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Bailey-El v. The Housing Authority of Baltimore City

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 9, 2016

RONALD G. BAILEY-EL, Plaintiff,
v.
THE HOUSING AUTHORITY OF BALTIMORE CITY, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RICHARD D. BENNETT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Plaintiff Ronald G. Bailey-El (“Plaintiff” or “Bailey-El”), pro se, in forma pauperis, has brought this action against Defendants Housing Authority of Baltimore City (“HABC”); Ms. Green, Regional Director of the HABC; Kimberly Graham, former HABC Director of Human Resources; Carla Walton, current HABC Director of Human Resources; Odyssey Johnson, HABC Manager[1]; AFSCME[2] Local 647; and Anthony Coates, President of AFSCME Local 647[3], alleging retaliation and violations of Plaintiff’s First Amendment rights (Count One); violations of Plaintiff’s “fifth amendment due process rights” (Count Two); and violations of any additional constitutional rights, including “procedural and substantive due process rights” (Count Three). First Am. Compl., p. 1, ECF No. 16[4]. As explained infra, this Court construes all of Plaintiff’s claims as arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of Plaintiff’s rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and First Amendment retaliation. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (Pro se pleadings are afforded a liberal construction). Currently pending before this Court are Plaintiff’s Motion to Appoint Counsel (ECF No. 6); Defendant HABC’s Motion to Dismiss the First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 8)[5]; Plaintiff’s Motion for Extension of Time and to Correct Administrative Errors (ECF No. 10); Plaintiff’s Motion for Clerk’s Entry of Default (ECF No. 12); and Plaintiff’s Motion for Default Judgment (ECF No. 14). The parties’ submissions have been reviewed, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons stated herein, Plaintiff’s Motion to Appoint Counsel (ECF No. 6) is DENIED and Defendant HABC’s Motion to Dismiss the First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 8) is GRANTED. Additionally, Plaintiff’s Motion for Extension of Time and to Correct Administrative Errors (ECF No. 10) is GRANTED; Plaintiff’s Motion for Clerk’s Entry of Default (ECF No. 12) is DENIED; and Plaintiff’s Motion for Default Judgment (ECF No. 14) is also DENIED. Accordingly, the First Amended Complaint is DISMISSED.

BACKGROUND

This Court accepts as true the facts alleged in the First Amended Complaint.[6] See Aziz v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011). Additionally, because the Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, this Court has accorded his pleadings liberal construction. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).

Plaintiff Ronald G. Bailey-El (“Plaintiff” or “Bailey-El”) “united with[7] the Housing Authority of Baltimore City [(“HABC”)] as a maintenance worker II in 2007.” First Am. Compl., p. 6, ECF No. 16. Bailey-El’s first two years with HABC were “swell.” Id. at 7. He indicates that “there was plenty of overtime” and describes himself as “nothing less than a hard worker trying to advance.” Id. However, “in 2009 or 2010, ” Bailey-El became involved in a “verbal altercation” with Defendant Odyssey Johnson’s (“Defendant” or “Johnson”)[8] administrative assistant, who proceeded to hit him with a mop, causing him to sprain his ankle. Id. at 7-8. Subsequently, Bailey-El “took to the grievance procedure[9] for recourse.” Id. at 7. Bailey-El’s “write-up” “inflamed, infuriated and incited to anger” Ms. Sharon Larue (“Larue”) and Defendants Johnson, Ms. Green (“Defendant” or “Green”), and Kimberly Graham (“Defendant” or “Graham”)[10], all of whom were friends with the administrative assistant. Id. at 8. Thereafter, Bailey-El contends, these Defendants “were out to . . . terminate [his] employment in retaliation for filing grievances.” Id. at 8-9.

Later “[i]n 2009 or 2010, ” “Larue informed [Bailey-El] that he had more than 2 points on his license (drivers) and if those points weren’t removed within 11 days then [he] would be terminated.” Id. at 9. Unable to comply with Larue’s request[11], Bailey-El was terminated. Id. at 10. He claims that he was the only HABC employee terminated for this reason and that “the entire maintenance community was shocked” and could not identify “where in [their] contracts or Housing Policy . . . it sa[id] one [could] be terminated for the reason the Defendants terminated [Bailey-El].” Id. Accordingly, Bailey-El filed a grievance against the aforementioned Defendants, with the assistance of Defendant Anthony Coates (“Defendant” or “Coates”), President of Local Chapter 647 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (“AFSCME”)[12]. Id. at 1, 10. While awaiting a grievance hearing before Graham, Bailey-El “defeated the Defendants in the arena of unemployment payments, as it was determined that [he] was terminated due to no fault of [his] own.” Id. at 11. Subsequently, he “prevailed at the hearing and was reinstated and awarded back pay.”[13] Id.

Although Bailey-El was reinstated, he “was assigned to do the jobs in maintenance that no other maintenance worker would do.” Id. at 12. He alleges that “[t]he assignments were given [to him] in 2012 in retaliation for filing grievances and being known to [his] coworkers for filing grievances.” Id. “On or about June 23, 2012, ” while completing one of those assignments, Bailey-El suffered a serious injury. Id. at 13-14. He was transporting trash from the Chase House Building in Baltimore City to the City’s dump when the back gates of the vehicle he was driving swung open and damaged several vehicles.[14] Id. Although the timeline of events is unclear, Bailey-El claims that he “immediately went and found [Johnson] and informed her of what had transpired.” Id. at 14. “Moreover, [he] was seriously injured in this accident . . . [and] was in excruciating pain and about to faint after the initial shock had worn off.” Id. An ambulance arrived, and Bailey-El was transported to Maryland General Hospital “where [he] was diagnosed with multiple injuries.” Id. at 14-15. Bailey-El was only given three days off work, but saw “[his] lawyer’s[15] doctor for follow-up purposes and was given an additional two [] weeks off.” Id. at 15.

Bailey-El claims that Defendants Johnson, Green, Graham, and HABC were furious with him for not going to “Concentra, ” a medical care system with whom HABC had entered into a multi-million dollar contract. Id. at 15-16. When Bailey-El returned to work on July 12, 2012, he “was sent to the Human Resources office, where it was explained to [him] that [he] should have gone to Concentra before going to the hospital.” Id. at 17. Bailey-El objects that going to Concentra first would have been “impossible and ridiculous” because he “was in dire need of immediate care.” Id. at 16-17. Sometime thereafter, Graham terminated Bailey-El “for a host of bogus reasons other than the accident incident and the Concentra matter.” Id. at 17. When Bailey-El filed a grievance, Defendants became further inflamed. Id. His grievance was denied at a hearing conducted by Graham, and his “termination was to be final.” Id. at 18.

Bailey-El, with the assistance of Defendants Coates and AFSCME Local 647, proceeded to appeal “the grievance procedure’s findings and sought the next tier in the grievance process, which was arbitration.” Id. However, the “grievance procedure and the union contract” failed to designate a “time as to when the arbitration hearing would be heard, i.e., the [D]efendants were to choose a date with Coates.”[16] Id. Therefore, realizing that his “three year statute of limitations to bring suit against the Defendants would expire on or about July 16, 2012[17], [Bailey-El] went to the Defendant Ms. Carla Walton’s [(“Defendant”) or (“Walton”)][18] office on July 1, 2015 and delivered [to] her a date-stamped-copy of [his] sister’s address, [his own] address, and a reliable friend’s address as to where [he] could receive mail.” Id. at 19. Bailey-El claims that he “placed Ms. Walton on notice to respond to this date-stamped letter or [he] would be forced to go to Court concerning the deliberate[] robbery and nonconduction of [his] arbitration hearing.”[19] Id. at 20. Coates informed Bailey-El that he had been denied an arbitration hearing “several months ago because the Defendants could not find [him].” Id.

Because Bailey-El “defeated the Defendants in the unemployment forum, where [Bailey-El] was found not at fault for his firing or termination, the Defendants knew [Bailey-El] would successively be victorious at [his] arbitration hearing.” Id. at 23. Therefore, Bailey-El contends, all of the named Defendants “conspired to deprive [him], in totality, of [his] arbitration hearing by claiming they couldn’t find [him].” Id. Even Coates betrayed “his union brother[] . . . to stay in good standing with the named Defendants.” Id. at 24.

Plaintiff has brought the present action because of the “harm and injuries” he has suffered “due to the Defendants[’] actions over such a long period of time and culminating on July 12, 2012.” Id. On July 10, 2012[20], “[b]efore the expiration of [his] three year statute of limitations, ” Bailey-El claims that he mailed the initial Complaint in this action to the Clerk of this Court. Id. at 21. Subsequently, he filed a First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 16), the operative complaint in this case. Bailey-El alleges that “Defendants deliberately and intentionally violated [his] 1st Amendment Constitutional Rights” and “retaliated against [him] for filing grievances by terminating [his] employment and denying [him] any and all arbitration proceedings and protections” (Count One). Id. at 25-26. Additionally, he alleges that “Defendants deliberately and intentionally violated [his] Constitutional Fifth Amendment due process rights” (Count Two). Id. at 26. Finally, he claims that “Defendants . . . violated any and all [of his] Constitutional rights . . . not mentioned here . . . [including] procedural and substantive due process rights” (Count Three). Id.

“[Bailey-El] seeks, from each [HABC employee] involved in this civil action, the sum of $25, 000 per each Defendant for a total of $125, 000.” Id. at 27. “[He] seeks this sum in these Defendants’ official as well as their individual capacities.” Id. “[Bailey-El] seeks an additional $100, 000 from the Defendant AFS[C]ME and Local 647” for Coates’ “conspiring with the Defendants” and “delivery of ineffective assistance of counsel.” Id. at 28. Finally, Bailey-El seeks an additional $100, 000 from HABC. Id. “In the alternative, [Bailey-El] demands that this case be remanded back to arbitration where [he] will receive three years back-pay in the amount of $84, 240.” Id. at 29. “Moreover, [he] demands that at same said hearing [he] be re-instated within [HABC]. Moreover, [he] demands that [HABC] pay [him] a matching $84, 240 due to the deliberate and intentional actions of its employees.” Id.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

I. Motion to Appoint Counsel Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1)

A federal district court judge’s power to appoint counsel under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1) is a discretionary one and may be considered where an indigent claimant presents exceptional circumstances. See Cook v. Bounds, 518 F.2d 779, 780 (4th Cir. 1975); see also Branch v. Cole, 686 F.2d 264, 266 (5th Cir. 1982). The question of whether such circumstances exist in a particular case hinges on the characteristics of the claim and the litigant. See Whisenant v. Yuam, 739 F.2d 160, 163 (4th Cir. 1984), abrogated on other grounds by Mallard v. U.S. District Court, 490 U.S. 296, 298 (1989). Where a colorable claim exists but the litigant has no capacity to present it, counsel should be appointed. Id.

II. Motions for Clerk’s Entry of Default and for Default Judgment Pursuant to Rules 55(a)-(b) of the ...


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