on the Court's power to hear the claim, however, the Court must give the plaintiff's factual allegations closer scrutiny when resolving a Rule 12(b)(1) motion than would be required for a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Macharia v. United States, 334 F.3d 61, 67 (D.C. Cir. 2003). Thus, to determine whether it has jurisdiction over a claim, the Court may consider materials outside the pleadings where necessary to resolve disputed jurisdictional facts. Herbert v. Nat'l Acad. of Scis., 974 F.2d 192, 197 (D.C. Cir. 1992). Although complaints filed by pro se plaintiffs are to be liberally construed, see Erickson

v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), pro se plaintiffs "are not freed from the requirement to plead an adequate jurisdictional basis for their claims," Kurtz v. United States, 779 F. Supp. 2d ...

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