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Steinberg v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 2, 2012

Steve STEINBERG, Plaintiff,
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.

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Jeffrey Brian O'Toole, O'Toole, Rothwell, Nassau & Steinbach, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

Kerslyn D. Featherstone, Office of Attorney General, Shermineh C. Jones, DC Office of the Attorney General, Washington, DC, for Defendants.

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In 2004 the District of Columbia Office of Employee Appeals (OEA) ordered the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Agency (FEMS) to reinstate plaintiff Steve Steinberg as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and award him back pay. For eight years the agency did neither. Mr. Steinberg filed this suit alleging violations of his substantive and procedural due process rights. Now pending before the Court is defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. Upon review of defendants' motion, Mr. Steinberg's opposition, defendants' reply, applicable law, and the record of this case, and for reasons stated in this Memorandum Opinion, this Court will GRANT defendants' motion in part and DENY it in part.


In January 1997 Mr. Steinberg was terminated from his position as an EMT with FEMS. See Defs. Statement of Uncontested Material Facts ¶¶ 1-2; accord Pl. Statement of Genuine Issues ¶¶ 1-2. Mr. Steinberg timely appealed his termination to the Office of Employee Appeals (OEA),[1] where, several years later, he ultimately prevailed. Defs. Statement ¶¶ 5-6; accord Pl. Statement ¶¶ 5-6. In May 2004, the OEA reversed the agency's action removing Mr. Steinberg, ordered that he be returned to the position he held prior to removal, and ordered FEMS to reimburse him for all pay and benefits lost as a result of his termination. Defs. Statement ¶ 5; accord Pl. Statement ¶ 5; see also Defs. Ex. A; Pl. Ex. A. The agency had an opportunity to appeal, but did not do so, leaving the initial decision to become final on June 16, 2004. See Defs. Ex. F at 4. The order provided that FEMS had thirty days from the date of finality to comply.

Four years later, FEMS had neither reinstated nor compensated Mr. Steinberg. On his motion in September 2008 the OEA ordered FEMS to submit documentation verifying its compliance with the 2004 order by October 17, 2008. Pl. Br. at 3; Defs. Statement ¶ 14; Defs. Ex. F. FEMS missed this deadline, and filed a response in January 2009 stating that it could not comply with the order until certain conditions were satisfied. Defs. Statement ¶ 15; Defs. Ex. D. Specifically, the agency claimed that it could only reinstate Mr. Steinberg as an EMT as ordered if he abandoned his claim that he was " permanently and totally disabled" and instead presented himself as an employee who was " ready, willing, and able" to return to this position. Id. ; accord Pl. Statement ¶ 15.

Six months later, on July 15, 2009, Mr. Steinberg filed this action. See Complaint [1]. He claims that FEMS' non-compliance with OEA's 2004 and 2008 decisions violated his substantive and procedural due process rights under the Fifth Amendment, and requests both money damages and injunctive relief. On September 30, 2011, Judge Kennedy ruled on defendants' motion to dismiss Mr. Steinberg's complaint, dismissing his damages claims against individual defendants named in their official capacities and for punitive damages, allowing Mr. Steinberg's claims for monetary damages under § 1983 against D.C. and for injunctive relief against named defendants

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to go forward. Steinberg v. Gray, 815 F.Supp.2d 293 (D.D.C.2011).

On November 8, 2011, the case was reassigned to the undersigned Judge upon Judge Kennedy's retirement from the bench. [25]

Discovery closed on July 16, 2012. The parties and Court agreed to depositions of Fire Chief Ellerbe, as well as former fire Chiefs Rubin and Thompson to be conducted by Mr. Steinberg after that date. These depositions were initially scheduled for July 30, 2012. See Defs. Notice of Filing, September 11, 2012 [55]; Pl. Second Mot. to Extend the Discovery Deadline to Conduct Depositions [54]. However, just four days before these depositions were to take place, Mr. Steinberg received a letter from Chief Ellerbe advising him that he would be conditionally reinstated and awarded retroactive back pay and benefits. Pl. Br. at 4; Pl. Ex. F; Defs. Ex. I. The letter stated that Mr. Steinberg's reinstatement into an administrative position within the department was " contingent upon [his] completion and return of standard forms" ; that Mr. Steinberg was to " remain in the administrative position pending verification of [his] Emergency Medical Technician certification," successful completion of a " Suitability Determination," conducted by the department, and a " reinstatement physical." Pl. Ex. F; Defs. Ex. I. After the reinstatement letter was received, upon agreement of both parties, the depositions were temporarily postponed. Pl. Second Mot. to Extend the Discovery Deadline ¶ 3; Defs. Notice of Filing.

Defendants have moved for summary judgment. [45] They argue that (1) all of Mr. Steinberg's claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations, Defs. Br. at 18-20; Defs. Reply at 3-4; (2) Mr. Steinberg's claims for injunctive relief are moot because they " have taken the necessary steps to comply with the relief he seeks," See Defs. Br. at 6-8; Defs. Reply at 12-13; (3) Mr. Steinberg failed to meet the requirements for establishing municipal liability under § 1983, Defs. Br. at 16-17; Defs. Reply at 7-10; and (4) Mr. Steinberg's substantive and procedural due process claims both fail on the merits, Defs. Br. at 8-15; Defs. Reply at 4-7.

On September 17, 2012, Mr. Steinberg filed his opposition to defendants' motion for summary judgment. [56] Defendants filed a Reply on October 17, 2012. [58]


A. Summary Judgment Standard

Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment must be granted when " the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Moreover, summary judgment is properly granted against a party who " after adequate time for discovery and upon motion ... fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must draw all justifiable inferences ...

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