United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
TIMOTHY J. KELLY United States District Judge
Muluwork Shume applied for, and was granted, a Nurse Aide
Certificate by the District of Columbia Department of Health
in 2007. The District of Columbia then renewed Shume's
certificate three times. However, in 2015, Defendants Pearson
Education Inc. and NCS Pearson, Inc. (together,
“Pearson”)-which contract to provide testing
services for the District of Columbia-informed Shume that her
renewal application would be denied, explaining that she did
not meet the qualifications for a Nurse Aide Certificate and
had to take an examination to renew hers. On November 30,
2015, Shume's certificate expired. On December 1, 2015,
Shume filed this lawsuit.
Pearson and the District of Columbia have each moved to
dismiss Shume's Amended Complaint. See ECF No.
12 (“Pearson Br.”); ECF No. 13 (“D.C.
Br.”); see also ECF No. 15 (“Pl.'s
Opp'n”); ECF No. 17 (“Pearson Reply”);
ECF No. 18 (“D.C. Reply”). Each motion will be
granted in part and denied in part. Shume brings a claim for
breach of contract, which will be dismissed. Shume's
claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, however, may proceed.
Shume also asserts claims for injunctive and declaratory
relief and a writ of mandamus. Her requests for injunctive
and declaratory relief will be dismissed without prejudice to
her seeking such relief at the appropriate time, and her
request for a writ of mandamus will be dismissed as well.
purposes of this motion, the Court accepts as true the
allegations in Shume's Amended Complaint. Shume worked as a
nursing assistant in New York until 2006, when she moved to
the District of Columbia. Am. Compl. ¶ 8. In February
2007, she successfully completed a state-approved training
program in Maryland, which she alleges also constituted a
“nurse aide competency evaluation program which had
been approved by the District of Columbia.”
Id. ¶¶ 9-10. In October 2007, the Maryland
Board of Nursing issued Shume a Certified Nursing Assistant
license, which was still active as of the filing of the
Amended Complaint. Id. ¶ 11.
then sought and obtained a Nurse Aide Certificate from the
District of Columbia Department of Health by
“endorsement” (that is, based on her Maryland
license). Id. ¶¶ 12-13. The certificate,
dated November 30, 2007, stated that Shume had
“successfully completed the required competency
evaluation program and [was] listed on the Nurse Aide
Registry in the District of Columbia.” Id.
¶ 13; Pl.'s Ex. C. Her certificate in hand, Shume
began working as a nurse aide in the District of Columbia.
Am. Compl. ¶ 14. Shume subsequently renewed her
certification three times, in 2009, 2011, and 2013.
Id. ¶ 15. Like the original certificate, each
renewal stated that Shume had fulfilled the “required
competency evaluation program.” Id. ¶ 16;
Pl.'s Ex. D.
her certification was up for renewal again in 2015, Shume
timely completed a renewal form application and sent it to
Pearson. Am. Compl. ¶ 18. The application required Shume
to pay a $12 fee, provide her contact information and work
history, and certify her fulfillment of certain continuing
education requirements. See ECF No. 14-1; ECF No.
15-3.The renewal form stated: “Once
Pearson . . . receives your form and fee, they will renew
your certificate and send you a new certificate and wallet
card.” ECF No. 15-3; see ECF No. 14-1; Am.
Compl. ¶ 25.
submitting the application, Shume received a letter from
Pearson stating that her certificate could not be renewed.
Am. Compl. ¶ 19. Pearson explained that Shume was not
qualified because “she had not passed the NNAAP Nurse
Aide Practice Exam or been enrolled on the Maryland Geriatric
Nursing Assistant (GNA) registry.” Id.
Shume's license expired on November 30, 2015.
Id. ¶ 20. As a result, Shume's employer
placed her on “unpaid administrative leave” on
December 1, and terminated her on December 15. Id.
December 1, 2015, Shume filed a handwritten pro se
complaint in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia.
See ECF No. 2-1 at 86. The complaint named
“Promissor, Inc.” as the defendant and was
apparently intended to be brought against Pearson. See
Id. Shume also filed a form motion for a temporary
restraining order, which was denied after a hearing. See
Id. at 77, 84. Pearson moved to dismiss, see
Id. at 65-68, but its motion became moot when Shume,
having obtained counsel, filed the Amended Complaint against
Defendants Pearson and the District of Columbia, see
Id. at 4 (docket number 12); Am. Compl.
Amended Complaint asserts four causes of action. The first,
for breach of contract, alleges that Shume's submission
of her renewal application caused a binding contract to form
between her and Defendants, which they breached by declining
to renew her certificate. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 23-27.
Shume's second cause of action seeks a “Preliminary
and Permanent Injunction and/or Writ of Mandamus”
requiring Defendants to renew her certificate. Id.
¶¶ 28-35. Her third cause of action seeks a
declaratory judgment that she is entitled to renewal.
Id. ¶¶ 36-38. The fourth cause of action
arises under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and alleges that
Defendants violated her right to due process by revoking her
certificate without a pre- or post-deprivation hearing or
other adequate safeguards. Id. ¶¶ 39-45.
removed the case to this Court, asserting federal question
jurisdiction. ECF No.
Defendants then filed the instant motions to dismiss.
Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the legal sufficiency
of a plaintiff s complaint; it does not require a court to
‘assess the truth of what is asserted or determine
whether a plaintiff has any evidence to back up what is in
the complaint.'” Herron v. Fannie Mae, 861
F.3d 160, 173 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (quoting Browning v.
Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002)). “In
evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court must construe
the complaint ‘in favor of the plaintiff, who must be
granted the benefit of all inferences that can be derived
from the facts alleged.'” Hettinga v. United
States, 677 F.3d 471, 476 (D.C. Cir. 2012) (quoting
Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C.
Cir. 1979)). “But the Court need not accept inferences
drawn by plaintiff if those inferences are not supported by
the facts set out in the complaint, nor must the court accept
legal conclusions cast as factual allegations.”
Id. “To survive a motion to dismiss, a
complaint must have ‘facial plausibility, ' meaning
it must ‘plead factual content that allows the court
to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.'” Id.
(alteration in original) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)).
explained below, the Court agrees with Defendants that Shume
has failed to state a claim for breach of contract, which
will be dismissed. But the Court concludes that Shume has
stated a claim for a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based
on her right to procedural due process (although the claim
will be dismissed insofar as it attempts to state a claim
based on substantive due process). Shume also asserts two
causes of action seeking equitable and declaratory relief,
along with a writ of mandamus. Those claims will be dismissed
without prejudice to Shume's ability to request any
relief to which she may be entitled at the appropriate time.
Breach of ...