United States District Court, District of Columbia
MELVIN K. WILLIAMS, JR., Plaintiff,
SONNY PERDUE, in his official capacity as Secretary, United States Department of Agriculture et al., Defendants.
N. MCFADDEN, U.S.D.J.
courts, like museums, have different portals for different
people. A hapless tourist who enters through the
employees' door may be ejected from a museum, even if he
were otherwise entitled to be there. Similarly, a plaintiff
who comes into federal court through the federal removal
process may find his case thrown out, even if it could have
properly arrived there another way. Such is the plight of
Melvin Williams, who sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture
in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, alleging
the Department discriminated and retaliated against him based
on his disability. The Department's conduct, he contends,
violated the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 701
Department, as a federal defendant, exercised its right to
remove the case to federal court. It now seeks dismissal,
arguing, among other things, that this Court lacks
jurisdiction over Mr. Williams's Complaint. The Court
agrees. Because the Superior Court lacks jurisdiction over
Rehabilitation Act cases involving federal agency defendants,
this Court cannot exercise derivative jurisdiction. It will
therefore dismiss the case.
Williams worked for the Department for about a decade before
being fired in 2017. Compl. 1, ECF No. 16. He alleges that he
injured his right hand while “on the job as a printing
equipment operator.” Id. The Department
responded to this accident, he believes, in several improper
ways. See Id. at 1-2. First, it “pretended the
injury had not occurred at all.” Id. It
“denied his repeated requests for reasonable
accommodation, and then falsely claimed that he had requested
no accommodation.” Id. at 2. It
“discriminated and retaliated against him by refusing
to authorize his continued leave without pay.”
Id. Finally, it “fir[ed] him on the fabricated
pretext that he had been absent without leave.”
Id. Relying on these allegations, Mr. Williams
asserts that the Department engaged in
“disability-based discrimination under Section
504” of the Rehabilitation Act. Id. at 18.
he was terminated, Mr. Williams filed a complaint with the
Department's Equal Employment Opportunity Office.
See ECF No.1-3 at 1. The Office investigated and
issued a report detailing its findings. Id. at 2.
Based on this report and the record, the Department's
Office of Adjudication issued a Final Agency Decision on Mr.
Williams's claims. Id. It concluded that
“discrimination and harassment did not occur with
respect to the issues in this complaint.” Id.
at 17. It found, among other things, that
• Mr. Williams “was given numerous opportunities
to continue to work and was given modified duties that
addressed the limited performance of his right hand, ”
• He “continuously refused to report for duty,
even after he was medically cleared to report to work,
• The Department “proffered a legitimate,
nondiscriminatory reason for its decision to terminate [Mr.
Id. at 14-15.
Williams disagrees with these findings. Proceeding pro
se, he challenged the Final Agency Decision in the
District's Superior Court. Compl. 1 n.1, ECF No. 16.
See also Pl.'s Petition for Review of Agency
Decision, ECF No. 1-2 at 2. His Petition named the Department
and four of its employees as defendants. Id. But it
did not describe any of his factual allegations or legal
claims. See id. Because Mr. Williams sued federal
defendants alleging violations of a federal law, the
Department removed the case to this Court under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1442. See ECF No. 1 at 1.
Department then moved to dismiss the individually named
defendants and for a more definite statement of Mr.
Williams's claims. See ECF Nos. 4 and 10. The
Court granted both motions. In requiring a more definite
statement from Mr. Williams, it noted that a complaint in
federal court must contain a “short and plain statement
of the grounds for the court's jurisdiction, ” a
“short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief, ” and a demand for
the relief sought. See Court's October 9, 2018
Order, ECF No. 11 at 1 (discussing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)).
days after the Court's Order, Mr. Williams obtained
counsel. See ECF No. 12. He then filed the current
Complaint detailing his contentions of law and fact.
See Compl. In response, the Department has moved to