United States District Court, District of Columbia
DOUGLAS E. MASSEY, Plaintiff,
AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, et al., Defendants.
P. Mehta United States District Judge.
Douglas Massey filed this lawsuit against his union,
Defendant American Federation of Government Employees
("AFGE"), and one of its officials, Defendant
William A. Preston, alleging violations of the
Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act
("LMRDA"), 29 U.S.C. § 411. Plaintiff asserts
that Defendants falsely accused him of threatening and
assaulting Preston at an AFGE National Convention
("Convention") for opposing the candidacy of the
incumbent AFGE President, David Cox, and then retaliating
against him in various ways, each in violation of the LMRDA.
In a previous ruling, the court permitted Plaintiff to
proceed on all counts of his Complaint against Preston,
dismissed certain counts against the AFGE, and dismissed Cox
from the case. See Massey v. Am. Fed'n of Gov
'tEmps., 196 F.Supp.3d 35 (D.D.C. 2016). Now before
the court are Preston's and AFGE's Motions for
their Motions, Defendants contend that the doctrine of res
judicata precludes all of Plaintiffs remaining claims.
Specifically, Defendants point to an earlier litigation
decided in D.C. Superior Court, in which Plaintiff accused
Preston of abuse of process for seeking a restraining order
against him as retribution for refusing to support Cox. That
case proceeded to a bench trial. Preston testified that
Plaintiff assaulted and threatened him at the Convention;
Plaintiff denied those accusations, claiming he merely placed
his arm around Preston and told Preston that he could not
bully him into supporting Cox. The court credited
Preston's testimony. It then concluded that the
confrontation at the Convention gave Preston a genuine reason
to fear Plaintiff and, therefore, Preston had applied for a
restraining order in good faith, and not as retribution for
Plaintiffs political views. Defendants in this case now argue
that the doctrine of res judicata not only bars Plaintiff
from re-litigating those factual issues in this court, but
also precludes him from proving his remaining claims.
court agrees. Plaintiffs Complaint advances five counts, each
of which rests on the same theory-that Preston invented out
of whole cloth the threats and assault in order to get back
at Plaintiff for opposing Cox's re-election. The Superior
Court actually and necessarily found against Plaintiff on
those issues, and, consequently, the doctrine of res judicata
requires treating those adverse findings as uncontested in
this case. As a result, Plaintiff cannot prove the facts
underlying the claims he advances in this
court. Accordingly, the court grants
Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment.
Douglas Masseyis a member of Defendant American Federation of
Government Employees ("AFGE"). See Del
Preston's Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 35, Mem. in Supp.,
ECF No. 36 [hereinafter Preston Mot.], at 1, 4. In 2015,
Plaintiff was elected to serve as Second Vice President for a
local chapter of AFGE, Local 17. Id. at 4. At that
time, Defendant William A. Preston was the President of Local
17. Id. At some point in 2015, a rift developed
between Plaintiff and Preston, stemming in part from
Plaintiffs opposition to the re-election campaign of
AFGE's incumbent President, Daniel Cox. Id. at
4-5. Both Plaintiff and Preston were elected as delegates to
AFGE's 2015 National Convention ("Convention"),
held in Orlando, Florida, in August 2015. Id. at
the acrimony between Plaintiff and Preston would come to a
head, culminating in a physical confrontation atthe
Convention hotel. See Preston Mot., Ex. l, ECFNo.
36-1 [hereinafter Trial Tr.], at 67-74. Both men recount the
episode quite differently. According to Preston, while he was
tending to his official duties at the Convention, he noticed
Plaintiff and smiled at him. Plaintiff immediately approached
him, said "get that bullshit smile off your face, "
and then grabbed him by the back of the neck and said
"don't threaten me." Id., at 70-73.
After talking to his wife, Preston then reported the incident
first to the AFGE Sergeant-at-Arms Committee and then to
hotel security and the police. Id. at 73-75, 119-21.
Plaintiff, for his part, admits that there was a
confrontation at the hotel, but denies that he threatened or
grabbed Preston. According to Plaintiff, before the
Convention, he had criticized Cox's spending of union
funds and had told Preston that he would be opposing
Cox's re-election, even though Preston strongly backed
Cox. PL's Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J., ECF
No. 39 [hereinafter PL's Opp'n], Ex. 1, ECF No. 39-1
[hereinafter Massey DecL], ¶¶ 7-8. At the
Convention itself, Plaintiff actively campaigned against Cox,
handing out flyers critical of Cox and urging his defeat.
Id. ¶¶ 7, 10. Inside the hotel, Preston
approached him, looked at one of Plaintiff s flyers, and
asked him to support Cox. When Plaintiff declined, Preston
purportedly threatened to take away Plaintiff s official
time-that is, time he could work as a union official during
regular work hours-if he did not support Cox. Id.
¶ 12. The two then walked away from one another, but a
few minutes later, Plaintiff claims that he approached
Preston, merely put his arm around his shoulder, and said
"I'm the wrong guy to bully. You cannot bully me
this time." Id. ¶ 14. Plaintiff denies
that he ever grabbed Preston by the neck.
thereafter, the AFGE Sergeant-at-Arms Committee (the
"Committee") convened to investigate the incident.
Preston Mot. at 5; Def AFGE's Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No.
37 [hereinafter AFGE Mot.], at 1-2. The Committee heard from
both Plaintiff and Preston, credited Preston's version of
events, and concluded Plaintiff had disrupted the Convention.
AFGE Mot. at 1-2. As punishment, the Committee prohibited
Plaintiff from further participating in Convention
activities, except voting for national officers. Id.
After the Convention, Preston notified Plaintiff that he
intended to remove Plaintiffs official time. Preston Mot. at
two weeks after the incident, Preston filed an application
for a temporary restraining order ("TRO") and a
petition seeking a preliminary injunction against Plaintiff
in D.C. Superior Court. Preston Mot. at 5-6. TheD.C. Superior
Court denied the TRO, and Preston, who no longer worked in
the same office as Plaintiff, abandoned his suit.
to hold Preston accountable for making false accusations,
Plaintiff filed his own suit in Small Claims Court in the
D.C. Superior Court on December 11, 2015, asserting a common
law abuse of process claim. Id. at 6. The case
proceeded to a bench trial on June 28, 2016, before the
Honorable Joseph Beshouri. Id. Both Plaintiff and
Preston testified at the trial, relating the vastly different
accounts described above. Trial Tr. at 17-59, 62-117. The
only other witness to testify was Preston's wife, who
said that Preston had called her from the Conference
"very upset" and "shaking" and had told
her that "Doug Massey had assaulted him in public . . .
by placing his fingers and thumb on the back of his neck and
squeezing very hard to cause pain, and had made threatening
comments." Id. at 119-20.
Beshouri sided with Preston. He credited the testimony of
Preston and Preston's wife, and found that Preston had
sought the TRO based on a legitimate fear of Plaintiff
arising from the incident at the Convention. Id. at
153-57. Judge Beshouri entered judgment in favor of Preston,
which Plaintiff did not appeal.
2015, around the same time that Plaintiff filed suit in D.C.
Superior Court, he also filed suit in this court, alleging
that Defendants Preston, Cox, and AFGE had fabricated claims
against him in retaliation for opposing Cox, in violation of
his rights under the Labor-Management Reporting and
Disclosure Act. See Compl., ECF No. 1 (filed Dec. 7,
2015). Defendants each filed Motions to Dismiss Plaintiffs
Complaint. See Def Preston's Mot. to Dismiss,
ECFNo. 13; Defs.' AFGE and Cox's Mot. to Dismiss, ECF
No. 14. The court (1) granted Defendant Cox's Motion in
its entirety and dismissed all claims against him, (2)
granted in part and denied in part Defendant AFGE's
Motion and dismissed all claims against AFGE except for
Counts I and II, and (3) denied Defendant Preston's
Motion in its entirety. See Massey, 196 F.Supp.3d at
parties then proposed pre-discovery summary judgment briefs
on the question whether the doctrine of res judicata barred
Plaintiffs remaining claims. See Joint Rule 26(f)
Report, ECFNo. 33, at 1, 3. The court agreed to summary
judgment briefing on that narrow issue, see Minute
Order, Sept. 22, 2016, and now turns to Defendants'