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Lattisaw v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

July 28, 2015

JOSEPH W. LATTISAW, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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JOSEPH W. LATTISAW, JR., Plaintiff, Pro se, Silver Spring, MD.

For DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT, D.C. POLICE AND FIRE CLINIC, D.C. POLICE AND FIREMEN'S RETIREMENT, IRVIN NATHAN, Attorney General for DC, VINCENT C. GRAY, Mayor, Defendants: Shermineh C. Jones, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Washington, DC.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION

KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, United States District Judge.

Pro se Plaintiff Joseph W. Lattisaw was employed for 16 years as a police officer with the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department (" MPD" ) until his retirement on mental health grounds in September of 2006. Lattisaw, an African American man, has filed this action against the MPD, the District of Columbia, the D.C. Police and Fire Clinic, and the D.C. Police and Fireman's Retirement and Relief Board (collectively, " Defendants" ), claiming that Defendants retaliated against him in various ways--up to and including forcing him to retire--because Lattisaw filed a sexual harassment complaint against a superior officer in 2002. Specifically, Lattisaw's amended complaint contains eight counts that allege retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (" Title VII" ) (Counts I--IV); retaliation with respect to making and enforcing contracts in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (" Section 1981" ) (Count I); deprivation of civil rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (" Section 1983" ) (Count II); conspiracy to interfere with civil rights and the failure to prevent such conspiracy in violation of 42 U.S.C. § § 1985 and 1986 (" Section 1985" and " Section 1986" ) (Counts III and IV); retaliation in violation of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, D.C. Code § 2-1401.01 et seq. (" DCHRA" ) (Count V); and defamation, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and intentional infliction of emotional distress in violation of D.C. common law (Counts VI, VII, and VIII, respectively). ( See Am. Compl., ECF No. 3, ¶ ¶ 241-69.)

Before this Court at present is Defendants' motion to dismiss Lattisaw's amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state

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a claim upon which relief can be granted. ( See Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss (" Defs.' Mot." ), ECF No. 6, at 1.)[1] Defendants contend, inter alia, that the District of Columbia is the only proper defendant in this action, that Lattisaw's federal and state law claims are untimely, and that his state law claims are further barred under principles of res judicata. ( See Defs.' Mem. in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. (" Defs.' Br." ), ECF No. 6-1, at 1-2.) As explained fully below, this Court finds that Lattisaw's Title VII, Section 1981, and Section 1983 claims are conclusively time-barred, and that Lattisaw has failed to meet the relevant legal standards for stating a claim under either Section 1985 or Section 1986. Lattisaw's federal claims are thus subject to dismissal, and in the absence of any claim over which it has original jurisdiction, this Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims. Consequently, this Court will GRANT Defendants' motion, and Lattisaw's amended complaint will be DISMISSED in its entirety. A separate order consistent with this memorandum opinion will follow.

I. BACKGROUND

The following facts are gleaned from Lattisaw's amended complaint and from two memoranda he filed in opposition to Defendants' motion to dismiss. ( See Pl.'s Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss (" Pl.'s Opp'n" ), ECF No. 8; Pl.'s Reply to Def.'s Reply to Pl.'s Opp'n, ECF No. 10.) See also Fennell v. AARP, 770 F.Supp.2d 118, 121 (D.D.C. 2011) (" [W]here the non-movant is proceeding pro se and has filed multiple submissions in opposition to the motion to dismiss, the district court should endeavor to read the party's filings together and as a whole." (citing Richardson v. United States, 193 F.3d 545, 548, 338 U.S. App.D.C. 265 (D.C. Cir. 1999))). Lattisaw's amended complaint--which totals 63 pages and contains nearly 300 paragraphs--provides numerous examples of conduct related to Lattisaw's employment that he deems discriminatory and retaliatory. However, three events lie at the heart of Lattisaw's myriad allegations: an alleged incident of sexual harassment on September 15, 2002; the purported alteration and posting of a confidential injury report on or about October 11, 2002; and Lattisaw's allegedly involuntary retirement on September 6, 2006.

A. The Alleged Factual Bases For Lattisaw's Claims

With respect to the initial harassment incident, Lattisaw alleges that a supervising officer named Lieutenant Francis Allman made a sexually explicit comment to and regarding Lattisaw on September 15, 2002, while both officers were on duty. ( See, e.g., Am. Compl. ¶ 227 (stating that " an official made an unwanted pass at [Lattisaw], in the bathroom, and while on duty" ); see also id. ¶ ¶ 23, 26 (naming Allman).)[2] According to the amended complaint, Lattisaw then filed an internal complaint with the MPD against Allman. ( See id. ¶ ¶ 12, 20.) Lattisaw also appears to have filed at least one work-related injury report--known as a " PD Form 42" report--claiming that he suffered an injury or illness as a result of Allman's comments. ( See id. ¶ ¶ 23, 25, 26, 30.) After filing the injury report, Lattisaw alleges

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that he was placed on sick leave and that he began to see both a D.C. Police and Fire Clinic (" PFC" ) therapist and a PFC psychiatrist for treatment and medication. ( See id. ¶ ¶ 19-20.)

Lattisaw claims that he returned to full duty a few weeks later, with the PFC's approval. ( See id. ¶ ¶ 19-20.) However, upon his return to full duty, Lattisaw alleges that Sergeant J.D. Harp and others subjected Lattisaw to " retaliatory incidents [that] were directed towards him, for the internal complaint he had brought against" Allman. ( Id. ¶ 20.)[3] Lattisaw states that events such as these, " along with the first incident . . . began to interfere with [his] performance[,]" and so, on October 8, 2002, Lattisaw " prepared a second PD 42 injury/illness report, . . . hand delivered it to Sgt. Harp[,] . . . [and] then [reported] to the PFC where he was [again] placed on sick leave." ( Id. ¶ 23.)

The second pivotal event that Lattisaw's amended complaint relates took place a few days later, when--while still on sick leave--Lattisaw learned that an altered copy of one of his injury reports had been posted in the station locker room, and that the narrative section describing the incident with Allman had been changed to depict Lattisaw as the aggressor and Allman as the victim. ( See id. ¶ 26.) Lattisaw remained on sick leave and, in November of 2002, PFC medical personnel diagnosed Lattisaw with " a neuropsychiatric illness" ( id. ¶ 29)--which Lattisaw characterizes as " depression" and/or " PTSD" ( id. ¶ 27)--resulting from " the workplace incident" with Allman ( id. ¶ 29; see also id. ¶ 35). Lattisaw alleges that PFC Director of Medical Services Ira Stohlman initially classified Lattisaw's injury as one that he incurred in the performance of duty, meaning that Lattisaw was eligible to claim certain benefits and compensation as a result. ( See id. ¶ 32.)

According to the amended complaint, Lattisaw did not return to full duty until March 20, 2004 ( see id. ¶ 79), at which point Defendants allegedly continued to retaliate against him. ( See, e.g., id. ¶ ¶ 80-85 (describing delay in promotion); id. ¶ ¶ 92-93 (describing abrupt transfer to new district and verbal altercation with new supervisor).) In particular, Lattisaw claims that in late June of 2004, Stohlman said to him, " You are going to get everything you deserve" ( id. ¶ 94 (emphasis omitted)), and then, on July 16, 2004, Stohlman reclassified Lattisaw's illness as a non-performance-of-duty injury ( id. ¶ 95). Stohlman's purported reason for the reclassification was that the incident with Allman did not qualify as " a 'critical incident'" under applicable " stress protocol" regulations, and thus could not result in a performance-of-duty injury. ( Id. ¶ 104; see also id. ¶ 95.) Lattisaw alleges that this reclassification eventually led the MPD to order the PFC to stop treating Lattisaw for depression in 2005. ( See id. ¶ 103.)

The amended complaint contains relatively few factual allegations with respect to Lattisaw's allegedly involuntary retirement--the third pivotal event--but certain details are clearly stated. At some point after 2002, the PFC purportedly recommended Lattisaw for retirement, stating that his illness " was of a permanent nature and that h[e] would never be able to return

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to a full duty status." ( Id. ¶ 233; see also id. ¶ 185.) The D.C. Police and Fireman's Retirement and Relief Board (" PFRRB" ) instructed Lattisaw to appear at a retirement hearing scheduled for April 20, 2006, but " the hearing was tempor[arily] suspended" due to Lattisaw's poor health. ( Id. ¶ 111.) The amended complaint does not specify whether or when a rescheduled hearing took place, but it does allege that the PFRRB " involuntarily retired" Lattisaw on mental health grounds on September 6, 2006. ( Id. ¶ 114.) A subsequent appeal of the PFRRB's decision to the D.C. Court of Appeals apparently resulted in partial remand to the PFRRB on the issue of Lattisaw's retirement benefits ( see id. ¶ ¶ 119-21), and on January 29, 2009, the PFRRB allegedly determined that " there was overwhelming evidence in the record to support the[] conclusion that [Lattisaw's] injury was the result of work place sexual harassment" ( id. ¶ 126). However, Lattisaw alleges that " he never received any additional benefits" as a result of this determination. ( See Pl.'s Opp'n at 11.)

B. Procedural History

1. Litigation In D.C. Superior Court

On September 3, 2003, while Lattisaw was still an employee of the MPD, Lattisaw and his wife filed a civil action against the District of Columbia in D.C. Superior Court, claiming defamation, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and loss of consortium in connection with the MPD's alleged posting of the altered injury report. ( See Am. Compl. ¶ 53.) See also Lattisaw v. District of Columbia (" Lattisaw I " ), 905 A.2d 790, 792 (D.C. 2006) (describing Lattisaw's Superior Court complaint). The trial court dismissed Lattisaw's complaint for failure to exhaust available administrative remedies as required under the Comprehensive Merit Personnel Act, D.C. Code § 1-606.01 et seq. (" CMPA" ), and denied Lattisaw's motion for reconsideration. ( See Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 58-59.) See also Lattisaw I, 905 A.2d at 791, 792. Lattisaw and his wife appealed, and the D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed the Superior Court's ruling, holding that Lattisaw was required to submit a grievance to the MPD regarding the posting of the altered injury report before he could file suit in Superior Court. See Lattisaw I, 905 A.2d at 793-95.

2. Relevant Administrative Charges

Lattisaw also purportedly filed, or attempted to file, administrative charges with both the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ) and the D.C. Office of Human Rights (" OHR" ) related to the events described above, first in 2003 ( see Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 42-44); then, in 2011 ( see id. ¶ 237; Pl.'s Opp'n at 23); and then, again, in 2012 ( see Am. Compl. ¶ 235; Pl.'s Opp'n at 24). Lattisaw alleges that, finally, on February 18, 2013, he successfully filed a " Charge of Discrimination Form" with the EEOC (Am. Compl. ¶ 238), which included allegations " that [Lattisaw] was dismissed f[rom] the [ ]MPD in retaliation for" filing complaints " about Lt. All[m]an and others" ( id. ¶ 239). Lattisaw states that this charge was " dual-filed with the DC OHR and . . . assigned to EEOC for investigation." ( Id. ¶ 238.)

On February 27, 2013, the EEOC sent Lattisaw a document entitled " Dismissal and Notice of Rights[.]" ( See Am. Compl. at 64.) The notice informed Lattisaw that the EEOC was closing its file on Lattisaw's charge dated February 18, 2013, because the " charge was not timely filed with EEOC[.]" ( Id. ) " [I]n other words," the notice explained, Lattisaw " waited too long after the date(s) of the alleged discrimination to file [his] charge[.]" ( Id. ) The notice also informed Lattisaw of his right to file a lawsuit based on the charge in federal

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or state court within 90 days of receiving the ...


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