United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
RANDOLPH D. MOSS United States District Judge.
Doyle Ray Ham, Jr., proceeding pro se, challenges
his 2015 non-selection for a position as a police officer
with the Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”)
in Washington, D.C. Ham asserts that the MPD's decision
not to hire him was the product of both racial discrimination
and unlawful retaliation for protected activity he took after
the MPD rejected his previous employment application in 2007.
In addition, Ham “asks th[e] [C]ourt to reopen case No.
13-[cv]-01527”-a Title VII action Ham brought against
the District of Columbia in 2013 challenging his 2007
non-selection. Dkt. 1 at 3 (Compl. ¶ 14). According to
Ham, the Court should reopen that case and permit him to
renew his challenge to his 2007 non-selection because the
2013 case “is connected to this case” and because
he was allegedly “denied due process in” the 2013
case. Id. The District, in turn, has moved to
dismiss Ham's complaint to the extent it challenges his
2007 non-selection on the ground that that challenge was
previously rejected by the Court for failure to timely
exhaust administrative remedies and is now “barred by
the doctrine of res judicata.” Dkt. 8 at 1.
reasons explained below, the Court agrees that Ham may not
relitigate his 2007 non-selection claims and will,
accordingly, grant the District's motion to dismiss that
portion of his complaint.
purposes of the pending motion to dismiss, the following
facts, which are taken from Ham's complaint and the
documents attached to it, are accepted as true. See Am.
Nat'l Ins. Co. v. FDIC, 642 F.3d 1137, 1139 (D.C.
Cir. 2011); see also EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial
Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (“In
determining whether a complaint fails to state a claim, [the
Court] may consider only the facts alleged in the complaint,
any documents either attached to or incorporated in the
complaint and matters of which [it] may take judicial
decade ago, Ham applied for a position as an officer with the
MPD, but his application was rejected on the ground that he
had been arrested (although not convicted) for assault in
1984. See Dkt. 1-1 at 8, 50, 54. After
a series of unsuccessful internal appeals challenging his
non-selection, Ham filed a complaint with the EEOC in January
of 2010, id. at 2-5, and then a Title VII action in
this Court in 2013, see Ham v. Metro. Police
Dep't, 13-cv-1527 (ESH), Dkt. 1 at 1. This Court
(Huvelle, J.) concluded that Ham's “Title VII claim
fail[ed] for failure to [timely] exhaust [his] administrative
remedies, ” granted summary judgment in favor of the
District, and dismissed the case. Ham, 2014 WL
98641, at *1; see also Ham, 13-cv-1527 (ESH), Dkt.
12 at 1. Ham appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed,
holding that the district court “properly determined
that [Ham's] [EEOC] complaint was filed outside . . . the
limitations period.” Ham v. Metro. Police
Dep't, No. 14-7032, 2014 WL 4628886, at *1 (D.C.
Cir. Aug. 5, 2014). The Supreme Court denied Ham's
petition for a writ of certiorari. See Ham v. Metro.
Police Dep't, 135 S.Ct. 729 (2014).
pursuing his administrative appeals with the MPD, Ham
successfully moved in D.C. Superior Court to seal any
publicly available records related to his 1984 assault
arrest. See Dkt. 1-1 at 8-11. Armed with that
sealing order, Ham again began the application process to
join the MPD in 2015. Dkt. 1 at 2 (Compl. ¶ 3). Despite
passing his written test and receiving an invitation from the
MPD to schedule a physical evaluation and a polygraph
examination, id. (Compl. ¶¶ 6-7, 9), Ham
received an email from the MPD on August 17, 2015, informing
him that, “[b]ased upon information obtained
during” a background check, the MPD had
“determined that [he was] ineligible for the [police
officer] position due to criminal activity, ” Dkt. 1-1
at 39. Ham filed an administrative appeal of that decision,
and on September 18, 2015, he received a
“[f]inal” decision from the MPD
“determin[ing] that [he] remain[ed] not best qualified
for the position.” Id. at 41. Ham filed an
EEOC complaint on May 27, 2016, asserting that the MPD
“unfairly denied [his] application” because he
was not convicted of the assault change it cited to justify
his non-selection, and because the MPD “has hired other
races with convictions on [their] record[s].”
Id. at 45. The EEOC dismissed his complaint on June
10, 2016, id. at 1, and Ham commenced this action on
August 24, 2016, Dkt. 1.
complaint, liberally construed, challenges his 2015
non-selection and also seeks to reopen his earlier case
challenging his 2007 non-selection. The present motion does
not seek dismissal of Ham's complaint to the extent it
challenges his 2015 non-selection. It does, however, seek
dismissal of the complaint to the extent it seeks to reopen
the 2013 litigation. In particular, the District argues that
Ham's “attempt to relitigate” the Court's
earlier ruling is “preclude[d]” by the doctrine
of res judicata. Dkt. 8 at 5-6. As explained below,
the Court agrees.
doctrine of res judicata “protect[s] against
the expense and vexation attending multiple lawsuits”
by “preclud[ing] parties from contesting matters that
they have had a full and fair opportunity to litigate.”
Taylor v. Sturgell, 553 U.S. 880, 892 (2008)
(internal quotation marks omitted) (second alteration in
original). More specifically, “[u]nder the doctrine of
claim preclusion, a final judgment forecloses successive
litigation of the very same claim.” Id.
(internal quotation marks omitted). A “subsequent
lawsuit” is thus precluded “if there has been
prior litigation (1) involving the same claims or cause of
action, (2) between the same parties or their privies, and
(3) there has been a final, valid judgment on the merits, (4)
by a court of competent jurisdiction.” Smalls v.
United States, 471 F.3d 186, 192 (D.C. Cir. 2006).
these conditions is satisfied here. First, Ham admits on the
face of his complaint that the claims he asserts regarding
his 2007 non-selection are “exactly identical in
nature” to those he raised in “case No.
13-[cv]-1527”-that is, the case in which the Court held
that Ham failed to timely exhaust administrative remedies
relating to his challenges to the MPD's 2007 decision not
to hire him. Dkt. 1 at 1 (Compl. ¶ 1). Second, the
parties in both suits are the same-Ham and the District.
Third, the Court entered a final judgment dismissing his case
in 2014. See Ham, 13-cv-1527 (ESH), Dkt. 12 at 1.
And, finally, there is no doubt that the Court was a court of
“competent jurisdiction” to consider Ham's
contests only one prong of the res judicata test,
asserting that “there was never a valid judgment on
[the] merits” because, “without valid clarity[, ]
[he] was denied fair due process” by the Court's
prior decision. Dkt. 10 at 2. Although Ham's argument is
difficult to parse, it appears that he simply disagrees with
the Court's exhaustion holding and contends that the time
to file his complaint with the EEOC did not start to run
until a later date than the date relied upon by the Court.
See Id. But preventing this type of relitigation of
previously adjudicated claims is precisely the purpose of the
claim preclusion doctrine. Ham had a full and fair
opportunity to litigate his 2007 non-selection claims before
the Court in 2013, and after those efforts proved
unsuccessful, he was afforded opportunities to challenge the
Court's decision by appealing to the Court of Appeals and
seeking review before the Supreme Court. Those efforts, too,
proved unsuccessful. For good reason, unsuccessful litigants
are not allowed a do-over; once they have litigated a claim
to final judgment before a court of competent jurisdiction,
the claim is resolved and that is the end of the matter.
the Court will grant the District's motion to dismiss
Ham's complaint to the extent it ...