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Jiggetts v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 13, 2017

TENISHA N. JIGGETTS, et al ., Plaintiffs,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KETANJI BROWN JACKSON United States District Judge.

         On March 5, 2016, Plaintiffs Tenisha N. Jiggetts and Karen W. Cooper (“Plaintiffs”) filed a Fourth Amended Complaint against the District of Columbia and seven of its individual employees (collectively, “Defendants”). Jiggetts and Cooper formerly worked for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, and their lawsuit arises out of a series of allegedly discriminatory and tortious acts they allegedly faced in the context of their employment. Plaintiffs' Fourth Amended Complaint (hereinafter referred to as “the complaint”) contains 20 separate claims for relief, and generally asserts that (1) Defendants violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by depriving Plaintiffs of their rights under the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution; (2) Defendants' discriminatory and/or retaliatory conduct violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.; and (3) Defendants have committed the common law torts of assault, battery, negligence, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. (See 4th Am. Compl., ECF No. 37, at 48-76.)[1]

         Before this Court at present is Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' Fourth Amended Complaint. (See Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss (“Defs.' Mot.”), ECF No. 41.) Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' pleading-which is 78 pages long and contains more than 450 paragraphs-should be dismissed for failure to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, and that, in any event, Counts I and II (Section 1983 claims brought against various individual defendants) must be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (See Id. at 3-4.) For the reasons explained below, this Court agrees with Defendants that Plaintiffs' Fourth Amended Complaint fails to comply with Rule 8's pleading and notice requirements. Furthermore, the Court notes that Plaintiffs have previously been granted several opportunities to produce a complaint that satisfies Rule 8 and thereby provides Defendants with succinct and sufficient notice of the legal theories that undergird Plaintiffs' claims and the particular allegations that support them. Plaintiffs' Fourth Amended Complaint continues to contain scattershot assertions of fact that are not properly directed at the myriad legal claims that are inserted into the pleading, and this Court has little confidence that yet another try would yield a different result. Consequently, Defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint is GRANTED, and this case will be DISMISSED without prejudice and in its entirety on Rule 8 grounds alone. A separate order consistent with this Memorandum Opinion will follow.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Alleged Facts

         Tenisha Jiggetts and Karen Cooper, two African-American females, are former employees of the District of Columbia. (See 4th Am. Compl. ¶ 11.) Jiggetts, who is forty-six years old, “served as the attorney advisor to the Criminal Division at the Superior Court of the District of Columbia” (id.), and Cooper, who is sixty-one, “served as a supervisor” in that same division (id.). Plaintiffs allege that, on numerous occasions, several employees of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia- namely, Defendants Daniel W. Cipullo, Cheryl Bailey, Anne Wicks, Yvonne Martinez-Vega, Richard Parris, Nancy McKinney, and Belinda Carr-subjected Plaintiffs and other Superior Court employees to a variety of “racial, gender, age and compensation discrimination, harassment, a hostile work environment, interference and retaliation[.]” (Id. ¶ 19; see also Id. ¶¶ 13, 153-54, 167, 176, 233.) Plaintiffs' Fourth Amended Complaint describes a plethora of events, encounters, and general working conditions that range from instances of purported “bullying” and name-calling (id. ¶ 49) to less favorable treatment (see Id. ¶ 54), including untimely and/or poor performance evaluations (see Id. ¶¶ 78, 225). The complaint describes some acts that were allegedly directed against Plaintiffs personally (see, e.g., id. ¶ 32), while other acts appear to have been taken against other Superior Court employees (see, e.g., id. ¶¶ 51, 76-77) or racial minorities in general (see, e.g., id. ¶¶ 46, 54, 70). Jiggetts claims that she was also involved in physical or verbal altercations with Defendants Parris and Cipullo (see Id. ¶¶ 119-120, 128, 132), after which she was unlawfully suspended, and her employment was terminated (see Id. ¶¶ 131, 135). Cooper alleges that, as a result of some or all of the aforementioned acts, she was ultimately forced to resign. (See Id. ¶ 238.)

         B. Procedural History

         1. Plaintiffs' Complaints

         Plaintiffs have submitted five complaints in this matter, the first of which was filed on May 20, 2015. Plaintiffs' initial complaint, which was brought against the District of Columbia and individual defendant Cipullo, was 56 pages long, contained 477 paragraphs, and alleged 15 separate statutory and constitutional violations. (See Compl., ECF No. 1.)[2] For the next 18 months, Plaintiffs sought leave to amend their complaint three times. (See Motions for Leave to File Amended Complaints, ECF Nos. 10, 27, 31.) At each turn, Plaintiffs increased the number of claims, the number of defendants, and the breadth and depth of their factual allegations. (See, e.g., 1st Am. Compl., ECF No. 11 (raising 27 counts in a 56-page, 482-paragraph pleading brought against six total defendants); 2nd Am. Compl., ECF No. 30 (raising 29 counts in a 73-page, 593-paragraph pleading brought against six total defendants); 3rd Am. Compl., ECF No. 32 (raising 51 counts in a 135-page, 1072-paragraph pleading brought against eight total defendants).)

         At a status conference on February 11, 2016, the parties agreed to the Plaintiffs' filing of a fourth amended complaint. (See Feb. 11, 2016 Hr'g Tr., ECF No. 49, at 9- 10.)[3] A Court order memorializing this agreement followed. (See Min. Order of Feb. 11, 2016.) Then, on March 5, 2016, Plaintiffs filed the instant pleading (the Fourth Amended Complaint), which stands at 78 pages and 459 paragraphs long. The Fourth Amended Complaint alleges statutory, constitutional, and common-law violations in the context of 20 counts that have been brought against the District of Columbia and seven of its employees, both in their individual and official capacities. (See 4th Am. Compl.)

         While shorter in length than many of its predecessors, the Fourth Amended Complaint is hardly a model of clarity. For example, Plaintiffs' Tenth Count extends over twenty-two paragraphs (see Id. ¶¶ 351-72) and is titled “MIXED MOTIVE RACE, AND/OR SEX, AND/OR AGE AND/OR RETALIATION IN VIOLATION OF TITLE VII OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964, AS AMENDED, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT AND THE ADEA JIGGETTS AND COOPER AGAINST THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA” (id. at 63). As far as the Court can discern, in this one count alone Jiggetts and Cooper allege that the District of Columbia (through the acts of any, some, or all of the individual Defendants) violated Title VII and the ADEA, when it “interfered and obstructed [Jiggetts's] requests for a transfer to another division” (id. ¶¶ 353-54); “failed to promote [Cooper]” (id. ¶¶ 355-56); “failed to select [Cooper] for the Special Proceedings Branch and Quality Assurance Branch Chief positions” (id. ¶¶ 357-58); interfered, obstructed and abolished Plaintiffs' “compressed days off” (see Id. ¶¶ 95, 359-62); gave Plaintiffs low performance ratings (see Id. ¶¶ 363-66); “interfered with, obstructed and terminated [Jiggetts's] employment” (id. ¶ 368; see also Id. ¶ 368); and constructively discharged Cooper (see Id. ¶¶ 369-70). This one count also alleges that each of these events was motivated (in whole or in part) by discriminatory animus due to Jiggetts's and Cooper's race or gender or age, and/or was undertaken in retaliation for their engaging in protected EEO activity-or some combination of some or all of these improper motives-and that, through it all, Defendants subjected Jiggetts and Cooper to a hostile work environment. (See Id. ¶¶ 351-72; see also Id. at 69 (attributing the conduct in Count Ten to each and every one of these theories).)

         2. Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

         On April 8, 2016, Defendants filed a joint Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Fourth Amended Complaint, which argues that the pleading should be dismissed in its entirety for lack of clarity and brevity pursuant to Rule 8(a). (See Defs.' Mot. at 3, 7-8.) Defendants contend that the complaint's lengthy factual narrative is hopelessly vague and “almost entirely divorced from . . . the legal basis for their claims” (id. at 7), and thus requires Defendants to guess which of the myriad acts recited in the complaint pertains to each of the 20 counts (see Id. at 3 (describing the complaint as riddled with “scattershot factual allegations that Plaintiffs largely fail to connect with their mottled legal theories”)). In this regard, Defendants maintain that, the sheer “breadth of the factual allegations”-when coupled with the complaint's varied and wide-ranging legal contentions-renders the pleading incapable of providing “adequate notice of the basis of Plaintiffs' claims” as Rule 8(a) requires. (Id. at 7, 8.) Defendants also challenge the Section 1983 claims that are based on alleged violations of the First and Fifth Amendments (Counts I and II) on the grounds that these particular claims are “plainly deficient” (id. at 3), and must be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted (see Id. at 8-13).

         In opposition, Plaintiffs argue that the amended complaint is necessarily lengthy because it contains every fact required to state their legal claims; and, indeed, the “facts follow a logical progression that provides the defendants and the Court with fair notice of the claims being asserted, so that defendants may be able to prepare a responsive answer and an adequate defense.” (Pls.' Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss (“Pls.' Opp'n”), ECF No. 43, at 5.) With respect to Defendants' contentions regarding Counts I and II, Plaintiffs insist that these claims are viable because their EEOC complaints qualify as protected speech under the First Amendment (see Id. at 5-9), and because the myriad personnel actions laid out in the amended complaint reasonably support an inference of “intentional racial discrimination” in violation of the Fifth Amendment (id. at 19; see also Id. 12-19 (setting forth examples of discriminatory conduct laid out in the amended complaint, but warning that the list is not exhaustive)).

         Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' Fourth Amended Complaint is now ripe for this Court's review.

         II. ...


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