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Owens v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 14, 2013

Sonya OWENS, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.

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Sonya Owens, Washington, DC, pro se.

David A. Jackson, Joseph Alphonso Gonzalez, District of Columbia, Office of the Attorney General, Washington, DC, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ALAN KAY, United States Magistrate Judge.

Defendant District of Columbia (" District" or " Defendant" ) brought this Motion for Reconsideration [91] of the Court's July 13, 2012, Order [88]. Plaintiff Sonya Owens (" Ms. Owens" or " Plaintiff" ) opposed Defendant's Motion and brought her own Motion for Reconsideration [95]. This Memorandum Opinion corresponds with the Order [101] filed on February 14, 2013. For the reasons set forth below, the Defendant's Motion for Reconsideration will be granted and the Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration will be denied. As a result of these rulings, Ms. Owens's remaining claims will be dismissed and the Court will dismiss the case with prejudice.

BACKGROUND

I. Ms. Owens's Employment with the Metropolitan Police Department

The background of Plaintiff's employment is set forth in detail with citations in the Court's Memorandum Opinion dated July 13, 2012 [88]. Thus this is a synopsis of that background.

Ms. Sonya Owens was a captain with the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department (" MPD" ). In June 2001, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ) interviewed Ms. Owens as a witness while investigating discrimination complaints from two other MPD officers. In July 2004, the two officers filed a federal discrimination lawsuit. In November 2004, the MPD learned that Ms. Owens was scheduled as a witness for the two complainants and she testified in February

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2005. Thereafter Ms. Owens alleged that the MPD revoked her police official duties, restricted her access to the general public, removed her duty assignments, and notified her of a proposed suspension for an " overdue correspondence," which became effective in February 2005.

In early March 2005, the MPD Internal Affairs section received a complaint from the Arlington County Animal Welfare League that involved Ms. Owens and one of her two dogs. On March 16, 2005, Ms. Owens filed a Petition for Appeal of her suspension with the Office of Employee Appeals (" OEA" ). In April 2005, Ms. Owens was again suspended for twelve days for being absent without leave for 80 hours during her earlier suspension. (Am. Compl. [12] ¶ 58.) As a result, Ms. Owens supplemented her OEA appeal to include the second suspension. In May 2005, the MPD gave Ms. Owens a notice of termination for her two absences without leave, the Animal Welfare League complaint, and alleged " criminal activity." In response, Ms. Owens requested all documents and records pertaining to the MPD investigation.

II. Administrative and Judicial Review

On August 15, 2005, Ms. Owens and her then counsel attended a scheduled Administrative Hearing before the Police Trial Board about her termination. The MPD provided her with two cassette tapes of interviews immediately before the Administrative Hearing and Ms. Owens requested a continuance to review the contents of the tapes. (Am. Compl. App. 4 Tr. 4:5-6; 5:6-10 [12].)

Concurrent with her administrative proceedings, on August 31, 2005, Ms. Owens filed a complaint in this court, alleging retaliation under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and various claims under the D.C. Human Rights Act, D.C. Code § 2-1402.11 and § 2-1402.61. ( See Owens v. D.C. (" Owens I " ), No. 05-CV-1729, Compl. [1].) Shortly after Ms. Owens filed her lawsuit, the MPD resumed the hearing on her suspensions. In October 2005, the MPD, following the Police Trial Board's unanimous decision against Ms. Owens, she was told that her employment would be terminated effective November 2005. (OEA Matter No. 1601-005-06 at 13.) The decision to terminate her was upheld by the Chief of Police, Charles Ramsey. ( Id. ) On November 28, 2005, Plaintiff filed a Petition for Appeal with the OEA based on her termination. On July 14, 2006, an Administrative Law Judge issued an Initial Decision on the appeal of her suspensions, dismissing Ms. Owens's claims. Ms. Owens filed a timely Petition for Review on August 22, 2006.

In September 2006, the OEA ordered the MPD to provide Ms. Owens with the transcripts of her suspension hearing. (Am. Compl. [12] ¶ 77.) In October 2006, the OEA conducted a hearing on Ms. Owens's appeal of her termination in which Ms. Owens participated as a witness. (OEA Initial Decision, Ex. 3 of Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. [51-3] at 12.) On November 21, 2007, the OEA Administrative Judge issued an Initial Decision about Ms. Owens's termination and she filed a timely Petition for Review on December 26, 2007. (App. 1 to Am. Compl. [12] at 3, 7.) Thus, at the close of 2007, Ms. Owens had two initial decisions issued by OEA Administrative Law Judges upholding her two suspensions and her termination.[1]

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While the Petition for Review of her termination was pending before the OEA, on April 9, 2008, Ms. Owens filed a Petition for Review with the District of Columbia Court of Appeals to seek review of the Administrative Law Judge's decision upholding her termination. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction on May 7, 2008. The Court found that because Ms. Owens had pending petitions for review before the OEA Board, an appealable final administrative order did not exist.

On May 12, 2008, Ms. Owens filed a motion to withdraw both of her petitions for review that were pending before the OEA Board. On July 24, 2008, the OEA granted Ms. Owens's motion and dismissed both appeals. In its dismissal, the OEA noted that the Initial Decisions of the Administrative Law Judges would become final decisions within five days of the issuance of the OEA's Order and that Ms. Owens could appeal the OEA final decisions within thirty days in the District of Columbia Superior Court. (Ex. 1 of Am. Compl. [12] at 25.) According to Ms. Owens, also on July 24, 2008, the OEA issued its final order stating that its initial decision would be its final decision. (Ex. 2 of Pl.'s Response Br. [74] at 47-48, 50.) On August 22, 2008, Ms. Owens appealed to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals on both of the final decisions of her suspensions and termination. The Court ordered that Ms. Owens had twenty days to show why the appeal should not be dismissed for having been taken on a non-final and non-appealable order. (Ex. 2 of Pl.'s Response Br. [74] at 46.) Additionally, the Court ordered Ms. Owens to show how she was " aggrieved" by the OEA granting her motions to withdraw her petitions with respect to her suspensions and termination. On September 22, 2008, Ms. Owens submitted a Response to the Court's Order explaining that she appealed the OEA's final decisions. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals found that Ms. Owens did not respond and dismissed her cases on September 25, 2008. On October 1, 2008, Ms. Owens filed a motion with the District of Columbia Court of Appeals to reinstate her appeal given that the OEA's decisions on both matters were final. (Ex. 2 of Pl.'s Response Br. [74] at 47-49.) The Court of Appeals denied Ms. Owens's Motion, finding that Ms. Owens suffered no legal injury after the OEA granted her motion to dismiss the petitions. ( Id. at 56.)

III. Present Suit

On November 25, 2008, Ms. Owens initiated the pending lawsuit against the District and Mayor Adrian Fenty (Compl. [1] ) and filed an amended complaint on March 20, 2009. (Am. Compl. [12].) The Amended Complaint contained seven counts: Count 1 Unlawful Deprivation of Civil Rights in Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Count 2 Unlawful Deprivation and Retaliation in Violation of the False Claims Act involving Whistleblower Employee Protections; Count 3 Deprivation of Employment Rights and Privileges as Protected under District of Columbia Comprehensive Merit Personnel Act (CMPA); Count 4 Unlawful Retaliation in Violation of U.S.C. 42 § 1981; Count 5 Defamation; Count 6 Violation of 18 U.S.C. § 241; and Count 7 Violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242.

On July 6, 2009, 631 F.Supp.2d 48 (D.D.C.2009), U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle granted the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss as to Counts 2, 6, and 7: Whistleblower protection under the False Claims Act, 18 U.S.C. § 241, and 18 U.S.C. § 242. (Judge Huvelle's Mem. Opinion, July 6, 2009 [24].) The trial court found that res judicata based on the Owens I verdict barred Ms. Owens's claims prior to her termination, but permitted claims

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about Ms. Owens's termination and administrative appeal. ( Id. at 11.)

On August 13, 2009, the parties consented to the undersigned Magistrate Judge handling the case for all purposes, including trial. (Consent [36].) On November 8, 2010, the Court denied the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Judge Kay's Mem. Order, Nov. 8, 2010 [55].) On June 26, 2012, the Court denied Ms. Owens's Motion for Summary Judgment and granted-in-part and denied-in-part the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Judge Kay's Mem. Order, June 26, 2012 [78].) In a July 13, 2012, memorandum opinion, the Court granted the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as to the claims against Mayor Fenty and Ms. Owens's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims based on the First Amendment, substantive due process of the Fifth Amendment, and the Fourteenth Amendment. (Judge Kay's Mem. Op., July 13, 2012 [88].) The Court denied the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as to Ms. Owens's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims for procedural due process ...


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