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Evans v. Tyler

United States District Court, District of Columbia

October 26, 2018

TROY TYLER, et al., Defendants.




         Plaintiff Carrie Lou Evans, proceeding pro se, brings this action against Defendants Troy Tyler, Tina D. Lee, and Steven Bartlett, three employees of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”). Plaintiff appears to contend that Defendants falsified records that led to her firing. For the reasons that follow, this action may proceed no further.


         Defendants are all USPTO employees. See Ex. 1 to Notice of Removal, ECF No. 2 [hereinafter Compl.], at 2; Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 14 [hereinafter Defs.' Mot.], at 4. Plaintiff claims that Defendants “wrongfully terminated” her and interfered with her ability to “receiv[e] fair representation” from her union and USPTO's Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity (“OEEOD”). See Compl. at 2. These claims appear to be based on Plaintiff's belief that Defendants doctored or falsified documents concerning her extended, unexcused absence from work between April and May 2014, which ultimately resulted in her termination. See Defs.' Mot. at 1-3; see also Pl.'s Resp. to Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 17 [hereinafter Pl.'s Resp.], at 2-3.

         At first, Plaintiff brought suit against USPTO, seeking to hold the agency responsible for its employees' alleged wrongful conduct. See generally Evans v. U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (“Evans I”), 238 F.Supp.3d 4 (D.D.C. 2017). The court dismissed that case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Id. at 5.

         Plaintiff then filed this action, and Defendants initially moved to dismiss on a theory of claim preclusion. See Order, ECF No. 10, at 1-2. On April 5, 2018, the court denied that motion because “Plaintiff's case against USPTO was for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and therefore was not a final judgment ‘on the merits, '” as required for claim preclusion to apply. Id. at 3. Thereafter, Defendants moved for summary judgment. See Defs.' Mot. That motion is now ripe for consideration.

         Defendants assert two grounds for summary judgment. First, Defendants argue that they are not proper defendants in this action. Because Defendants were acting in their official capacities with respect to Plaintiff's claims, Defendants argue that the proper defendant in this suit, depending on the claim, would be the agency head or the United States. See Id. at 4-6. Second, Defendants argue that the court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction because Plaintiff failed to pursue, let alone exhaust, her administrative remedies prior to filing suit. See Id. at 6-9. In response, Plaintiff does not address the merits of Defendants' legal arguments; instead, she makes factual arguments regarding Defendants' conduct. See generally Pl.'s Resp.


         A. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

         Because Defendants challenge the court's subject-matter jurisdiction, the court construes their summary judgment motion as a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). See Whiteru v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., 258 F.Supp.3d 175, 181-82 (D.D.C. 2017). When evaluating a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the court “accept[s] all [well-pleaded] factual allegations in [the] complaint as true.” Jerome Stevens Pharm., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253- 54 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (third alteration in original) (quoting United States v. Gaubert, 499 U.S. 315, 327 (1991)). Further, “the court may consider materials outside the pleadings ‘as it deems appropriate to resolve the question [of] whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case.'” Cummings v. Murphy, 321 F.Supp.3d 92, 101 (D.D.C. 2018) (quoting Scolaro v. D.C. Bd. of Elections & Ethics, 104 F.Supp.2d 18, 22 (D.D.C. 2000)). The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing subject-matter jurisdiction. Id. (citing Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992)); see also Hill v. United States, 562 F.Supp.2d 131, 133-34 (D.D.C. 2008).

         B. Motion for Summary Judgment

         To the extent that Defendants' summary judgment motion does not implicate the court's subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must apply the standards set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Rule 56 provides that a court must grant summary judgment “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A dispute is “genuine” only if a reasonable fact-finder could find for the non-moving party, and a fact is “material” only if it is capable of affecting the outcome of litigation. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In viewing the facts, the court “draw[s] reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the [non-moving] party.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         IV. ...

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