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Steinberg v. District of Fenty

United States District Court, District Circuit

July 2, 2013

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al, Defendants.


Royce C. Lamberth, Chief Judge

At a hearing on June 12, 2013, the Court granted defendant's renewed motion for summary judgment, ECF No. 77, as to plaintiffs claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the District. See Minute Order June 12, 2013. This opinion provides the Court's reasoning for that holding.

Also at the June 12, 2013 hearing, the Court gave plaintiff an opportunity to provide additional authority on whether the Court should exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiffs remaining claims for injunctive and declaratory relief under the D.C. Code. Having reviewed this additional briefing, the Court now declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over these remaining D.C. Code claims against the District. Rather than dismissing the claims, the Court will give plaintiff the opportunity to voluntarily dismiss the action within five days of this opinion.


"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." Steinberg v. Dist. of Columbia, 901 F.Supp.2d 63 (D.D.C. 2012). Mr. Steinberg filed this action in 2009, claiming violations of his constitutional rights, seeking reinstatement, back pay, and damages. Id.

In 2012, "Mr. Steinberg received a letter from Chief Ellerbe advising him that he would be conditionally reinstated and awarded retroactive back pay and benefits." Id; see also Reinstatement Letter, July 26, 2012, Defs.' Ex. I, ECF No. 77-1.

Two previous opinions substantially narrowed the issues of the case, see id.; Steinberg v. Gray, 815 F.Supp.2d 293 (D.D.C. 2011), [2] leaving only three outstanding claims: (1) a damages claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the District of Columbia for procedural due process violations; (2) a claim against current Fire Chief Ellerbe, in his official capacity, for injunctive relief (reinstatement) under the D.C. Code; and (3) a claim against Daryl Staats, the Chief Financial Officer for FEMS, for injunctive relief (back pay) under the D.C. Code.

Mr. Steinberg deposed former Fire Chief Dennis L. Rubin, with leave of Court, after the Court's most recent opinion, see Order, Dec. 10, 2012, ECF No. 67; Rubin Dep., Defs.' Ex. O, Jan. 29, 2013, ECF No. 77-1, and defendants filed the instant motion shortly thereafter.


A. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment should be granted when "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). A fact is material if it could affect the outcome of the case. Id. A dispute is genuine if the "evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. The "evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Id. at 255. The non-movant, however, must establish more than "the existence of a scintilla of evidence" in support of his position, id. at 252, and may not rely solely on allegations or conclusory statements, Greene v. Dalton, 164 F.3d 671, 675 (D.C. Cir. 1999).

B. Monell Liability

Municipalities and other local governmental bodies may be sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Monell v. N.Y.C. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 689 (1978). However, municipal liability is limited: "a municipality may not be held liable under § 1983 solely because it employs a tortfeasor." Bd. of Cnty. Commis. of Bryan Cnty. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403 (1997). The Supreme Court has "consistently refused to hold municipalities liable under a theory of respondeat superior." Id. Instead, a plaintiff seeking to impose liability on a municipality under § 1983 must identify a municipal "policy" or "custom" that caused his or her injury by pointing to, for instance, an action of a final policy maker within the government. See Baker v. Dist. of Columbia, 326 F.3d 1302, 1306 (D.C. Cir. 2003).

Under this method of showing policy or custom, the Supreme Court has noted the "special difficulties" that arise when "it is contended that a municipal policymaker has delegated his policymaking ...

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