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Vince v. Mabus

United States District Court, District of Columbia

July 24, 2013

LOUIS VINCE, Plaintiff,
v.
RAYMOND EDWIN MABUS, JR., Secretary of the Navy, Defendant

For LOUIS VINCE, Plaintiff: Michael D.J. Eisenberg, LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICE OF MICHAEL D.J. EISENBERG, Washington, DC.

For RAYMOND EDWIN MABUS, JR., Secretary of the Navy, Defendant: Fred Elmore Haynes, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.

OPINION

Page 84

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Royce C. Lamberth, United States District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on defendant Raymond Mabus's Motion to Dismiss, Dec. 3, 2012, ECF No. 5. Plaintiff Louis Vince, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus in this Court. Pet. for Writ, Sept. 5, 2012, ECF No. 1. Vince asks this Court to order Mabus, as Secretary of the Navy, to produce Vince's final discharge documentation. Defendant has moved to dismiss the Petition under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3) for improper venue and under Rule 12(b)(6) because, inter alia, res judicata bars the suit. Upon consideration of defendant's motion [5], the plaintiff's Opposition, Jan. 14, 2013, ECF No. 8, the defendant's Reply thereto, Jan. 18, 2013, ECF No. 10, and the entire record herein, the Court will dismiss plaintiff's Petition with prejudice, as the preclusive effect of Vince v. Mabus, 852 F.Supp.2d 96 (D.D.C. 2012) bars Vince's current claims.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Background of the Plaintiff's Previous Case

The instant case is an extension of Vince v. Mabus, 852 F.Supp.2d 96 (D.D.C. 2012),

Page 85

in which Vince challenged the Board for Correction of Naval Records' (" Board" ) rejection of his request for a records correction. Vince enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserves on December 12, 1994. When Vince joined the Reserve Optional Enlistment Program, he agreed to serve six years of active duty and two years of inactive duty. His active service agreement required " attendance at...forty-eight (48) scheduled drills...and not less than fourteen (14) days...of active duty for training during each year of [his] contract." His signed enlistment agreement stated that " failure to attend drills and training periods could result in a less than honorable discharge." Vince, 852 F.Supp.2d at 98.

For the first few years of the contract, Vince met his training and drill requirements. In August 1997, Vince's wife was diagnosed with cancer. Vince allegedly requested leniency from his commanding officers regarding completing the required drills, but his command was unwilling to accommodate him. Vince missed several drills to take his wife to chemotherapy. In October 2007, Vince's command warned him that his unauthorized absences could result in administrative separation. Vince continued to miss drills in 2008, and as a result Vince's commanding officer commenced separation proceedings. Id.

On December 14, 1998, Vince was administratively separated from the USMCR and the characterization of his separation was " Under Other Than Honorable Conditions." [1] Nine years later, Vince requested and received a copy of his military personnel records. He then filed a request with the Board for Correction of Naval Records to upgrade his discharge to " Honorable." In his request, Vince asserted that (1) he missed drills in order to care for his cancer-stricken wife; (2) the separation process was improper because he never had the opportunity to speak on his behalf nor is there a separation letter in his file; and (3) he should receive clemency because he serves the county as a law enforcement officer. Id. at 98-99.

The Board rejected Vince's request to review and re-characterize his separation characterization. The Board issued a two-page letter stating its decision and explaining that although some text in Vince's military record was illegible, the Board could read enough to determine that Vince was on notice of his requirements, that Vince did not respond to warnings, that a military lawyer reviewed a separation package, and that the characterization of Vince's discharge was normal in cases such as this. The letter also stated that missing drills in order to care for his ailing wife was not sufficient to warrant re-characterization of Vince's discharge given the three years of unsatisfactory participation. Id. at 99.

When Vince received the Board's adverse decision, he petitioned the Board for

Page 86

reconsideration. He claimed the Board's decision was infirm because the Board based its decision on incomplete and partly illegible records. In response, the Board denied Vince's application for reconsideration, explaining that he failed to submit any new material evidence with his application to warrant a different decision. Vince then filed suit against Raymond Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, in federal court under the Administrative Procedure Act (" APA" ). Vince alleged that the Board's decision to deny his request was arbitrary and capricious. Id.

On April 19, 2010, Mabus filed a motion for summary judgment. See Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Civil No. 10-cv-00088 (RWR), ECF No. 3. Over a month passed without any response from Vince, so Judge Richard Roberts granted defendant's summary judgment motion as conceded. See Order, Civil No. 10-cv-00088 (RWR), June 7, 2010, ECF No. 4. Thereafter, Vince appealed. See Notice of Appeal, Civil No. 10-cv-00088 (RWR), Aug. 8, 2010, ECF No. 5. Upon motion, Judge Roberts reconsidered and vacated his prior Order, thus mooting the pending appeal. See Minute Order, Civil No. 10-cv-00088 (RWR), Mar. 28, 2011; Order of USCA, Civil No. 10-cv-00088 (RWR), July 6, 2011, ECF No. 18. After vacating his earlier Order, Judge Roberts then considered the merits of the defendant's summary judgment motion.

In a written opinion, Judge Roberts granted summary judgment to the defendant, Raymond Mabus. Vince, 852 F.Supp.2d 98. Reviewing the decision of the Board under a deferential standard, Judge Roberts decided the Board's decision was not arbitrary or capricious. He determined that the " Board's decision addresses all of Vince's arguments and gives the Board's reasons for its ultimate conclusion." Id. at 101. Rejecting Vince's argument that the Board relied on an incomplete record--Vince had complained that the administrative record did not include his official final discharge documentation--Judge Roberts found that the administrative record included " ample documented instances of Vince's unsatisfactory performance" and sufficient evidence to support the Board's decision. Id. This opinion constituted final judgment and Vince did not appeal.

B. Background of the Plaintiff's Present Case

Approximately six months after Judge Roberts entered final judgment in 10-cv-00088, Vince filed a new action in federal district court. In the instant case, brought as a Petition for Writ of Mandamus, Vince asks the Court to order defendant Raymond Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, to produce a final and official copy of Vince's discharge documents. Pet. for Writ of Mandamus, Civil No. 12-cv-01465 (RCL), Sept. 5, 2012, ECF No. 1. The military uses form DD-214 as its official discharge form. Id. at 2. Despite requesting his final DD-214 at least seven times from 2007 to 2012, id. at 1-3, Vince claims he never received his final discharge papers. Instead, Vince received a non-final DD-214 that clearly indicated that " This is Not a Final Discharge." Id. ( quoting Ex. A to Pl.'s Pet. for Writ). Vince argues that " the Navy has a preemptory, non-discretionary duty" to provide a ...


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