United States District Court, D. Columbia.
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LELIA H. PROCTOR, Plaintiff, Pro se, N Englewood, MD.
For DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA PUBLIC SCHOOLS, Defendants: Joseph Alfonso Gonzalez, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL/DC, Washington, DC.
For ERIC H. HOLDER, JR., RONALD C. MACHEN, JR., Defendants: Jodi T. George, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.
BERYL A. HOWELL, United States District Judge.
The plaintiff, Leila Proctor, proceeding pro se, brings numerous federal and state law claims arising out of her termination from the District of Columbia Public Schools (" DCPS" ). Pending before the Court is the District of Columbia's (the " District" ) Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 8 (" D.C.'s Mot. Dismiss" ) and Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen's (" Federal Defendants" ) Motion to Dismiss Federal Defendants, ECF No. 20. For the reasons stated below, the District's motion for summary judgment and the Federal Defendants' motion to dismiss are granted.
Since 1977, the plaintiff served as a science teacher for DCPS. Am. Compl. at 3, ECF No. 3. Her service came to an abrupt end when she received a Reduction in Force (" RIF" ) notice, effective November 2, 2009. See Am. Comp. ¶ 32. The plaintiff alleges that she received the RIF notice as a result of " blatant deliberate direct discrimination." Am. Compl. ¶ 29.
Between June and August 2009, DCPS hired approximately 934 new teachers, primarily from organizations such as Teach for America and the New Teacher Project. Am. Compl. ¶ 32. In August 2009, the plaintiff received a letter from DCPS instructing her to report to Woodson Senior High 9th Grade Academy for the 2009 to 2010 school year. Am. Compl. ¶ 30. Upon arrival, the plaintiff noticed that Woodson Senior High had retained three new science teachers during the summer, two of whom were white women in their twenties and members of Teach for America. Am. Compl. ¶ 31. On October 2, 2009, the plaintiff received an official notice that, due to a DCPS budget shortfall, her position was being eliminated pursuant to a RIF. Pl. Mem. Opp'n at 10, ECF No. 16. The plaintiff was one of approximately 266 teachers subject to the RIF. Am. Compl. ¶ 32.
On October 7, 2009, the plaintiff's union, the Washington Teachers' Union (" the Union" ), challenged the RIF in District of Columbia Superior Court.
See Washington Teachers' Union Local #6 v. Rhee et al., No. 2009 CA 007482B (October 9, 2009) ( " WTU Litigation" ); see also Defs.' Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss and Summ. J. (" D.C.'s Mem." ), Ex. 2, Am. Compl., WTU Litigation (" WTU Amended Complaint" ), ECF No. 8-2. As part of their challenge, the Union alleged that the supposed " budget shortfall" was " clearly a pretext" so that DCPS could discharge " the older, more senior teachers" without the need to follow the bargained-for discharge procedures. See WTU Amended Complaint at 2-3. On November 5, 2009, the court heard testimony from five witnesses on behalf of the Union and two witnesses on behalf of the defendant, the District of Columbia. D.C.'s Mem. Ex. 7, Order Den. Pl.'s Mot. Prelim. Inj. and Mot. TRO, WTU Litigation at 5 (" WTU Preliminary Injunction Ruling" ), ECF No. 8-7. On November 24, 2009, the court denied the Union's request for a preliminary injunction concluding that " some questionable RIF decisions do not establish that the RIF was a pretext for a mass discharge, given the undisputed evidence that the DCPS budget was sufficient to support the existing staff and the new teachers being hired for the current school year, until the Council reduced the budget . . . ." Id. at 17. Three years later, on September 7, 2012, the Superior Court adopted the findings and analysis from the preliminary injunction and dismissed the case. See D.C.'s Mem., Ex. 3, Order Granting Mot. Dismiss, WTU Litigation (" WTU Motion to Dismiss Ruling" ), ECF No. 8-3. The court again determined that " the RIF . . . was indeed a RIF," id. at 4, and concluded that " the facts in no way support" the Union's theory " that DCPS had created the shortfall by hiring too many new teachers in the spring and early summer of 2009 . . . as a pretext for terminating more senior teachers . . . ." Id. at 4 n.3.
Shortly after the Superior Court had denied the Union's request for a preliminary injunction, the plaintiff challenged, on December 5, 2009, her dismissal by filing a complaint with the EEOC. See D.C.'s Mem., Ex. 5 (" December 5, 2009 EEOC Charge" ), ECF No. 8-5. Plaintiff checked two boxes marked " Age" and " Retaliation," claiming that she " was discriminated against based upon [her] age 69 and retaliated against in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967." Id. Almost two years later, on October 21, 2011, the plaintiff filed an addendum to the December 5, 2009 EEOC Charge, requesting that " the charge of violation of my Civil Rights [be] added to [the] initial charge of discrimination (age and race)." See Pl.'s Mem. Opp'n Mot. Dismiss, Ex. 2 at 2 (" October 21, 2011 EEOC Addendum" ), ECF No. 16-1. Despite the wording of the addendum, the original EEOC Charge contained no mention of race discrimination. See December 5, 2009 EEOC Charge. Nearly three years after the original charge, and one year after the addendum, on November 15, 2012, the plaintiff filed an additional EEOC charge, this time checking three boxes for age, retaliation, and race. See D.C.'s Mem., Ex. 6 (" November 15, 2012 EEOC Charge" ), ECF No. 8-6. In this charge, the plaintiff alleged that she " [had] been discriminated against based on [her] race (Black)." Id.
During the WTU Litigation and its aftermath, the media published numerous stories regarding the RIF. In one story, appearing in the February 2010 issue of Fast Company, then-DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee explained her justification for
the RIF: " I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school. Why wouldn't we take those things into consideration?" See Pl.'s Mem. Reply Supp. Opp'n Def.'s Mot. Dismiss at 12 (" Pl.'s Reply" ), ECF No. 19. Several other news sources picked-up and reported the quotes, both around the time of initial publication and in the years since. See id. at 13-15.
On June 28, 2013, the plaintiff filed the instant action against two D.C. and two federal government officials, DCPS, and the District asserting violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 (" ADEA" ); race and age discrimination in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq. (" Title VI" ); race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., (" Title VII" ); a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of Due Process; race and age discrimination in violation of the D.C. Human Rights Act, D.C. Code § 2-1401.01 et seq. (" DCHRA" ); wrongful discharge; defamation; and fraudulent misrepresentation. See Am. Compl. at 1-2, 24.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
A. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1)
" 'Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction,' possessing 'only that power authorized by Constitution and statute.'" Gunn v. Minton, 133 S.Ct. 1059, 185 L.Ed.2d 72 (2013) (quoting Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 128 L.Ed.2d 391 (1994)). Indeed, federal courts are " forbidden . . . from acting beyond our authority," NetworkIP, LLC v. FCC, 548 F.3d 116, 120, 383 U.S.App.D.C. 310 (D.C. Cir. 2008), and, therefore, have " an affirmative obligation 'to consider whether the constitutional and statutory authority exist for us to hear each dispute.'" James Madison Ltd. by Hecht v. Ludwig, 82 F.3d 1085, 1092, 317 U.S.App.D.C. 281 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (quoting Herbert v. National Academy of Sciences, 974 F.2d 192, 196, 297 U.S.App.D.C. 406 (D.C. Cir. 1992)). Absent subject matter jurisdiction over a case, the court must dismiss it. Arbaugh v. Y& H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 506-07, 126 S.Ct. 1235, 163 L.Ed.2d 1097 (2006); Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3).
When considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), the court must accept as true all uncontroverted material factual allegations contained in the complaint and " 'construe the complaint liberally, granting plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged' and upon such facts determine jurisdictional questions." Am. Nat'l Ins. Co. v. FDIC, 642 F.3d 1137, 1139, 395 U.S.App.D.C. 316 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (quoting Thomas v. Principi, 394 F.3d 970, 972, 364 U.S.App.D.C. 326 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (quoting Barr v. Clinton, 370 F.3d 1196, 1199, 361 U.S.App.D.C. 472 (D.C. Cir. 2004))). The court need not accept inferences drawn by the plaintiff, however, if those inferences are unsupported by facts alleged in the complaint or amount merely to legal conclusions. See Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242, 352 U.S.App.D.C. 4 (D.C. Cir. 2002). Moreover, in evaluating subject matter jurisdiction, the court, when necessary, may " 'undertake an independent investigation to assure itself of its own subject matter jurisdiction,'" Settles v. United States Parole Comm'n, 429 F.3d 1098, 1107-08, 368 U.S.App.D.C. 297 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (quoting Haase v. Sessions, 835 F.2d 902, 908, 266 U.S.App.D.C. 325 (D.C. Cir. 1987)), and consider facts developed in the record beyond the complaint, id. See also Herbert v. National Academy of Sciences, 974 F.2d 192, 197, 297 U.S.App.D.C. 406 (D.C. Cir. 1992) (in disposing of motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, " where necessary, the court may consider the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record, or the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts." ); Alliance for Democracy v. FEC, 362 F.Supp.2d 138, 142 (D.D.C. 2005). The burden of establishing any jurisdictional facts to support the exercise of the subject matter jurisdiction rests on the plaintiff. See Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 559 U.S. 77, 96-97, 130 S.Ct. 1181, 175 L.Ed.2d 1029 (2010); Thomson v. Gaskill, 315 U.S. 442, 446, 62 S.Ct. 673, 86 L.Ed. 951 (1942); Moms Against Mercury v. FDA, 483 F.3d 824, 828, 376 U.S.App.D.C. 18 (D.C. Cir. 2007).
B. Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint contain " a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," to encourage brevity and, at the same time, " give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (ellipses in original; internal quotations and citations omitted); Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 319, 127 S.Ct. 2499, 168 L.Ed.2d 179 (2007). The Supreme Court has cautioned that although " Rule 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era,  it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). To survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the " complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Wood v. Moss, 134 S.Ct. 2056, 2067, 188 L.Ed.2d 1039 (2014) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). A claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff pleads factual content that is more than " 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability," but allows the court to draw the reasonable ...