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Brown v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 12, 2019

RANDY BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          EMMET G. SULLIVAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Randy Brown, appearing pro se, sues the District of Columbia, claiming that its Rehabilitation Services Administration (“RSA”) has “engaged in a continuing pattern of discriminatory conduct” against him, in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq.; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq.; and the D.C. Human Rights Act (“DCHRA”), D.C. Code § 2-1401.01 et seq. Am. Compl. at 1 [Dkt. # 3]. The District has moved to dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) or for summary judgment under Rule 56, which Plaintiff has opposed. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the motion for summary judgment and enter judgment accordingly.

         I. BACKGROUND

         RSA is a division of the District's Department of Disability Services that provides vocational and rehabilitative services to individuals with disabilities. See Sept. 18, 2017 Mem. Op. at 1 [Dkt. # 14] (denying motion to dismiss). Eligible individuals are assigned a vocational rehabilitation counselor who assists with developing an Individualized Plan for Employment (“IPE”). RSA offers, among other services, vocational training or other post-secondary education and job assistance. See id. at 1-2.

         A. Factual Background

         1. Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff is a client of RSA who “has a cognitive disability but has high aptitude in verbal skills and in abstract reading.” Am. Compl. ¶ 2. In February 2009, after three years of providing “funding for rehabilitation, ” Pl.'s Statement of Disputed Material Facts ¶ 2 [Dkt. # 33], RSA denied “services” to Plaintiff, “stating that [he] had exhausted the maximum expenditure allowed, ” Am. Compl. ¶ 3. The “suspension” was lifted in 2010. Id. But from “2010 through 2013, ” RSA continued to deny services “by mismanaging Plaintiff's file, assigning to [his] file as many as six or seven counselors resulting in missing documents and, on at least two occasions, the destruction of the file itself.” Id. ¶ 4. “No sooner than the file [was] restored, a new counselor [was] assigned resulting again in lost documents, causing a continuing pattern of delays and the denial of service.” Id.

         In 2013, when Plaintiff anticipated that he may be unable to attend classes due to yet another lost file, he complained to the RSA's director, “describing the ongoing delays as ‘discriminatory' [and] identifying the three-year denial of services unjustifiable.” Id. ¶ 6. Plaintiff registered for and attended classes in the Fall of 2013 at George Washington University, but RSA withheld “necessary allowances for books, travel and tuition, resulting [in] problems related to train fares, supplies, and calls from the GW business office about delinquent tuition payments.” Id. ¶ 9.

         At some point, Plaintiff was assigned a new counselor, Taylor Cummings, whom Plaintiff describes as “efficient but biased, as indicated by her taking liberties with facts pertaining to Plaintiff's disability.” Am. Compl. ¶ 13. Allegedly, Cummings drafted “a letter falsely asserting that Plaintiff ‘understands oral communication better than written communication,' a misrepresentation that later [would] interfere[ ] with Plaintiff's rights under the ADA.” Id. ¶ 14. Cummings also interfered with Plaintiff's “rights by wheedling [him] about signing [an] inaccurate IPE, asking [him] ‘to ignore the inaccuracies in the IPE that RSA drafts unilaterally, coercing [him] to sign to be eligible for the withheld allowances.” Id. ¶ 15.

         Plaintiff alleges that “Deputy Director Reese” interfered with his “rights by permitting Mr. Jonathan Keefe to yell shout at Plaintiff, threatening to close Plaintiff's file to coerce Plaintiff's signature.” Am. Compl. ¶ 16. Allegedly, when plaintiff asked RSA “to remove the false information, ” his file was closed but reopened “when DC Protection and Advocacy question[ed] RSA's conduct related to the file closure.” Id. ¶ 17. But in response to Plaintiff's notifying D.C. Protection and Advocacy about “the inaccurate IPE and file closure, ” RSA retaliated “by withdrawing funding for art appraisal studies on the pretext that there [were] no jobs.” Id. ¶ 18. To “salvage” his “career choice, ” Plaintiff “emphasize[d] the similarities between appraisal studies and legal studies, explaining how the National Appraiser's Examination contains a legal component that requires a year and a half commitment to study contracts and business law.” Id. ¶ 19. But Deputy Director Reese “reject[ed] the analogy” and denied Plaintiff's modification request “to allow the LSAT to be used as an alternative assessment tool in lieu of RSA's emphasis upon repetitive neuropsychological retesting.” Id. ¶¶ 19-20 (citing 28 C.F.R. § 35.130) (“General prohibitions against discrimination”).

         In March 2015, Deputy Director Reese allegedly interfered with Plaintiff's rights under the ADA “by telling Plaintiff to appeal RSA's denial of [his] ADA modification request at the DC Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH), to create issue preclusion, thereby barring Plaintiff's access to a Federal court.” Id. ¶ 21.

         In April 2015, RSA “set[ ] a deadline to schedule a meeting.” Id. ¶ 23. Allegedly, Plaintiff “request[ed] an advocate and inform[ed] RSA of out-of-town oncology appointments, but RSA impose[d] ¶ 5PM deadline, after the fact, ” in violation of “ADA proscriptions against retaliation under title II.” Id. ¶ 24.

         2. The Evidentiary Record

         The District has proffered the Affidavit of Taylor Kenny (formerly Cummings) [Dkt. # 29 at 44-46], who at the relevant time period was Plaintiff's Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist, and various exhibits. Plaintiff has proffered his Affidavit [Dkt. # 36-1 at 1-4] and various exhibits.

         Kenney avers that Plaintiff “has received a variety of services from RSA, ranging from assessment services, to post-secondary education and training, counseling and guidance, in-house job placement services, and transportation.” Kenney Aff. ¶ 5. In response to Plaintiff's request in October 2014 to modify his IPE “to pursue a career as an attorney, ” id. ¶ 6, Kenny (then Cummings) asked Plaintiff “to participate in updated neuropsychological and vocational evaluations in order to determine the appropriateness of the newly requested employment outcome, ” as well as “the nature and scope of any VR services that would be included in his modified IPE . . . in keeping with 29 DCMR 110.3, ” id. ¶ 7. Kenny “repeatedly . . . offered to schedule appointments to assist” Plaintiff with providing “the required information and documents and explained to him the necessity of such data.” Id. ¶ 8. Kenney avers that Plaintiff “did not agree” to participate in the neuropsychological and vocational evaluations and generally “refused to actively participate in the process of developing and modifying his IPE as requested.” Id. ¶¶ 9-10. Consequently, on March 25, 2015, Plaintiff was notified “of pending case closure” if he failed to participate in the assessments and to schedule an appointment by April 27, 2015. Id. ¶ 11.

         On March 16, 2015, Plaintiff e-mailed Director Laura L. Nuss requesting that she “assist me with respect to my request for modifications in policy and practices.” Def.'s Ex. 3 [Dkt. # 29 at 37]. In a letter to Plaintiff dated March 27, 2015, Director Nuss wrote:

I received your letter requesting a policy exception regarding your request for the agency to provide support for you to attend Law School. My understanding is that your VR Specialist, Taylor Cummings, has explained that the first question that needs to be addressed is not your ability to participate in law school, but the appropriateness of attorney as an employment goal for you. Ms. Cummings has provided a clear explanation of the concerns she has about changing your employment goal. She recommended that you obtain an assessment in order for her to be able to reconsider changing the goal. She has also reached out several times in an attempt to have you come in for an appointment to discuss these issues. To date, you have refused to schedule an appointment with ...

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