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Wood v. American Federation of Government Employees

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 15, 2017

DUANE WOOD, Plaintiff
v.
AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, et al, Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, brings this action against Defendants American Federation of Government Employees ("AFGE"), J. David Cox and Nathaniel Nelson. Although Plaintiffs complaint is not a model of clarity, the gravamen of his claims appears to be that he was defamed when a fellow union member sent various e-mails alleging that Plaintiff committed certain financial wrongdoing in his role as Executive Vice President of AFGE Local 2798. Before the Court is Defendants' [5] Motion to Dismiss. Defendants argue that this case is preempted in its entirety by the Civil Service Reform Act ("CSRA"). Alternatively, Defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim under the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act ("LMRDA"), or for defamation. Upon consideration of the pleadings, [1] the relevant legal authorities, and the record for purposes of this motion, the Court GRANTS-IN-PART and DENLES-FN-PART Defendants' Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         For the purposes of this motion, the Court accepts as true the well-pleaded allegations in Plaintiffs complaint. The Court does "not accept as true, however, the plaintiffs legal conclusions or inferences that are unsupported by the facts alleged." Ralls Corp. v. Comm. on Foreign Inv. in U.S., 758 F.3d 296, 315 (D.C. Cir. 2014).

         Plaintiff Duane Wood was formerly employed at the United States Department of Veteran Affairs and was the Executive Vice President of AFGE Local 2798. Compl., ECF No. 1-1, at 1. Plaintiff alleges that shortly after he was elected to this position, he and the other members of Local 2798's Executive Board began making numerous attempts to contact Defendant Cox, the National President of AFGE, about certain concerns they had about Defendant Nelson, the National Representative for Local 2798, regarding financial mismanagement of union affairs. Id. at 2. Cox allegedly ignored these contacts, and therefore Plaintiff and other Local 2798 members brought their concerns directly to the United States Department of Labor. Id.

         In response, AFGE District 14 National Vice President Dwight Bowman agreed to meet with Plaintiff and the Executive Board to discuss their concerns. Id. At that meeting, Bowman allegedly confirmed that the current "administration" was not responsible for the "significant missing money, " and also agreed that Nelson would be replaced as the representative for Local 2798. Id. However, Bowman passed away before this could occur. Id. After Bowman's death, Nelson recommended that Local 2798 "be put in Trusteeship bringing CFIARGES alleging illegal activities, theft, mismanagement of funds and grave misconduct by Wood & the other Local 2798 Executive Board members." Id. Nelson also "relieve[d]" Plaintiff of his position as Executive Vice President of AFGE Local 2798 in a public manner that Plaintiff alleges was humiliating. Id. at 3.

         A hearing was then conducted by the AFGE into Nelson's claims against Plaintiff and the other members of the Executive Board. Id. After the hearing concluded but before Plaintiff had been informed of the results, Nelson allegedly engaged in a "smear campaign" against Plaintiff, sending out "mass emails" accusing Plaintiff of "everything from stealing computers, hacking government accounts [and] shredding pertinent documents." Id.

         Nonetheless, the AFGE panel investigating the charges against Plaintiff eventually ruled in his favor, and found that his position, as well as the positions of the other implicated executive board members, should be reinstated and that Local 2798 should be removed from trusteeship. Id. However, only months later, Plaintiff received new charges against him, this time alleging that "he is in effect committing treason and attempting to 'decertify' the union." Id. Following these new charges, Nelson again allegedly "smear[ed]" Plaintiff by sending mass emails accusing Plaintiff of, among other things, taking unauthorized bonuses and destroying union files. Id. at 4. AFGE eventually "ruled that Wood cannot be a union member for 10 years & Wood may never hold office again." Id.

         Plaintiff did not expressly state any particular cause of action in his complaint, but sought monetary damages for "tainted image, emptied ambition, sleepless nights, and hours of legal consultation." Id. Plaintiff filed this lawsuit in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia and Defendants removed it to this Court. Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1. Defendants subsequently filed the pending motion to dismiss which has been fully briefed and is ripe for resolution.

         H. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1)

         When a motion to dismiss a complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) is filed, a federal court is required to ensure that it has "the 'statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate [the] case[.]'" Morrow v. United States, !!?, F.Supp.2d 71, 77 (D.D.C. 2010) (emphasis omitted) (quoting Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 89(1998)). "Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction" and can adjudicate only those cases or controversies entrusted to them by the Constitution or an Act of Congress. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). In determining whether there is jurisdiction, the Court may "consider the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record, or the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts." Coal, for Underground Expansion v. Mineta, 333 F.3d 193, 198 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (citations omitted). "Although a court must accept as true all the factual allegations contained in the complaint when reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), " the factual allegations in the complaint "will bear closer scrutiny in resolving a 12(b)(1) motion than in resolving a 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim." Wright v. Foreign Serv. Grievance Bd, 503 F.Supp.2d 163, 170 (D.D.C. 2007) (citations omitted).

         B. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss a complaint on the grounds that it "fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R Civ. P. 12(b)(6). "[A] complaint [does not] suffice if it tenders 'naked assertion[s]' devoid of 'further factual enhancement.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal,556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell At I. Corp. v. Twombly,550 U.S. 544, 557(2007)). Rather, a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations that, if accepted as true, "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual ...


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