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Mua v. Maryland Office of Attorney General

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 30, 2016

JOSEPHAT MUA, Plaintiff,
v.
THE MARYLAND OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL et al., Defendants. JOSEPHAT MUA, Plaintiff,
v.
THE O’NEAL FIRM LLP et al., Defendants. JOSEPHAT MUA, Plaintiff,
v.
THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

PETER J. MESSITTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Josephat Mua, pro se, has brought three related suits that are the subject of this Opinion. These suits follow the Court’s stay of Mua’s prior suit brought pursuant to Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Mua v. The Board of Prince George’s County, Civ. No. 11-1198-PJM (“Mua I”). In the three latter suits, Mua v. The Maryland Office of the Attorney General et al., Civ. No. 14-2070-PJM (“Mua II”), Mua v. The O’Neal Firm LLP et al., Civ. No. 14-2334 (“Mua III”), and Mua v. The Board of Education of Prince George’s County et al., Civ. No. 15-2249 (“Mua IV”), Mua asserts multiple claims against a total of nineteen Defendants that arise out of an alleged conspiracy to deny him justice following his termination from employment by the Prince George’s County Public School System.[1]

Having reviewed the extensive pleadings in all three suits, the Court will GRANT Defendants’ pending Motions to Dismiss and will DISMISS all the suits as to all Defendants. The Court finds that the Amended Complaints in Mua II and Mua IV fail to state a basis on which relief may be granted, and that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the claims in Mua III as to eleven Defendants. As to the two remaining Defendants in Mua III, the Association of Supervisory and Administrative School Personnel (“ASASP”) and the Maryland State Education Association (“MSEA”), the Amended Complaint fails to state a claim for relief in regard to the federal claims, and the Court will decline supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims.

I.

In his three suits against nineteen Defendants, Mua asserts fifty-five claims and seeks damages in the tens of millions of dollars, as well as equitable relief. See Mua II, Amend. Compl., ECF No. 8; Mua III, Amend. Compl., ECF No. 7; Mua IV, Amend. Compl., ECF No. 4.

In Mua II, the Defendants are Prince George’s County and the State of Maryland- specifically the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, the Maryland State Department of Education, and Maryland State Treasurer Nancy Kopp.

In Mua III, the Defendants include Mua’s former counsel in proceedings related to his termination: The O’Neal Firm, LLP; Sullivan, Talbott & Batt; Bryan Chapman, Esquire; RMA & Associates, LLC; Robert E. Cappell, Esquire; and C. Sukari Hardnett, LLC, which has also been sued under the name Hardnett & Associates. Other Defendants in Mua III consist of opposing counsel for the Board of Education of Prince George’s County, Thatcher Law Firm and Pessin Katz Law, P.A.; two unions, MSEA and ASASP; a private contractor providing court transcript services, Bradford Associates; and, once again, the Maryland State Department of Education.

In Mua IV, the only Defendants remaining are two additional unions, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO (“AFSCME International”) and American Federation of State, County, Municipal Employees Local 2250 (“AFSCME Local 2250”).[2]

In Mua II, against the State and County Defendants, Mua alleges violations of due process rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, conspiracy, fraud, racketeering, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and abuse of process, among others. See Mua II, Amend Compl., ECF No. 8.

In Mua III, Mua’s claims overlap substantially with those made in Mua II, with Defendants purportedly participating in the same conspiracy, but the suit adds claims against unions MSEA and ASASP such as alleged violations of the duty of fair representation pursuant to Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, 29 U.S.C. § 185, as well as various tort and contract claims against all of Mua’s former attorneys. See Mua III, Amend Compl., ECF No. 7.

In Mua IV, following the Court’s dismissal of the suit as to thirteen of the Defendants- most of whom were related in some way to the Board of Education of Prince George’s County, Defendant in Mua I, the underlying Title VII suit-the Amended Complaint focuses primarily on Mua’s claims against unions AFSCME Local 2250 and AFSCME International for purported violations of the duty of fair representation. See Mua IV, Memorandum Order, ECF No. 2; Amend. Compl., ECF No. 4.

A.

The key background facts are as follows:[3]

Mua, who was born in Kenya, was employed as a fulltime teacher in the Prince George’s County Public Schools (“PGCPS”) from 2002 to 2007. Mua II, Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 18-19. In 2007, he moved to the position of IT Technician. Id. ¶¶ 20, 26. Because he was no longer a teacher, Mua’s labor union membership changed from the Prince George’s County Educator’s Association (PGCEA) to AFSCME Local 2250, a union for support staff. Id. ¶¶ 18-20 & 20 n.1. While employed as an IT technician, Mua states that he reported on activity in his school that he believed was illegal, including his belief that teachers were removing IT equipment and not returning it. See Id. ¶¶ 21-25, 27-28, 35-38.

In 2009, Mua was transferred to the PGCPS Help Desk, another IT position at a different location. Mua I, Amend. Compl. ¶ 25, ECF No. 16. He alleges that his supervisors at the Help Desk called him derogatory names based on his national origin. See Id. ¶¶ 27-46; Mua II, Amend. Compl. ¶ 41. Then, in a letter dated March 24, 2010, he was notified by his supervisor of PGCPS’s intent to terminate him. Mua I, Amend. Compl. ¶ 51. Mua filed a claim of retaliation and discrimination based on national origin against PGCPS with the EEOC on April 20, 2010. See id. ¶ 52. He was terminated from his position on June 18, 2010, based on what the letter described as “overall job performance.” Mua II, Amend. Compl. ¶ 48. Mua asserts, however, that the real reason he was terminated was discrimination and retaliation. See Mua I, Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 52, 64-66, 72-74.

Mua appealed his termination to the Board of Education for Prince George’s County (“County Board”) on June 30, 2010. Mua II, Amend. Compl. ¶ 48. Prior to the hearing before the County Board, PGCPS decided that the appeal fell under Maryland Education Code Section 6-202, which applies to teachers, see Id. ¶ 50, instead of under Section 4-205(c) which applies to non-certificate positions including IT staff. See Md. Code Ann. Educ. §§ 6-202, 4-205(c); Mua II, Pl.’s Status Report, Ex. 13, Mua v. Prince George’s Cnty. Pub. Schs., OAH No. MSDE-BE-01-12-32309, Proposed Ruling Mot. Summ. Decision (Md. Office of Admin. Hr’gs Nov. 26, 2012) (“OAH Proposed Ruling”), ECF No. 3-13; Mua II, Def.’s Mot. Dismiss, Ex. 3, Mua v. Prince George’s Cnty. Bd. of Educ., Op. No. 13-34, at 6 (Md. State Bd. of Educ. June 25, 2013) (“Md. State Bd. of Educ. Op.”), ECF No. 13-7.[4] Accordingly, on February 14, 2011, the appeal was referred to Hearing Officer Robert Troll, who held a hearing on the matter on several dates from July to October 2011. See Md. State Bd. of Educ. Op. at 7; Mua II, Amend. Compl. ¶ 48. In a proposed decision issued January 19, 2012, Hearing Officer Troll concluded that Mua could appropriately be terminated for misconduct, insubordination, and incompetence. See Md. State Bd. of Educ. Op. at 7. On July 11, 2012, the County Board adopted the proposed decision to terminate Mua. Id.

Mua appealed the decision of the County Board to the Maryland State Board of Education (“State Board”), which referred the case to Administrative Law Judge Brian Zlotnick of the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings (“OAH”) for a “proposed ruling.” See Id. at 7-8; OAH Proposed Ruling, ECF No. 3-13; Mua II, Amend. Compl. ¶ 51. On November 26, 2012, ALJ Zlotnick issued a “Proposed Ruling on Motion for Summary Decision, ” finding that Mua should have been treated as a non-certificate employee under Maryland Education Code Section 4-205(c), which entitled him to an initial hearing within 30 days of the decision. See OAH Proposed Ruling at 7-8. Because the County Board failed to hold the hearing within 30 days, OAH found that it lacked jurisdiction over the appeal, but also concluded that Mua should be reinstated with back pay. See id. at 8-9; Mua II, Amend. Compl. ¶ 51. The County Board appealed the proposed decision to the State Board. See Md. State Bd. of Educ. Op. at 8; Mua II, Amend. Compl. ¶ 52.

The State Board heard oral argument from Mua and counsel for the County Board on May 21, 2013; then, in a decision issued on June 25, 2013, it disagreed with OAH’s determination and affirmed the County Board’s decision to terminate Mua. See Md. State Bd. of Educ. Op. at 8; Mua II, Amend. Compl. ¶ 59. The State Board reasoned that Mua had in fact been afforded greater due process rights under Section 6-202 than he would have received under Section 4-205(c), including the fact that the burden of proof was placed on PGCPS to justify the termination rather than on Mua to demonstrate the impropriety of the termination. Md. State Bd. of Educ. Op. at 9-10. While Section 6-202 did not provide for a hearing within 30 days, the State Board reasoned that, under Cleveland Board of Education v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532 (1985), and other cases, and given a number of extenuating circumstances, the delay of one year in holding a hearing was not unconstitutionally lengthy. Id. at 11-12.

Mua appealed the State Board’s decision to the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, and when the Circuit Court affirmed the State Board on April 7, 2014, he appealed to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, where the case is still pending. See Mua v. Bd. of Educ. for Prince George’s Cnty., No. CAL 13-18946 (Cir. Ct. Prince George’s Cnty. Apr. 7, 2014) (order affirming State Board decision), appeal docketed, No. 0356, Sept. Term 2014 (Md. Ct. Spec. App.).

On November 27, 2012, Mua filed a complaint against AFSCME Local 2250 and AFSCME International with the Maryland Public Schools Labor Relations Board (“State Labor Relations Board”). See Mua IV, Pl.’s Resp. Opp’n Defs.’ Mots. Dismiss at 4-5, ECF No. 20. According to the Amended Complaint in Mua II, the State Labor Relations Board issued a decision on May 29, 2013, finding against Mua, and denied his Motion for Reconsideration in late June 2013. See Mua II, Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 57-58. The decision of the State Labor Relations Board was upheld by the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County at a hearing in January 2014, and Mua again sought recourse at the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, where the case is currently pending.[5] See Mua IV, Pl.’s Resp. Opp’n Defs.’ Mots. Dismiss at 6; Mua v. AFSCME AFL-CIO, No. CAL 13-17138 (Cir. Ct. Prince George’s Cnty, Jan. 3, 2014) (order affirming decision of State Labor Relations Board), appeal docketed, No. 02374, Sept. Term 2013 (Md. Ct. Spec. App.).

During the pendency of the administrative proceedings before the two State Boards and related appeals, Mua initiated a number of other proceedings in state and federal court. On May 5, 2011, prior to the County Board’s initial hearing on the termination decision, Mua, at the time represented by counsel, filed his first federal suit in this Court, Mua v. Board of Education for Prince George’s County, Civ. No. 11-1998-PJM (Mua I), asserting claims of hostile work environment and retaliation under Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as a state-based claim for wrongful discharge. Mua I, Amend. Compl., ECF No. 16. Following a hearing on June 18, 2012, this Court dismissed the claim for wrongful discharge, but otherwise stayed the suit pending the resolution of the appeal of the County Board’s termination decision. See Mua I, ECF Nos. 80, 81.

On December 16, 2011, after the initiation of Mua I, Mua brought a twenty-one count suit in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County against the County Board, individual Board members, and two unions, AFSCME Local 2250 and AFSCME International. See Mua v. Bd. of Educ. for Prince George’s Cnty., No. CAL 11-36992 (Cir. Ct. Prince George’s Cnty. July 15, 2013) (order dismissing all claims), aff’d, No. 1043, Sept. Term 2013 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. July 9, 2015) (unreported). The two unions are also Defendants in Mua IV in this Court. Mua’s claims included, among others, breach of contract, conspiracy, defamation, violations of the Fourteenth Amendment, unjust enrichment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and, as alleged against the unions specifically, violation of the duty of fair representation. The Circuit Court dismissed all claims with prejudice on July 15, 2013, see id., and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals affirmed the dismissal on July 9, 2015. See Mua IV, Def.’s Mot. Dismiss, Ex. 1, Mua v. Bd. of Educ. of Prince George’s Cnty, No. 1043, Sept. Term 2013 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. July 9, 2015) (unreported), ECF No. 16-2.[6]

Turning to the three suits that are presently before the Court:

On June 26, 2014, Mua, pro se, filed Mua II in this Court against the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, the Maryland State Board of Education, Prince George’s County, and Maryland State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp. In the suit, Mua alleges that the State and County Defendants, through conspiracy, fraud, violations of due process, and other illegalities, prevented him from achieving justice in his appeal of the termination decision, as well as in other proceedings. See Mua II, Amend. Compl., ECF No. 8.

On July 22, 2014, a few weeks later, Mua III was filed against thirteen Defendants including a number of Mua’s former attorneys, counsel for the County Board, two unions, and, once again, the State Board. Mua III, Compl., ECF No. 1. Mua III alleges, among other claims, that the thirteen Defendants in the suit were part of the larger conspiracy alleged in Mua II, as evidenced, for example, by the unions’ failure to provide him adequate representation, see Mua III, Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 272-79, ECF No. 7, and his former attorneys’ purported sabotage of his state, administrative, and federal proceedings. See Id. ¶¶ 87-111, 113-15.

On July 30, 2015, Mua filed Mua IV, once again roping in the County Board, as well as a number of Board members, other individuals already sued in one of the federal cases, and the unions AFSCME Local 2250 and AFSCME International. The Court dismissed that suit as to all but the two unions, which Mua had not yet sued in federal court. The Amended Complaint alleges employment-related claims against “Defendants, ” see Mua IV, Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 53-65, ECF No. 4, and the violation of the duty of fair representation by the unions. See Id. ¶¶ 67-79.

B.

The Court distills Mua’s wide-ranging complaints as follows:

His overarching allegation is that the Defendants in the three suits-due to bias, fraud, and discrimination against him-acted in a conspiracy to prevent him from obtaining justice in the various ...


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