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Hall v. Department of Commerce

United States District Court, District of Columbia

April 30, 2018

STEVEN H. HALL, Plaintiff,
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE, et. al., Defendants.


          Emmet G. Sullivan United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Steven Hall (“Mr. Hall”), proceeding pro se, brings suit against the United States Patent and Trade Office (“USPTO”) and USPTO Employee Relations Specialist William House (collectively, “defendants”) pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq.; the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Rehabilitation Act”), 29 U.S.C. § 701, et. seq.; and the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1346. He alleges that the defendants discriminated against him on the basis of his race and disability by allegedly withdrawing a tentative job offer in November 2014.

         Before the Court are Mr. Hall's objections to Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey's Report and Recommendation (“R&R”), which recommends that the Court grant the defendants' motion to dismiss because Mr. Hall failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and failed to timely appeal the denial of his FTCA claim. See R&R, ECF No. 19 (issued August 22, 2017). Upon consideration of the R&R, Mr. Hall's objections, the defendants' response to those objections, the defendants' motion to dismiss, the responses and replies thereto, and the relevant law, this Court ADOPTS Magistrate Judge Harvey's R&R and GRANTS the defendants' motion to dismiss.

         I. Background

         Magistrate Judge Harvey pieced together a complete history of the facts in this case from a variety of sources, including “a substantial number of administrative proceedings initiated by the Plaintiff, in addition to two other federal court actions he brought in this district.” R&R, ECF No. 19 at 2. Throughout the background section, Magistrate Judge Harvey cited and relied on several documents not attached to the amended, operative complaint. See Id. at 2-10. However, such reliance was proper as the documents were either “incorporated by reference in the complaint, or documents upon which the plaintiff's complaint necessarily relies . . . .” Ward v. D.C. Dep't of Youth Rehab. Servs., 768 F.Supp.2d 117, 119 (D.D.C. 2011) (internal citations and quotations omitted). Magistrate Judge Harvey also properly took judicial notice of certain administrative proceedings that Mr. Hall had attached as exhibits to his original complaint, but failed to re-attach to the amended, operative complaint. R&R, ECF No. 19 at 12; see Vasser v. McDonald, 228 F.Supp.3d 1, 7-8, 9-10 (D.D.C. 2016)(taking judicial notice of administrative orders and administrative complaints not attached to the complaint: “[i]f courts could not take judicial notice of such public documents, plaintiffs who obviously had not complied with the administrative-exhaustion process could survive motions to dismiss purely by failing to attach their administrative complaint.”).

         To briefly summarize, Mr. Hall worked at the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”)-which is not a party to this suit- until he was terminated in November 2013. R&R, ECF No. 19 at 5. He received a tentative job offer from the USPTO in November 2014. Id. On November 13, 2014, the USPTO rescinded Mr. Hall's job offer upon learning that he had previously been terminated by DHS. Id. at 6. Allegedly on advice from an unnamed Department of Commerce employee, Pl.'s Opp'n, ECF No. 16 at 3, Mr. Hall challenged the USPTO's withdrawal of his offer by filing an FTCA claim in December 2014. R&R, ECF No. 19 at 7. His FTCA claim was denied on June 16, 2015. Id. On June 24, 2015, Mr. Hall initiated contact with the USPTO's Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) Office, alleging that the USPTO's rescission was unlawfully motivated by his race and disability. Id. at 8. On August 5, 2016, Mr. Hall filed the instant action. Mr. Hall does not object to these facts and confirms the operative dates. See Pl.'s Objection, ECF No. 20 at 7, 11.

         Mr. Hall objects to one fact included in the R&R and one fact not included in the R&R. First, he objects to the fact that Magistrate Judge Harvey mentioned that Mr. Hall had been accused of sexual harassment at DHS, as it “shows favoritism for USPTO . . . implying and insinuating that [the defendants] made the correct decision to rescind [his] tentative job offer due to alleged misconduct.” Id. at 2. Magistrate Judge Harvey included this fact “only for the purpose of providing factual context”; it did not “constitute the basis of any recommendation.” R&R, ECF No. 19 at 2. That said, the Court will not consider this irrelevant fact. Indeed, given the defendants' arguments in their motion to dismiss, the only facts relevant “are those arising from Plaintiff's engagement with the administrative process.” Id.

         Second, Mr. Hall objects that Magistrate Judge Harvey did not include the fact that he had filed “several reconsideration requests and appeals” and “submitted two other District Court cases” regarding DHS' termination decision. Id. at 3. While Magistrate Judge Harvey did in fact discuss the multitude of litigation that Mr. Hall has been involved in, see R&R, ECF No. 19 at 8-9, these disputes are not relevant to the instant case against USPTO. Mr. Hall himself acknowledges that these other cases are “closed and not related to this case.” Pl.'s Objections, ECF No. 20 at 6.

         Having found no error in the factual background and overruling Mr. Hall's objections otherwise, the Court adopts and incorporates Magistrate Judge Harvey's thorough recitation of the facts in the R&R. See R&R, ECF No. 19 at 2-10.

         II. Standard of Review: Objections to a Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b), once a magistrate judge has entered a recommended disposition, a party may file specific written objections. The district court “must determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to, ” and “may accept, reject or modify the recommended disposition.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). Proper objections “shall specifically identify the portions of the proposed findings and recommendations to which objection is made and the basis for objection.” Local R. Civ. P. 72.3(b). “As numerous courts have held, objections which merely rehash an argument presented to and considered by the magistrate judge are not ‘properly objected to' and are therefore not entitled to de novo review.” Shurtleff v. U.S. Envtl. Prot. Agency, 991 F.Supp.2d 1, 8 (D.D.C. 2013) (quoting Morgan v. Astrue, Case No. 08-2133, 2009 WL 3541001, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 30, 2009) (collecting cases)). Likewise, the Court need not consider cursory objections made only in a footnote. Hutchins v. District of Columbia, 188 F.3d 531, 539 n.3 (D.C. Cir. 1999); see also Potter v. District of Columbia, 558 F.3d 542, 553 (D.C. Cir. 2009) (Williams, J. concurring) (internal citations omitted).

         III. Analysis

         In his amended complaint, Mr. Hall alleges that the defendants discriminated[1] against him by rescinding his tentative employment offer. Am. Compl., ECF No. 11 ¶ 3. The defendants allegedly rescinded his job offer upon learning that DHS had terminated him. Id. According to Mr. Hall, this decision was improper because the defendants allegedly knew that DHS had unlawfully terminated Mr. Hall due to his medical accommodation. Id. ¶ 4. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Mr. Hall's complaint, arguing that: (1) Mr. Hall had sued improper parties, (2) Mr. Hall failed to administratively exhaust his discrimination claims, and (3) Mr. Hall's FTCA claim was time-barred. See Defs.' Mot., ECF No. 15.

         Magistrate Judge Harvey recommended that the Court grant the defendants' motion to dismiss because: (1) Mr. Hall did not sue the proper parties, to the extent that he is attempting to sue individual employees, see R&R, ECF No. 19 at 13; (2) Mr. Hall failed to timely exhaust his administrative remedies as he must to bring a Title VII claim or a Rehabilitation Act ...

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