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Foote v. Chu

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 5, 2013

Ronnie FOOTE, Plaintiff,
v.
Dr. Stephen CHU, Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy, Defendant.

Ronnie Foote, Fort Washington, MD, pro se.

Daniel Wemhoff, Law Office of Daniel Wemhoff, Arlington, VA, for Plaintiff.

Claire M. Whitaker, United States Attorney's Office, Washington, DC, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, District Judge.

Plaintiff Ronnie Foote filed suit against Dr. Stephen Chu, in his official capacity as

Page 97

Secretary of the United States Department of Energy (" Defendant" ), alleging racial discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (" Title VII" ). Presently before the Court is the Defendant's [39] Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. The Defendant contends that the Plaintiff's claim is non justiciable insofar as it challenges a national security decision committed to the discretion of the Executive Branch. Upon consideration of the pleadings,[1] the relevant legal authorities, and the allegations in the Plaintiff's Complaint, the Court finds adjudication of the Plaintiff's claims would require the fact finder to review the merits of a national security decision. Accordingly, the Defendant's motion is GRANTED.

I. BACKGROUND

According to the Complaint, in August 2007, Plaintiff received a conditional offer of employment as an Emergency Operations Specialist with the Transportation and Emergency Control Center, part of the National Nuclear Security Administration (" NNSA" ), located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Compl., ECF No. [1], at 1. The NNSA is an agency within the Department of Energy responsible for, among other things " maintain[ing] and enhanc[ing] the safety, reliability, and performance of the United States nuclear weapons stockpile." 50 U.S.C. § 2401(b)(3).

The offer of employment extended to the Defendant was conditioned on Plaintiff receiving a certification from the Human Reliability Program (" HRP" ). Id. at 2. The Human Reliability Program (" HRP" ), established pursuant to Executive Order 10450, " is a security and safety reliability program designed to ensure that individuals who occupy positions affording access to certain materials, nuclear explosive devices, facilities, and programs meet the highest standards of reliability and physical and mental suitability." 10 C.F.R. § 712.1. HRP certification is a rigorous process, requiring, among other things, a high-level (" Q" ) security clearance, annual security reviews, medical assessments, and random drug tests. 10 C.F.R. § 712.11. HRP certification must be renewed annually. Id.

Dr. Daniel Seagrave, Alternate Lead Psychologist for the National Nuclear Security Administration, administered the Plaintiff's psychological interview. Compl. at 2. Dr. Seagrave recommended that the responsible officials deny HRP certification for the Plaintiff. Id. The Plaintiff alleges Dr. Seagrave gave " intentionally false information" in his report to Dr. Anthony Traweek, Dr. John Sloan, and Dennis Reese, who ultimately denied Plaintiff's request for certification, causing the conditional offer of employment to be rescinded. Id. Specifically, the Plaintiff claims Dr. Seagrave lied about certain answers Plaintiff gave during his interview, improperly contacted Plaintiff's former supervisor, and concocted allegations that Plaintiff was reprimanded while serving in the United States Air Force. Id. at 4. Plaintiff alleges Dr. Seagrave's actions were motivated by Plaintiff's race. Id. at 7-8.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), a party may move for judgment on the pleadings " [a]fter the pleadings are closed— but early enough not to delay trial." The standard for reviewing a motion for judgment on the pleadings is " virtually identical" to that applied to a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). Baum ...


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