United States District Court, District of Columbia
STEVEN H. HALL, Plaintiff,
KIRSTJEN M. NIELSEN, in her capacity as Secretary, Department of Homeland Security, Defendant.
E. BOASBERG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Steven H. Hall used to work for Defendant Department of
Homeland Security. After DHS terminated his employment, he
sought administrative relief for a variety of forms of
alleged discrimination. Before the case ever reached court,
the parties entered into a settlement awarding Hall $55, 000.
But, at least from Hall's perspective, the battle was
only beginning. He subsequently filed a flurry of pro
se lawsuits in various courts seeking damages against
the agency and an attorney who represented him during the
settlement process, Rosemary Dettling. These consolidated
actions are the latest of those suits. The Court previously
dismissed the claims against Dettling, and it now does the
same for DHS.
Court has related the facts underlying Hall's lawsuits in
several previous Opinions. See, e.g., Hall v.
Nielsen, No. 18-461, 2018 WL 5840663 (D.D.C. Nov. 8,
2018); Hall v. Dep't of Homeland Security, 219
F.Supp.3d 112 (D.D.C. 2016). Only a brief summary is needed
to catch readers up on the terrain. The Court first discusses
Hall's employment with DHS before delving into the
procedural history underlying his years-long traipse through
different administrative and judicial fora. It closes with a
brief elucidation of the claims he brings in this case.
story starts in 2012, when Plaintiff was working for DHS at
its construction site on the former grounds of St.
Elizabeth's. See ECF No. 12 (Second Amended
Compl.) at ECF p. 58. (Docket citations that do not contain
any case number refer to filings in the lead case, No.
18-461.) That year, he requested an accommodation for several
respiratory illnesses that were exacerbated by dusty
conditions at his workplace. Id. Over the next
several years, Hall alleges, DHS sometimes accommodated his
illnesses but other times did not. Id. at ECF pp.
58-60. It also provided him with workers' compensation
for some periods during which he was ill but not for others.
Id. Around the same time, Hall's supervisors
disciplined him for misconduct and taking leave without
authorization - charges that Hall denied. Id. DHS
eventually terminated Hall's employment for misconduct on
November 18, 2013. Id. at ECF p. 62.
challenged his termination and his treatment in the lead-up
to his firing before the Merit Systems Protection Board,
retaining Rosemary Dettling to help with the case.
Id. He subsequently agreed to a settlement that
awarded him $55, 000 in exchange for withdrawing his claims
against the agency. See ECF No. 38 (MTD), Exh. 1
(Settlement Agreement) at 3. Hall later sought to overturn
the settlement before the MSPB, arguing that it was invalid
and that he had revoked his prior acceptance. See Hall v.
Dep't of Homeland Security, 2016 WL 3438497, ¶
1 (M.S.P.B. June 23, 2016). The MSPB rejected his arguments,
concluding that “he knowingly and voluntarily signed
the settlement agreement.” Id., ¶ 10.
next turned to the courts. He first filed a lawsuit against
DHS in this Court. See Hall v. Dep't of Homeland
Security, No. 16-1471. Several months later, he
voluntarily dismissed the government defendants from that
action, choosing to pursue only his claims against his
previous attorney Dettling. Id., Minute Order of
August 18, 2016. The Court then dismissed the case for lack
of jurisdiction. Id., ECF No. 10, aff'd sub
nom. Hall v. Dettling, 2017 WL 2348158 (D.C. Cir. May
17, 2017). Hall next challenged the MSPB's decision in
the Federal Circuit, which dismissed the case because it did
not have jurisdiction over his claims and because the appeal
was untimely. See MTD, Exh. 3 (Federal Circuit
Decision) at 2. His current lawsuit, which the Court
discusses in more depth below, “does not seek judicial
review of [that] MSPB decision.” Second Amended Compl.
at ECF p. 1. The MSPB decision upholding the settlement thus
remains the final word on that issue.
could be forgiven for thinking that would be the end of the
story. Plaintiff, in fact, was just getting started. In 2018,
he filed four additional lawsuits against his former employer
in this Court. See Civil Action Nos. 18-444, 18-461,
18-1283, 18-1548. As two of those suits raised similar claims
against many of the same parties, they were consolidated
here. See Nos. 18-461 & 18-1548, Minute Orders
of October 3, 2018.
each, Plaintiff asserts more than twenty counts and seeks
more than a dozen different remedies. His claims against the
Government, as best the Court can discern, fall into roughly
three categories. The first set relates directly to his
employment with DHS. In that regard, he alleges that
Defendant discriminated against him on the basis of age and
disability and that it improperly failed to pay him
workers' compensation. See Second Amended Compl.
at ECF pp. 67-69 (Counts I-XV, XVIII-XX, XXII); No. 18-1548,
ECF No. 7 (Amended Compl.) at ECF pp. 19-21 (Counts I-XV,
XVIII-XIX, XXI). He seeks an order requiring the agency to
engage in an interactive process with him to accommodate his
disability, to expunge all negative items from his personnel
file, and to award him more than $800, 000 in compensatory
and punitive damages. See Second Amended Compl. at
ECF p. 71; No. 18-1548, Amended Compl. at ECF p. 23.
second category relates to the settlement agreement. Here, he
claims that the settlement should be voided because it was
the result of misrepresentation, duress, and collusion.
See Second Amended Compl. at ECF pp. 68-69 (Counts
I, XV-XVII, XXI, XXVI); No. 18-1548, Amended Compl. at ECF
pp. 21-22 (Counts I, XV-XVII, XX, XXV-XXVI). He seeks an
order from the Court finding the settlement “void as
unconscionable and signed under duress.” Second Amended
Compl. at ECF p. 71; No. 18-1548, Amended Compl. at ECF p.
third and final set of claims is his least intelligible but
appears to relate to the Government's conduct during
prior federal-court litigation. He specifically alleges that
Defendant retaliated against him by failing to file an
Answer, refusing to admit subject-matter jurisdiction, and
preventing him from gaining discovery and a trial on the
merits. See Second Amended Compl. at ECF pp. 69-70
(Counts XXIII-XXV); No. 18-1548, Amended Compl. at ECF p. 22
who was named as a Defendant only in No. 18-461, previously
filed a motion to dismiss the claims against her on res
judicata grounds, which the Court granted. See
Hall, 2018 WL 5840663, at *3-5. The Government has filed
its own Motion to Dismiss everything else, which is now ripe
for the Court's consideration.
seeks dismissal of this case under Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). To survive a motion to
dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden
of proving that the Court has subject-matter jurisdiction to
hear his claims. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife,
504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992); U.S. Ecology, Inc. v. U.S.
Dep't of Interior, 231 F.3d 20, 24 (D.C. Cir. 2000).
A court has an “affirmative obligation to ensure that
it is acting within the scope of its jurisdictional
authority.” Grand Lodge of the Fraternal Order of
Police v. Ashcroft, 185 F.Supp.2d 9, 13 (D.D.C. 2001).
For this reason, “‘the [p]laintiff's 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.”
Id. at 13-14 (quoting 5A Charles A. Wright &
Arthur R. Miller, Fed. Practice & Procedure § 1350
(2d ed. 1987)). Additionally, unlike with a motion to dismiss
under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court “may consider ...