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Chambers v. Reid

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 6, 2019

AZUREDEE CHAMBERS, Plaintiff,
v.
ANGEL REID, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          THEODORE D. CHUANG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Azuredee Chambers, who is self-represented, has filed this action against Angel Reid, a federal government employee, seeking an order restraining Reid from threatening her, contacting her, or harassing her. Pending before the Court is the Government's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction. Having reviewed the submitted materials, the Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion shall be granted in part and denied in part.

         BACKGROUND

         Chambers and Reid are employees of the United States Postal Service ("USPS") and work at the United States Post Office in Germantown, Maryland. At the time of the relevant events, Reid was Chambers supervisor. Although Chambers has since been reassigned and no longer reports to Reid, they continue to work in the same building.

         Chambers and Reid have a had a contentious relationship since at least December 2017, when Chambers alleges that Reid began threatening her with violence and termination. In April 2018, Chambers filed an equal employment opportunity ("EEO") complaint alleging that Reid discriminated against her based on race and gender and retaliated against her. Most recently, Chambers alleges that on January 7, 2019, while at work at the Post Office in Germantown, Reid walked past her and said, "I'm still going to fuck you up." Pet'n 5, ECF No. 1-1.

         After that encounter, on January 8, 2019, Chambers filed a Petition for Peace Order in the District Court of Maryland for Montgomery County ("the Montgomery County Court"). The Petition asks that Reid be ordered not to commit or threaten to commit any acts of physical violence against Chambers and not to contact, attempt to contact, or harass Chambers. On January 8, 2019, the Montgomery County Court entered an ex parte temporary peace order barring Reid from: (1) committing or threatening to commit certain acts of violence against Chambers; (2) contacting Chambers by any means; (3) entering Chambers residence; or (4) entering the vicinity of Chambers place of work, which is listed as "Puma Clarksburg Premium Outlets" in Boyds, Maryland. Temp. Peace Order 1, ECF NO.1-.. A final peace order hearing was set for January 15, 2019.

         On January 14, 2019, the United States of America ("the Government"), acting on Reid's behalf, removed the Petition to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1442(a). See, e.g., Hendy v. Bello, 555 Fed.Appx. 224, 225-26 (4th Cir. 2014) (upholding the removal of a petition for a peace order by a postal worker against her supervisor arising from a workplace fracas). The Government attended the final peace order hearing on January 15, 2019 and submitted its Notice of Removal to advise the Montgomery County Court that the matter had been removed to this Court. The Montgomery County Court accepted the Notice of Removal for filing and stated that it would stay the state court action, but it then issued a second temporary peace order extending the first peace order for another week and setting a final peace order hearing for January 23, 209.. On January 23, 2019, the second temporary order expired and the petition was dismissed because the case had been removed to this Court.

         DISCUSSION

         The Government, on behalf of the USPS and Reid, is seeking dismissal of Reid's Petition pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). The Government contends that this Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over the action because sovereign immunity has not been waived. The Government also seeks an order vacating the now-dismissed second temporary peace order because it was entered on January 15, 2019, after the matter had been removed to this Court.

         I. Legal Standard

         It is the plaintiffs burden to show that subject matter jurisdiction exists. Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., Div. of Standex Int'l Corp., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999). Rule 12(b)(1) allows a defendant to move for dismissal when it believes that the plaintiff has failed to make that showing. When a defendant asserts that the plaintiff has failed to allege facts sufficient to establish subject matter jurisdiction, the allegations in the complaint are assumed to be true under the same standard as in a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, and "the motion must be denied if the complaint alleges sufficient facts to invoke subject matter jurisdiction"" Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009). When a defendant asserts that facts outside of the complaint deprive the court of jurisdiction, the Court "may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment." Velasco v. Gov 't of Indonesia, 370 F.3d 392, 398 (4th Cir. 2004); Kerns, 585 F.3d at 192. The court should grant a Rule 12(b)(1) motion based on a factual challenge to subject matter jurisdiction "only if the material jurisdictional facts are not in dispute and the moving party is entitled to prevail as a matter of law." Evans, 166 F.3d at 647 (quoting Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991)).

         II. Sovereign Immunity

         The Government argues that the case must be dismissed on sovereign immunity grounds because in seeking an order that would require that Reid have no contact with her in response to Reid's conduct in a federal workplace, Chambers is attempting to use the state court system to regulate a federal workplace. "Absent a waiver, sovereign immunity shields the Federal Government and its agencies from suit." FDIC v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 475 (1994); accord Hendy, 555 Fed.Appx. at 226 (citing United States v. McLemore, 45 U.S. 286, 288 (1846)). Moreover, "officers acting within their authority generally ... receive sovereign immunity" because an action against a government official for using the authority of a government office is actually a "suit against the official's office." Id. (quoting Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989)). Here, Chambers has not established that this action should be treated as one against Reid as an individual as opposed to one against the United States. Indeed, Chambers has not provided any allegations regarding misconduct outside the workplace or outside the supervisor-employee relationship. The Court therefore construes this suit as against the United States.

         As a suit against the United States, Chambers's Petition must be dismissed unless she can show that there has been an express waiver of sovereign immunity. Chambers has failed to show that any such waiver exists. For example, the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. 99 1346, 2671-80 (2012), waives immunity for suits seeking monetary damages, but does not waive immunity for injunctive relief such as restraining orders. 28 U.S.C. 9 1346(b)(1); Hendy, 555 Fed.Appx. at 226. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 9 2000e-16 (2012), waives sovereign immunity for employment discrimination "suits brought by federal employees against the United States," but only for actions that are filed in federal court after having been ...


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