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Farzam v. Isaacson

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 21, 2012

Parichehr FARZAM, Plaintiff,
v.
Walter ISAACSON, Chairman, The Broadcasting Board of Governors, Defendant.

Page 96

David Jay Federbush, Bethesda, MD, for Plaintiff.

Carl Ezekiel Ross, U.S. Attorney's Office, Washington, DC, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ROSEMARY M. COLLYER, District Judge.

Parichehr Farzam, an employee in the Voice of America's Persian News Network, accuses the Broadcasting Board of Governors of the following:

Count I— retaliation in violation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d);
Count II— retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ;
Count III— breach of a 2008 settlement agreement that resolved an Equal Pay Act and Title VII complaint before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; and
Count IV— continuing unequal pay.

The Board is sued in the name of its Chairman, Walter Isaacson, in his official capacity only. The parties dispute which of Ms. Farzam's claims are properly in district court and whether the entire Complaint should be dismissed.

Ms. Farzam concedes that Count IV, claiming ongoing unequal pay, must be transferred to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims because she seeks a remedy in excess of $10,000 and therefore this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over her claim.[1] Compare 28 U.S.C. § 1346(a)(2) (conferring concurrent jurisdiction on the district courts and the Court of Federal Claims for certain claims against the United States not exceeding $10,000), with 28 U.S.C. § 1491(a)(1) (conferring jurisdiction on the Court of Federal Claims for certain claims against the United States without reference to an amount in controversy). The Court will transfer Count IV to the Court of Federal Claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1631 (authorizing transfer to cure a want of jurisdiction " if it is in the interest of justice, ... to any other such court in which the action or appeal could have been brought at the time it was filed or noticed" ).

Page 97

Ms. Farzam also asks the Court to transfer Count III, her breach-of-contract claim arising from the 2008 settlement agreement, to the Court of Federal Claims. However, she distinguishes her claims of retaliation associated with the Chairman's handling of the settlement agreement from her breach-of-contract claim and urges this Court to retain the retaliation claims here. Both parties recognize that 28 U.S.C. § 1500 precludes jurisdiction in the Court of Federal Claims for Count III if Ms. Farzam is pursuing the same claim or one in respect to the same claim in district court. See United States v. Tohono O'Odham Nation, __ U.S. __, 131 S.Ct. 1723, 1727, 179 L.Ed.2d 723 (2011) (" The [Court of Federal Claims] has no jurisdiction over a claim if the plaintiff has another suit for or in respect to that claim pending against the United States or its agents." ). " Two suits are for or in respect to the same claim, precluding jurisdiction in the [Court of Federal Claims], if they are based on substantially the same operative facts, regardless of the relief sought in each suit." Id. at 1731. Tohono O'Odham Nation makes clear that Ms. Farzam cannot pursue a breach-of-contract and a retaliation claim arising from the same settlement agreement in two different courts.

Count III is fundamentally a breach-of-contract claim and will be transferred to the Court of Federal Claims. See Hansson v. Norton, 411 F.3d 231, 232 (D.C.Cir.2005) (" This court generally treats settlement agreements as contracts subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Court of Federal Claims." ). Due to this transfer, this Court will not consider facts concerning the breach of the settlement agreement as a basis for retaliation because such facts are based on " substantially the same operative facts" as the breach-of-contract claim. ...


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