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Ham v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 9, 2020

DOYLE RAY HAM, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RANDOLPH D. MOSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is the second Title VII action brought by Plaintiff Doyle Ray Ham, Jr., proceeding pro se, challenging his non-selection for a position as a police officer with the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”). In 2013, Ham, an African-American man, sued the District of Columbia based on the MPD's rejection of his 2007 job application on the ground that he had been arrested (although not convicted) for assault in 1984. See Ham v. Metro. Police Dep't, No. 13-1527, 2014 WL 98641 (D.D.C. Jan. 10, 2014). This Court concluded that Ham failed to timely exhaust his administrative remedies, granted summary judgment in favor of the District, and dismissed the case. Id. at *1.

         In 2015, Ham re-applied to the MPD, and his application was once again rejected due to criminal activity discovered during his background check. Dkt. 1 at 2 (Compl. ¶ 3). The following year, Ham commenced this second action, this time alleging that the MPD's 2015 decision not to hire him was the product of both racial discrimination and unlawful retaliation for the protected activity he took after the MPD rejected his 2007 employment application. Id. at 1 (Compl. ¶ 1). Ham also sought to reopen his 2013 case and to renew his challenge to his 2007 non-selection because the 2013 case “is connected to this case” and because he was allegedly “denied due process in” the 2013 case. Id. at 3 (Compl. ¶ 14). The Court previously granted the District's motion to dismiss Ham's complaint to the extent it challenged (once again) his 2007 non-selection. Ham v. District of Columbia, No. 16-1720, 2017 WL 1628872, at *2-3 (D.D.C. May 5, 2017). The District now moves for summary judgment on Ham's remaining claims, which challenge his 2015 non-selection. Dkt. 33 at 15-16. For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant the District's motion for summary judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court recounted much of the relevant background in its prior opinion, see Ham, 2017 WL 1628872 at *1-2, and will, accordingly, only briefly outline the facts and allegations relevant to the pending motion. In 2007, Ham applied for a position as an officer with the MPD, but his application was rejected because he had been arrested for (although not convicted of) assault in 1984. See Dkt. 1-1 at 39, 50, 54. Ham later filed suit in 2013, challenging his non-selection, but the action was dismissed for failure to timely exhaust administrative remedies. Ham, 2014 WL 98641 at *1. Ham appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed, see Ham v. Metro. Police Dep't, No 14-7032, 2014 WL 4628886 (D.C. Cir. Aug. 5, 2014), and the Supreme Court denied Ham's petition for a writ of certiorari, see Ham v. Metro. Police Dep't, 574 U.S. 1035 (2014).

         In 2015, Ham again began the application process to join the MPD. Dkt. 33-1 at 6 (Ham Dep. 10:10-14). Despite “pass[ing] the first phase of the application process” and being “conditionally approved as a candidate for a police officer, ” Dkt. 35-1 at 4 (Pl. Ex. 2), Ham later received an email from the MPD informing him that, “[b]ased upon information obtained during” his background check, the MPD had “determined that [he was] ineligible for the [police officer] position due to criminal activity, ” Dkt. 33-1 at 73 (Def. Ex. 12). Ham filed an administrative appeal of that decision and later received a final decision from the MPD “determin[ing] that [he] remain[ed] not best qualified for the position.” Id. at 75 (Def. Ex. 13). Ham filed an EEOC complaint on May 27, 2016, asserting that the MPD “unfairly denied [his] application” because he was not convicted of the assault charge the MPD cited to justify his non-selection and because the MPD “has hired other races with convictions on [their] record[s].” Dkt. 1-1 at 45. The EEOC dismissed his complaint on June 10, 2016, id. at 1, and Ham commenced this action on August 24, 2016, Dkt. 1.

         In this action, Ham alleges racial discrimination and unlawful retaliation for the protected activity he took after the MPD rejected his employment application in 2007. Dkt. 1 at 1 (Compl. ¶ 1). Ham also sought to reopen his 2013 case and to renew his challenge to his 2007 non-selection because of its alleged connection to his 2015 non-selection. Id. at 3 (Compl. ¶ 14). The District, in turn, moved to dismiss Ham's complaint to the extent it challenged his 2007 non-selection on res judicata grounds. Dkt. 8. The Court agreed and dismissed the portion of Ham's complaint based on his 2007 non-selection claims. Ham, 2017 WL 1628872, at *1. The District now moves for summary judgment with respect to Ham's remaining claims, which are based on his 2015 non-selection. Dkt. 33.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         The Court will grant a motion for 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 party asserting that a fact cannot be . . . genuinely disputed must support the assertion by . . . citing to particular parts of materials in the record . . . or . . . showing that the materials cited do not establish the . . . presence of a genuine dispute.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). “Once the moving party has met its ‘initial responsibility of informing the . . . court of the basis for its motion,' the party opposing summary judgment must point to ‘specific facts [in the record] showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Angelex, Ltd. v. United States, 907 F.3d 612, 617-18 (D.C. Cir. 2018) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-24 (1986)). “If the evidence” offered by the non-movant “is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986) (internal citations omitted). In addition, summary judgment is appropriate when, “after adequate time for discovery, ” the nonmoving party “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial . . . since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322.

         III. ANALYSIS

         The remaining portions of Ham's complaint challenge his 2015 non-selection, asserting that it was the product of racial discrimination and unlawful retaliation for his 2013 suit against the District. See Dkt. 1 at 1 (Compl. ¶ 1). The District responds that the MPD “had a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason to deny” Ham's application because “his criminal and personal record disqualified him from further consideration under the [MPD's] personnel regulations, ” and that the MPD was motivated neither by racial discriminatory animus nor by retaliation. Dkt. 33 at 11. The Court concludes, based on the evidence the parties have identified, that no reasonable jury could find that the District's failure to hire Ham was based on racial animus or retaliation, rather than the MPD's asserted legitimate reason. The Court will first address Ham's racial discrimination claim and then proceed to his retaliation claim.

         A. Racial Discrimination

         The plaintiff in a Title VII action alleging racial discrimination bears “the initial burden under the statute of establishing a prima facie case of racial discrimination.” McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973).

To establish a prima facie case, the plaintiff must show that (1) he is a member of a protected class; (2) he applied for and was qualified for an available position; (3) despite his qualifications he was rejected; and (4) either someone not of his protected class filled the position or the ...

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