United States District Court, District of Columbia
AFNAN PARKER, Plaintiff.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al. Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN
PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT RE
DOCUMENT NO. 65
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, United States District Judge
Afnan Parker, proceeding pro se,  alleges that
during his participation in Project Empowerment-a program
managed by the District of Columbia's Department of
Employment Services-the program's Director sexually
harassed and assaulted him then intentionally prevented him
from receiving benefits for participating in the program. Mr.
Parker raises a host of claims against the District of
Columbia and the Director, including several asserted under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 for purported violations of his
constitutional rights. Defendants move for summary judgment
on three claims, which allege violation of Mr. Parker's
rights to procedural and substantive due process with respect
to the termination of Mr. Parker's benefits and violation
of Mr. Parker's right to bodily integrity with respect to
the purported sexual assault. For the reasons explained
below, the Court grants summary judgment in Defendants'
favor with respect to Mr. Parker's substantive due
process claim and on the sole issue of notice with respect to
Mr. Parker's procedural due process claim. However, the
Court otherwise denies Defendants' motion.
2014, Plaintiff Afnan Parker enrolled in Project Empowerment,
a workforce readiness and employment program operated by the
District of Columbia's Department of Employment Services
(“DOES”). Am. Compl. (“Compl.”) ¶
2, 7; Defs.' Mem. of Points & Authorities
(“Defs.' MSJ”) at 1, ECF No. 65-1. At the
time of Mr. Parker's participation, Charles Samuel Jones
Jr. served as the Director of Project Empowerment. Compl.
¶ 3; Defs.' MSJ at 1. Project Empowerment
participants received $9.50 per hour from DOES, while either
working at a transitional job placement or attending one of
Project Empowerment's classes. Defs.' MSJ at 2. The
parties apparently agree that Mr. Parker's enrollment in
the program was set to end on or around September 26, 2014.
Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts
(“Defs.' SUMF”) ¶ 2, ECF No. 65-2;
see Parker Deposition (“Parker Dep.”)
40:14-41:5. They likewise agree that DOES terminated Mr.
Parker on or around September 23, 2014 and that he was not
paid any benefits for the remaining program days. Defs.'
SUMF ¶¶ 1, 9; Parker Dep. 40:21-41:5; Compl. ¶
50. The parties disagree, however, about the circumstances
surrounding Mr. Parker's termination from the program.
to Defendants, DOES terminated Mr. Parker because “he
was accused of spitting, or attempting to spit, on two female
participants.” Defs.' SUMF ¶ 1. Defendants
contend that Mr. Parker met with DOES employees-including a
psychiatrist-to discuss the accusation and that during the
meeting he denied that he had spit on or attempted to spit on
the women. Defs.' SUMF ¶¶ 4-5, 11. Defendants
assert that Mr. Parker was given notice of the grounds for
his termination-specifically, “Mr. Parker was told that
he was being terminated because his behavior, which led to
the spitting accusation, was perceived as
inappropriate”-and that he also received an opportunity
to be heard. Defs.' SUMF ¶¶ 4-7, 10-11.
Mr. Parker does not contest that Defendants told him that he
was fired because of the spitting accusation, see
Parker Dep. 40:7-13, he disputes that he ever spat on or at
any other program participant and offers a different take on
the days leading up to his termination. According to Mr.
Parker, in August and September 2014, he complained to Mr.
Jones and other Project Empowerment employees that he was
receiving insufficient support in finding a permanent job
placement. Compl. ¶¶ 8-12. Mr. Parker alleges that
on September 22, 2014, Mr. Jones called Mr. Parker into his
office then closed the door. Compl. ¶ 13. After warning
Mr. Parker that anything said in the office was to be kept
confidential, Mr. Jones purportedly offered to use his work
connections to secure Mr. Parker a permanent job placement in
exchange for sexual favors. Compl. ¶¶ 14-19. Mr.
Parker claims that he rebuffed Mr. Jones and returned to
class. Compl. ¶¶ 20-21.
Parker asserts that when he returned to the program the next
day, he encountered Mr. Jones in a restroom. See
Compl. ¶¶ 22-25. Mr. Jones allegedly approached Mr.
Parker from behind while Mr. Parker was urinating and
“grabbed and squeezed [Mr. Parker's] scrotum,
” causing severe pain. Compl. ¶¶ 25-26. Mr.
Parker pushed Mr. Jones away, after which Mr. Jones allegedly
propositioned Mr. Parker once again, asking “When you
going to give me some?” Compl. ¶¶ 27-29. Mr.
Parker contends that he rushed into the hallway, but Mr.
Jones followed him and continued to proposition him and to
sexually and physically assault him. Compl. ¶¶
30-34. After pushing Mr. Jones away, Mr. Parker gathered his
belongings and left the building, reporting the incident to
security on his way out. Compl.¶¶ 35-38. The next
day, Mr. Parker reported his claims to the police and, in the
days following, he complained or attempted to complain to
various DOES officials. Compl. ¶¶ 40-43. Mr. Parker
contends that DOES failed to pay him the reminder of his
benefits for participating in Project Empowerment. Compl.
¶ 50. According to Mr. Parker, in the days after the
purported assault, he experienced significant pain,
depression, headaches, and difficulty sleeping, for which he
has received medical and mental health treatment. Compl.
Parker initiated the present action in December 2014.
See 1st Complaint, ECF No. 1. After this
Court denied Defendants' motion to dismiss,
case proceeded to discovery, which concluded in February
2017. See Joint Status Report, ECF No. 54.
Defendants filed their motion for partial summary judgment on
June 2, 2017. Defs.' MSJ, ECF No. 65. Four days later,
this Court advised Mr. Parker of his obligations under the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the local rules of this
court, including his obligation to timely respond to
Defendants' motion. Fox/Neal Order, ECF
No. 66. Mr. Parker subsequently requested and was granted an
extension to respond to Defendants' motion. See
Mot. for Extension of Time, ECF No. 67; Minute Order (July
25, 2017). More than two months after the new deadline
passed, however, Mr. Parker still had not filed a response.
See Order (Nov. 22, 2017), ECF No. 72. Nonetheless,
the Court afforded Mr. Parker additional time to respond,
extending the already-elapsed deadline, but admonishing that
the Court would grant Mr. Parker no further extension absent
a showing of extraordinary circumstances. Id. That
third deadline passed more than a month ago, and Mr. Parker
has still filed no response-timely or untimely. Accordingly,
the Court now takes up Defendants' motion for summary
judgment without any formal response from Plaintiff.
principal purpose of summary judgment is to streamline
litigation by disposing of factually unsupported claims or
defenses and determining whether there is a genuine need for
trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
323-24 (1986). A court may grant summary judgment when
“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
“material” fact is one capable of affecting the
substantive outcome of the litigation. See Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute
is “genuine” if there is enough evidence for a
reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-movant.
See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). While
a defendant moving for summary judgment need not negate the
plaintiff's case, “‘[i]t is not enough to
move for summary judgment without supporting the motion in
any way or with a conclusory assertion that the plaintiff has
no evidence to prove his case.'” Grimes v.
District of Columbia, 794 F.3d 83, 93 (D.C. Cir. 2015)
(quoting Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 328); see
also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52 (explaining that the
inquiry under Rule 56 is essentially “whether the
evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require
submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one
party must prevail as a matter of law”). Rather, the
movant bears the initial burden of identifying portions of
the record that demonstrate the absence of any genuine issue
of material fact. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1);
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. In considering a motion
for summary judgment, a court must “eschew making
credibility determinations or weighing the evidence, ”
Czekalski v. Peters, 475 F.3d 360, 363 (D.C. Cir.
2007), and all underlying facts and inferences must be
analyzed in the light most favorable to the nonmovant,
see Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.
to defeat a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party
points to specific facts in the record that reveal a genuine
issue that is suitable for trial. See Celotex, 477
U.S. at 324. Where, as here, the nonmoving party has failed
to respond to the motion for summary judgment, a court cannot
grant the motion as conceded. Winston & Strawn, LLP
v. McLean, 843 F.3d 503, 505 (D.C. Cir. 2016). Because
the “burden is always on the movant to demonstrate why
summary judgment is warranted, ” id. (quoting
Grimes v. District of Columbia, 794 F.3d 83
(Griffith, J., concurring)), a district court “must
determine for itself that there is no genuine dispute as to
any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law.” Id. at 509.
succeed on a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff
must show that, while acting under color of state law, the
defendant deprived the plaintiff of “rights,
privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and
laws” of the United States. 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Defendants move for summary judgment on Mr. Parker's
Fourth Amendment claim in Count V, arguing that Mr. Parker
has not stated a claim under the Fourth Amendment and that
any alleged assault committed by Mr. Jones was not an action
taken under color of state law. Defendants also move for
summary judgment on Plaintiff's procedural and
substantive due process claims in Count VI. With respect to
the procedural due process claim, Defendants contend that Mr.
Parker was not constitutionally entitled to benefits for his
participation in Project Empowerment and that, in any event,
DOES afforded him sufficient process before terminating his
benefits. With respect to the substantive due process claim,
Defendants assert that Mr. Parker has not shown that
Defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his right to
benefits and, thus, they argue that his claim must fail.
explained below, the Court agrees that Defendants are
entitled to summary judgment on Mr. Parker's substantive
due process claim for benefits and that, with respect to Mr.
Parker's procedural due process claim, Defendants have
shown that they are entitled to summary judgment on the sole
issue of notice. However, Defendants have otherwise failed to
demonstrate an absence of genuine issues of material fact.
Accordingly, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is
denied with respect to Count V-which the Court construes as a
claim of violation of Mr. Parker's substantive due
process right to bodily integrity rather than as a claim
under the Fourth Amendment-and with respect Mr. Parker's
claimed procedural due process violation for the purported
deprivation of benefits owed to Mr. Parker for participating
in Project Empowerment.
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is Denied with
Respect to Count V
Parker asserts that Defendants violated his right to
“bodily integrity under the Fourth Amendment by
subjecting him to unwanted physical and sexual abuse.”
Compl. ¶ 72. Defendants first argue that Mr. Parker has
not stated a claim under the Fourth Amendment. See
Charles Jones, Jr.'s Mot. for Partial Summ. J. at 2 n.2,
ECF No. 65. Defendants next move for summary judgment,
arguing that they cannot be held liable under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 for any violation of Mr. Parker's right to
bodily integrity because Mr. Jones's alleged actions were
not taken under color of state law. Defs.' MSJ at 8. The
Court concludes that, though Mr. Parker's claim is
improper under the Fourth Amendment, construed as a claim of
violation of Mr. Parker's substantive due process right
to bodily integrity, Count V states a claim. The Court also
finds that Defendants have failed to demonstrate an absence
of issues of material fact regarding this claim. Accordingly,
Defendants' motion for summary judgment is denied with
respect to this claim.
Mr. Parker's Claim is Not Properly Asserted Under the
Fourth Amendment, But It Survives as a Substantive Due
Parker alleges that Defendants violated his rights to
“bodily integrity under the Fourth Amendment.”
Compl. ¶ 72. Defendants argue that Mr. Parker “has
not alleged an unreasonable search or seizure for a Fourth
Amendment claim, nor does the evidence support one.”
Charles Jones, Jr.'s Mot. for Partial Summ. J. at 2 n.2.
While the Court agrees that Mr. Parker's claim does not
squarely fall under the Fourth Amendment, it does not
conclude that Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on
this basis. Rather, the Court finds that Mr. ...