United States District Court, D. Maryland
ERNEST A. THOMAS, Plaintiff,
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Defendant.
Xinis United States District Judge
Ernest A. Thomas (“Thomas”), proceeding pro se,
brings suit against Defendant Washington Metropolitan Area
Transit Authority (“WMATA”) for claims of race
discrimination, national origin discrimination, age
discrimination, and retaliation. Now pending before the Court
is WMATA's motion to dismiss Count Four of Thomas'
Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1). ECF No. 5. The motion is fully briefed, and no
hearing is necessary. See D. Md. Loc. R. 105.6. Upon
consideration of the Complaint and all pleadings, the Court
GRANTS Defendant's motion to dismiss Count Four.
January 19, 2018, Thomas filed a complaint against WMATA
alleging race, national origin, and age discrimination, as
well as retaliation. ECF No. 1. Specifically, Thomas avers
that WMATA's decision not to promote him to Manager of
Operations Training was discriminatory and in retaliation for
past protected activity. ECF No. 1 ¶4. WMATA moves to
dismiss Count Four of Plaintiff's Complaint, brought
under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
(“ADEA”), contending that WMATA is immune from
ADEA claims under the Eleventh Amendment of the United States
Constitution. ECF. No. 5. For the reasons stated below, the
Court grants Defendant's motion.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court construes the
Complaint liberally to ensure that potentially meritorious
claims survive challenge. See Hughes v. Rowe, 449
U.S. 5, 9 (1980). That said, the Court cannot ignore a pro se
plaintiff's clear failure to allege facts setting forth a
cognizable claim. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990) (“The
‘special judicial solicitude' with which a district
court should view such pro se complaints does not transform
the court into an advocate. Only those questions which are
squarely presented to a court may properly be
addressed.” (quoting Beaudett v. City of
Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1277 (4th Cir. 1985))). When
reviewing pro se complaints, a court must not abdicate its
“legitimate advisory role” to become an
“advocate seeking out the strongest arguments and most
successful strategies for a party.” Beaudett,
775 F.2d at 1278.
motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is
governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 12(b)(1).
Generally, “questions of subject matter jurisdiction
must be decided ‘first, because they concern the
court's very power to hear the case.'”
Owens-Illinois, Inc. v. Meade, 186 F.3d 435, 442 n.4
(4th Cir.1999) (quoting 2 James Wm. Moore, et al.,
Moore's Federal Practice § 12.30 (3d ed.
1998)). The plaintiff bears the burden of proving that
subject matter jurisdiction properly exists in federal court.
See Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., a Div. of Standex
Int'l Corp., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999). When
a party desires to proceed in a federal court, it “must
allege and, when challenged, must demonstrate the federal
court's jurisdiction over the matter.” Home
Buyers Warranty Corp. v. Hanna, 750 F.3d 427, 432 (4th
Cir. 2014) (quoting Strawn v. AT & T Mobility
LLC, 530 F.3d 293, 296 (4th Cir.2008)). On a Rule
12(b)(1) motion, the court “may consider evidence
outside the pleadings” to determine whether it has
jurisdiction over the case before it. Richmond,
Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States,
945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991); see also Evans,
166 F.3d at 647. The court will grant such a motion
“only if the material jurisdictional facts are not in
dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a
matter of law.” Richmond, 945 F.2d at 768.
asserts that it is immune from ADEA suits. This Court agrees.
The Eleventh Amendment provides that a State is immune from
suit in federal court brought by its citizens or citizens of
another state. Jones v. WMATA, 205 F.3d 428, 431
(D.C. Cir. 2000) (citing Morris v. WMATA, 781 F.2d
218, 222 (D.C.Cir.1986)). “Although the immunity is
that of the state, some agencies exercising state power have
been permitted to invoke the Amendment in order to protect
the state treasury from liability that would have had
essentially the same practical consequences as a judgment
against the state itself.” Id. (quoting
Lake Country Estates v. Tahoe Regional Planning
Agency, 440 U.S. 391, 400).
is an agency conferred with Eleventh Amendment protection
from suit. WMATA is a creature of a tristate Compact
(Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.) enacted by
Congress. Jones, 205 F.3d at 432. “[I]n
signing the WMATA Compact, Virginia and Maryland each
conferred its immunity upon WMATA;” WMATA thus enjoys
immunity to the same extent as the states in the exercise of
its “governmental function.” Id. This
“governmental function” immunity has been held to
encompass WMATA's hiring, training, and supervision of
WMATA personnel. Id. (quoting Burkhart v.
Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth., 112 F.3d 1207,
1217 (D.C. Cir. 1997)). This principle would extend to
WMATA's decision not to promote Thomas to Manager of
simply because WMATA enjoys Eleventh Amendment immunity
concurrent with a state sovereign does not end the analysis.
In enacting federal statutory schemes to reach discriminatory
practices, Congress may abrogate Eleventh Amendment immunity,
Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer, 427 U.S. 445, 457 (1976)
(finding congressional abrogation of state sovereign immunity
under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), or a state
may consent to waiver of immunity in exchange for federal
funding consistent with the protections accorded to covered
individuals. Litman v. George Mason Univ., 186 F.3d
544, 555 (4th Cir. 1999) (finding receipt of funds under
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 permissibly
conditioned on a waiver of Eleventh Amendment immunity). But
with respect to the ADEA, no such abrogation or waiver is at
play. See Kimel v. Fla. Bd. of Regents, 528 U.S. 62,
91 (2000). Accordingly, WMATA enjoys Eleventh Amendment
protection from suit.
nonetheless contends that WMATA has waived its sovereign
immunity by engaging in “commercial activities which
are outside of its mandate and generate funds not associated
with the coffers of states.” ECF No. 6 at 2. Thomas
further notes that “any award of financial damages will
not have to be paid out of funds provided by tax payers of
the citizens of Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia
or the Federal Government.” ECF No. 6 at 3. Thomas'
arguments do not upset the analysis. Engaging in business
activities does not result in waiver of sovereign immunity.
See Coll. Sav. Bank v. Florida Prepaid Postsecondary
Educ. Expense Bd., 527 U.S. 666 (1991) (holding that a
state cannot impliedly waive its sovereign immunity by
engaging in interstate commerce). Nor does WMATA's
funding source for payment of damages implicate whether WMATA
is immune from suit, for the “practical result”
of damages against WMATA “would be payment from the
treasuries of Maryland and Virginia.” See
Jones, 205 F.3d at 432 (quoting Morris, 781
F.2d at 225). Count Four is accordingly dismissed.
reasons stated in this Memorandum Opinion, it is this 15th
day of October, 2018, by the United States District Court ...