United States District Court, District of Columbia
DAWN R. BROWN, Plaintiff,
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA and CATHY LANIER, Defendants.
B. WALTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
plaintiff in this civil action, Dawn R. Brown, alleges that
the defendants, the District of Columbia (the
“District”), and Cathy Lanier, the former chief
of the District's Metropolitan Police Department (the
“MPD”) during the relevant time period,
discriminated against her on the basis of her gender and
retaliated against her, all in violation of Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§
2000e to e-16 (2012), and of her constitutional rights under
the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution,
see generally Notice of Removal, Exhibit
(“Ex.”) 1 (Complaint for Monetary Damages)
(“Compl.”) ¶¶ 26-34. Currently pending
before the Court is the Defendants' Motion for Judgment
on the Pleadings and Motion [for] Summary Judgment
(“Defs.' Mot.”). See Defs.' Mot.
at 1. Upon consideration of the parties' submissions,
Court concludes that it must grant in part and deny in part
the defendants' motion.
plaintiff “is a sworn law enforcement officer of the
[MPD], ” Compl. ¶ 1, who was “assigned to
the [MPD's] Central Cell Block” (the “Cell
Block”) at all times relevant to this case,
Id. ¶ 7. The plaintiff and a civilian
supervisor, Jermaine Fox, “both worked the evening
tour” on August 3, 2011. Id. ¶¶
13-15. The defendants do not dispute that Fox was the watch
commander during the evening tour on August 3, 2011.
See Pl.'s Rev. Facts ¶ 3; Defs.' Resp.
to Pl.'s Rev. Facts ¶ 3. “The [w]atch
[c]ommander's desk is in the front office where the
security cameras are located and remote surveillance of
prisoners is available.” Compl. ¶ 16; Answer
¶ 16. At approximately 8:00 p.m., “it was
[discovered], during a routine cell check . . ., that a
prisoner had escaped from his cell and from [the Cell
Block].” Defs.' Facts ¶ 8.
investigation revealed that “the escape occurred
between the hours of [6:05 p.m.] and [7:25 p.m.]
hours.” Pl.'s Opp'n, Exhibit
(“Ex.”) 1 (Final Investigative Report
(“Report”)) at 11. The prisoner utilized unlocked
“utility doors that [led] to the crawl space behind the
cells, ” an “unsecured plumbing closet
[containing] a ladder, ” and “an unsecured metal
door that led to the female's locker room.”
Id., Ex. 1 (Report) at 12. The final investigative
report, which was prepared by the plaintiff's superior
officer, Captain Edward Delgado, concluded that both the
plaintiff and Fox “failed to ensure that the physical
security of the facility was not compromised, ” and
recommended each of them for disciplinary action.
Id., Ex. 1 (Report) at 12.
notified of a proposed ten-day suspension on November 29,
2011, but a subsequent final decision dismissed the
allegations of misconduct against him. See
Defs.' Mot., Ex. 5 (Notice to Jermaine Fox). The
plaintiff was also notified of a proposed ten-day suspension
on November 30, 2011, id., Ex. 6 (Nov. 2011 Notice
to Sergeant Dawn Brown), and three months later, a final
decision was issued suspending her without pay for ten days
but holding five of those days in abeyance for one year,
see id., Ex. 7 (Feb. 2012 Notice to Sergeant Dawn
Brown). Appeals of suspension recommendations for MPD
officers, such as the plaintiff, as opposed to civilian
employees, such as Fox, are processed through different
channels. Defs.' Facts ¶ 14; see also
Defs.' Mot., Ex. 10 (Feb. 17, 2012 Letter from Sergeant
Dawn Brown to Chief Cathy Lanier) at 3 (“Unfortunately
because I am a sworn member of the department and the routing
of my appeal is slightly different than Mr. Fox, I have not
been afforded the same fairness as Mr. Fox . . . .”).
March 9, 2012, defendant Lanier denied the plaintiff's
appeal of the suspension decision, stating that “[a]
review of the [Patrol Service Signal] book reveals that [the
plaintiff was], in fact, the watch commander on the night in
question, and did not ensure that adequate safeguards were in
place to prevent the prisoner's escape.” Defs.'
Mot., Ex. 11 (Mar. 9, 2012 Letter from Chief Cathy Lanier to
Sergeant Dawn Brown) at 1. Lanier did, however, “reduce
the suspension from ten to five days, all of which [were] to
be held in abeyance for one year, ” after considering
“the mitigating information contained in [the
plaintiff's] appeal . . . .” Id. The
plaintiff filed this lawsuit after pursuing her
discrimination and retaliation claims before the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission. See Compl.
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
Rule 12(c) Motions
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) provides that “[a]fter
the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay
trial-a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). “[T]he standard of review for
motions for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) . . .
is essentially the same as that for motions to dismiss under
Rule 12(b)(6).” Jung v. Ass'n of Am. Med.
Colls., 339 F.Supp.2d 26, 35-36 (D.D.C. 2004). To
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the
allegations in the complaint must state a facially plausible
claim for recovery. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009); see also Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The court, which is
required to assume that all well-pleaded allegations in the
complaint are true, must find that the complaint is
sufficient to “raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555;
see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (“To survive a
motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.'” (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570)). “The plausibility
standard is not akin to a probability requirement, but it
asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has
acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
Legal conclusions masquerading as factual allegations are not
enough to survive a motion to dismiss. See Browning v.
Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). When
resolving a Rule 12(c) motion, “the court must not rely
on facts outside of the pleadings, must construe the
complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, and
must accept as true all reasonable factual inferences drawn
from well-pleaded factual allegations.” Maniaci v.
Georgetown Univ., 510 F.Supp.2d 50, 59 (D.D.C. 2007).
Rule 56 Motions
granting a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 56, a court must find that
“there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact
and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “A fact is material if
it ‘might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law, ' and a dispute about a material fact is
genuine ‘if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury
could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'”
Steele v. Schafer, 535 F.3d 689, 692 (D.C. Cir.
2008) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986)).
ruling on a motion for summary judgment, “[t]he
evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all
justifiable inferences are to be drawn in h[er] favor.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255 (citation omitted).
“Credibility determinations, the weighing of the
evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the
facts are jury functions, not those of a judge . . . ruling
on a motion for summary judgment . . . .” Id.
(citation omitted). The movant has the burden of
demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact
and that the non-moving party “fail[ed] to make a
showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element
essential to that party's case, and on which that party
will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
responding to a summary judgment motion, the non-moving party
“must do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.”
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Accordingly, the non-moving party
must not rely on “mere allegations or denials . . . but
. . . must set forth specific facts showing that there [are]
genuine issue[s] for trial.” Anderson, 477
U.S. at 248 (second omission in original) (citation and
internal quotation marks omitted). Moreover, “[t]he
mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the
[non-moving party's] position [is] insufficient” to
withstand a motion for summary judgment, but rather
“there must be [some] evidence on which the jury could
reasonably find for the [non-movant].” Id. at