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McFadden v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 7, 2016

COREY L. MCFADDEN, Plaintiff,
v.
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

REGGIE B. WALTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

This civil suit is currently before the Court on several motions: (1) the Plaintiff’s Motion to Stay Proceedings Pending Appeal (“Stay Mot.”); (2) the Plaintiff’s Motion for the Honorable Court to Amend [Its April 23, 2015] Order (“Amend Mot.”); (3) the Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint (“Leave Mot.”); and (4) the Plaintiff’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (“J. Mot.”). After careful consideration of the parties’ submissions, [1] and for the reasons that follow, the Court will deny the motion to stay the proceedings in this case, deny the motion for the Court to amend its April 2015 order, deny in part and grant in part the motion for leave to file another amended complaint, and deny the motion for judgment on the pleadings.

I. BACKGROUND

In the Court’s January 2015 Order, the Court dismissed certain claims in this case[2] filed by the pro se plaintiff, Corey L. McFadden, against the defendants, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (“WMATA”), the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 (“Union”), and various individuals employed by WMATA and the Union. See generally January 22, 2015 Order (“Jan. 2015 Order”) at 13-21 (dismissing the plaintiff’s claims of defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy, and assault), ECF No. 27. Shortly after the Court issued its January 2015 Order, the plaintiff sought “reconsideration of two aspects of . . . [that Order]: (1) dismissal of the state law claims against Dr. Leonard Hertzberg . . . with prejudice; and (2) dismissal of the claims against Jackie Jeter and Douglas Taylor on the basis that they are immune from suit as union officials.” April 23, 2015 Order (“Apr. 2015 Order”) at 1 n.1, ECF No. 39. As to the first request, the Court agreed to amend its January 2015 Order so that the plaintiff’s state law claims against Dr. Hertzberg were dismissed without prejudice, see id. at 1 n.2, 2, allowing the plaintiff to cure the jurisdictional defect it identified in the plaintiff’s first amended complaint through another amended complaint, see Jan. 2015 Order at 7-8. As to the second request, the Court refused to reconsider its conclusion that Ms. Jeter and Mr. Taylor were immune from the plaintiff’s lawsuit.[3] See Apr. 2015 Order at 1-2 n.3.

Thereafter, the plaintiff sought interlocutory review from the District of Columbia Circuit of the Court’s dismissal of Ms. Jeter and Mr. Taylor from this case. See Plaintiff’s Civil Notice of Appeal (“Appeal Notice”) at 1, ECF No. 45; see also Amend Mot. at 1. In conjunction with his attempted interlocutory appeal, the plaintiff requested that this Court stay the proceedings in this case pending the outcome of that appeal. See Stay Mot. at 1. The plaintiff also moved to amend his complaint for a second time. See Leave Mot. at 1. Upon doing so, the plaintiff then quickly filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings against Dr. Herzberg, whom the Court had previously dismissed as a party in this case.[4] See J. Mot. at 1. Recently, the Circuit declined to entertain the plaintiff’s attempt for an interlocutory appeal of this Court’s dismissal of Ms. Jeter and Mr. Taylor. See Order at 1, McFadden v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., No. 15-7052 (D.C. Cir. Feb. 4, 2016), ECF No. 1597192. The Court deems it prudent to now address the four motions currently pending before it.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

“A party may amend [his] pleading once as a matter of course” within twenty-one days following several designated events. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1). However, after that time has elapsed, the initial pleading may be amended “only with the opposing party’s written consent or the court’s leave.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). While the Court has sole discretion to grant or deny leave to amend, “[l]eave to amend a [pleading] should be freely given in the absence of undue delay, bad faith, undue prejudice to the opposing party, repeated failure to cure deficiencies, or futility.” Richardson v. United States, 193 F.3d 545, 548-49 (D.C. Cir. 1999) (citing Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)). The rationale for this perspective is that “[i]f the underlying facts or circumstances relied upon by a plaintiff may be a proper subject of relief, he ought to be afforded an opportunity to test his claim on the merits.” Foman, 371 U.S. at 182.

Nevertheless, a “court may properly deny a motion to amend if the amended pleading would not survive a motion to dismiss, ” i.e., if it were futile to amend. In re Interbank Funding Corp. Sec. Litig., 629 F.3d 213, 218 (D.C. Cir. 2010); see also James Madison Ltd. v. Ludwig, 82 F.3d 1085, 1099 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (“Courts may deny a motion to amend a complaint as futile . . . if the proposed claim would not survive a motion to dismiss.”). Finally, the pleadings of pro se parties are to be “‘liberally construed, ’ and ‘a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers[.]’” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). But even though a pro se complaint must be construed liberally, the complaint must still “present a claim on which the court can grant relief.” Chandler v. Roche, 215 F.Supp.2d 166, 168 (D.D.C. 2002) (citing Crisafi v. Holland, 655 F.2d 1305, 1308 (D.C. Cir. 1981)).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Preliminary Motions

Several of the plaintiff’s motions can be quickly resolved. The Court will deny the plaintiff’s motion to stay the proceedings in this case as moot. The Court has effectively stayed the proceedings on its own, having awaited the Circuit’s resolution of the plaintiff’s attempt to obtain an appeal before addressing the request for the stay. See, e.g., November 16, 2015 Minute Order (continuing case-management, status conference in light of appeal); see also October 23, 2015 Minute Order (granting extension of time for discovery because of appeal). Now that the Circuit has denied the plaintiff the opportunity to pursue an appeal, the Court will issue a revised scheduling order at the status conference scheduled for March 18, 2016, at 3:30 p.m.[5] Next, the Court will deny the plaintiff’s motion seeking permission to pursue an appeal as moot-his attempt to pursue an appeal having been heard by and ruled upon by the Circuit.[6] And the Court will deny the plaintiff’s motion to have a judgment entered against Dr. Hertzberg as premature.[7]As the Court will explain below, there is an outstanding question as to whether the Court has personal jurisdiction over Dr. Hertzberg that must be explored more fully. If the answer to that question is in the negative, then the Court would have no authority to enter a judgment against Dr. Hertzberg. If, on the other hand, the answer to that question is in the affirmative, then judgment on the pleadings could be appropriate-albeit very unlikely. Thus, the Court will entertain any further motion for judgment on the pleadings only after the jurisdictional issue has been resolved. See Black v. LaHood, 882 F.Supp.2d 98, 107 (D.D.C. 2012).

B. The Motion For Leave To Amend

1.The Amendments Affecting Dr. Hertzberg

The plaintiff’s attempt to amend his complaint merits more discussion. Dr. Hertzberg contends that the plaintiff’s proposed amendments are futile because they would not result in the Court having either subject-matter jurisdiction or personal jurisdiction over him, Hertzberg Opp’n to Leave Mot. at 2-7, and that even if the Court could properly exercise jurisdiction, the amendments still do not state ...


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