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Robinson v. Department of Justice

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 25, 2014

KATHERINE B. ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ROGER W. TITUS, District Judge.

On June 6, 2013, Katherine Robinson ("Robinson") filed a Complaint in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, Maryland against the Department of Justice ("DOJ") and the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA"). ECF Nos. 1, 2. On July 3, 2013, the Defendants removed the case to this Court. ECF No. 1. The Government filed a Motion to Dismiss Robinson's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), 12(b)(5), and 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, the Government's motion will be granted, and Robinson's Complaint will be dismissed.

BACKGROUND

Although there is only one Complaint listed on the docket of this Court, ECF No. 2, the parties in their filings reference an Amended Complaint, which Robinson appears to include as part of an attachment to her Opposition to the Government's Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 13-1 at 4. The Government also states in its Response to this Court's Standing Order Concerning Removal that Robinson "filed an Amended Complaint which along with a summons was served by certified mail on the United States Drug Enforcement Administration on July 8, 2013." ECF No. 7 at 1. Despite this assertion, the Amended Complaint was never properly filed with this Court, although it appears to have been filed in the Circuit Court on July 12, 2013, subsequent to removal of the case to this Court.

Although difficult to make out at times, Robinson's original Complaint states that Robinson was an employee of the DEA for 25 years before she was terminated (she does not provide a date of termination).[1] ECF No. 2. She asserts that during her employment at the DEA, she "was sexually harassed by [her] immediate supervisor, Don Ellis ["Ellis"], " and that she reported this harassment to her "next level supervisor, Otto Lewis ["Lewis"], " and "to EEO." ECF No. 2. According to Robinson, Lewis called a meeting for the three of them, where Ellis admitted that he had sexually harassed Robinson. ECF No. 2. After filing a sexual harassment complaint, "[a] copy of the complaint was sent to [her] home, " and "things started happen[ing] around [her] desk at work and [at her] home." ECF No. 2. In particular, Robinson avers that the lock on her locker at work was changed so that she could not access her purse and keys. ECF No. 2. In addition, her car had a flat tire, and "[t]hings from [her] home started showing up in [her] desk draw[er], " which had been locked. ECF No. 2. Robinson "advised [her] third line supervisor, Mr. Phillip Camero[, ] that some of [her] co-workers had been in [her] home, " as she "believe[s] they were looking for the EEO sex[ual] harassment complaint." ECF No. 2.

In Robinson's view, "[t]he only way [she] could show proof that things were happening to [her] at home and work was to take pictures, " so she took pictures of her office space, even though she "worked in a secure department, " because, Robinson stated, "having parties and taking pictures [at her office] [was] never a problem." ECF No. 2. Robinson was reported to Lewis for taking photographs at work, and "Lewis asked [her] to stop taking pictures." ECF No. 2. Robinson asserts that she followed Lewis's instructions, but that she "accident[ally] took a picture of the floor while putting [her] camera away." ECF No. 2. She was again reported to Lewis for taking more photographs, and when Lewis "asked [her] for [her] camera, " Robinson "didn't want to give [him the] camera because [she] didn't trust Mr. Lewis." ECF No. 2. After this episode, Robinson was terminated from her job "pending investigation." ECF No. 2. According to her Complaint, she has yet to hear "when the investigation was over." ECF No. 2. Robinson's original Complaint seeks $20 million in damages for sexual harassment and for the "steps [she] took to protect [her]self that caused [her] to end up losing [her] job of 25 years." ECF No. 2.

Robinson's Amended Complaint, attached to her Opposition, alleges the same facts but also includes additional information. Robinson asserts, among other things, that the picturetaking incident occurred on May 13-14, 1997. ECF No. 13-1 at 5-6. Robinson also alleges that after losing her job, her and her family's "[lives have] been turned upside down, " noting a lower income, "changes to [her] health conditions, " the fact that "food, in [her] refrigerator, was rearranged" and she "was afraid to eat [her] food, " that she had a security system installed at her home, and that the "DEA advised [the] Virginia Unemployment Commission that [she] was discharged due to misconduct." ECF No. 13-1 at 6.[2] Robinson's Amended Complaint also seeks $50 million instead of $20 million in damages.

Though Robinson's Complaint and Amended Complaint do not mention it, the Government and Robinson both submit attachments to their filings[3] that indicate that she was terminated on June 3, 1998, ECF Nos. 11-2, 13-2, and that Robinson declined to ever file a formal EEO complaint asserting sexual harassment, ECF Nos. 11-4, 13-7. Robinson also acknowledges in her Opposition that she was "removed from... federal service, effective June 3, 1998, " ECF No. 13 at 1, and that she "didn't file the formal EEO complaint because [she] didn't want to bring a sexual harassment claim to [the] DEA, " ECF No. 13 at 4.

On August 16, 2013, the Government filed its Motion to Dismiss Robinson's Complaint under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), 12(b)(5), and 12(b)(6). ECF No. 11. Robinson filed her Opposition on September 6, 2013, ECF No. 13, and the Government replied on September 23, 2013, ECF No. 14. Without leave of this Court, Robinson filed a surreply on October 7, 2013, in which she reiterates a request from her Opposition to transfer this case to a court with proper jurisdiction. ECF No. 15. Because surreplies may only be filed with leave of this Court under Local Rule 105.2.a, Robinson's surreply will not be considered here, but even if it were, it would not change the conclusion reached by this Court.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), a defendant may move to dismiss a complaint because the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. When a 12(b)(1) motion is made to challenge "the factual basis for subject matter jurisdiction, the burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction is on the plaintiff." Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991). The motion should be granted "only if the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law." Id. In addition, when considering a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, "the district court may regard the pleadings as mere evidence on the issue and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment." Velasco v. Gov't of Indon., 370 F.3d 392, 398 (4th Cir. 2004).

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) "test[s] the sufficiency of a complaint." Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). The court must consider all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, see Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994), and must construe factual allegations "in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, " see Lambeth v. Bd. of Comm'rs of Davidson Cnty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005). A pro se plaintiff is held to a "less stringent'" standard than a lawyer, and the Court must liberally construe a pro se plaintiff's complaint. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

"To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. "But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not show[n]'-that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Id. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)); see also Simmons & United Mortg. & Loan Invest., 634 F.3d 754, 768 (4th Cir. 2011) ("On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.") (quotation and emphasis omitted). "Thus, [i]n reviewing a motion to dismiss an action pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)... [a court] must determine ...


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