United States District Court, District of Columbia
THEODORE E. POWELL, Plaintiff,
ELIZABETH DAVIS, Defendant.
CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Powell, a former teacher, contends that the Washington
Teachers Union failed to adequately represent him in
challenging his termination by the District of Columbia
Public Schools. Because federal court is not the proper forum
for Mr. Powell to press his complaint, the Court will dismiss
the case. And because Mr. Powell has persisted in filing
lawsuit after lawsuit alleging the exact same claims despite
repeated warnings that his efforts were futile and wasteful,
the Court will enjoin him from filing any similar suit in the
future without first obtaining leave of this Court.
Powell was a physical education teacher for the District of
Columbia Public Schools (“DCPS”) and a member of
the Washington Teachers Union (“WTU”). He states
that he was “battered by students” and was the
victim of “several on the job assaults, ” leading
to loss of eyesight, necrosis in his feet, and emotional
trauma. Compl. at 2, 5. Powell says that his school's
principal did nothing about it; even worse, the principal
fired him. Compl. At 2-3. Powell alleges that the WTU
breached its duty of fair representation to him by failing to
advance his grievances about work-related injuries and to
contest his termination.
has sought recourse for these alleged wrongs for over seven
years, through eight different legal actions in three
different fora. In this latest action, he has named WTU's
President, Elizabeth Davis, as the sole defendant. Because
Ms. Davis's motion to dismiss and request for an
injunction barring future litigation are premised on the fact
that this current suit is no different from previous
incarnations, the Court will recount that litigation history
• February 2011: Powell sued WTU and
various WTU officials in District of Columbia Superior Court.
All claims stemmed from the alleged failure of the WTU to
support him regarding workplace injuries and in challenging
his DCPS termination. Powell v. Am. Fed'n of
Teachers, 883 F.Supp.2d 183, 184 (D.D.C. 2012). After
removal to this Court, Judge Sullivan dismissed the case for
lack of jurisdiction, reasoning that Powell's claims were
subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the D.C. Public
Employee Relations Board (“PERB”). Id.
• April 2011: Powell filed an unfair
labor practice complaint with the PERB, contending that the
WTU failed to adequately represent him regarding workplace
injuries and in challenging his DCPS termination. Powell
v. Wash. Teachers' Union, PERB Case No. 11-U-26, Op.
No. 1136, 2011 WL 13079466, at *1 (Oct. 7, 2011). The PERB
dismissed the complaint. Id. at *2-3.
• August 2012: Powell filed suit in
federal court, naming WTU, various WTU officials, and the
PERB as defendants, and again contending that the WTU failed
to adequately represent him regarding workplace injuries and
in resisting his DCPS termination. Powell v. Am.
Fed'n of Teachers, Civ. A. No. 12 1384, 2012 WL
3757731, at *1 (D.D.C. Aug. 22, 2012). Powell also requested
that the Court review the PERB's decision. Judge
Lamberth, like Judge Sullivan before him, dismissed the case
for lack of jurisdiction. Id.
• September 2013: Powell filed two more
lawsuits in this district, the first asking for a writ of
mandamus that would compel DCPS to re-hire him, and the
second repeating the now-familiar claim that WTU failed to
adequately represent him. Powell v. Washington
Teachers' Union, 968 F.Supp.2d 267 (D.D.C. 2013);
Powell v. Gray, Civ. A. No. 13-1568, 2013 WL 5615129
*1 (D.D.C. Sept. 26, 2013). Judge Howell referenced the prior
decisions by Judges Sullivan and Lamberth, dismissed both
cases for lack of jurisdiction, and warned Powell that he
“still has no recourse in this Court.”
Powell, 2013 WL 5615129 at *1.
• November 2014: Powell filed yet
another suit in this district against WTU for allegedly
failing to represent him; he also challenged the PERB's
dismissal of his complaint. Powell v. Gray, No.
1:14-cv-01997, 2014 WL 6734809, at *1 (D.D.C. Nov. 25, 2014).
Judge Contreras dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction
and res judicata. Id.
• July 2015: Powell filed a second
petition for review of the PERB decision in D.C. Superior
Court, but the petition was dismissed as barred by res
judicata and collateral estoppel. Powell v.
Bowser, No. 2015 CA 004962 P(MPA) (D.C. Super. Ct. Oct.
• May 2017: Powell returned for a fifth
time to this district, asking it to review the PERB's
dismissal of Powell's complaint. Powell v.
Bowser, Civ. A. No. 1:17-cv-01135 (D.D.C. May 19, 2017).
Judge Chutkan recognized the suit as “yet another
attempt by [Powell] to challenge his termination, ”
noted that Powell had been “told before” of the
futility of pursuing relief in federal court, and dismissed
the case. Id. at 2.
unbroken string of defeats has not deterred Mr. Powell. He is
back for a ninth time, pressing the same basic complaints
about the WTU's alleged failure to adequately represent
him-this time against WTU's current President, Ms. Davis.
Liberally construed, Powell's pro se complaint
also attempts to spell out a constitutional due process claim
and a claim under the D.C. Human Rights Act. Davis has moved
to dismiss the complaint in its entirety, Powell has opposed
that motion,  and the matter is now ripe for the