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Johnson v. Edwards

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division

May 8, 2018

Miyuki Maureen Johnson, Plaintiff,
Col. Eric Edwards; Col. Clem Donald McDuffie; GS-13 Carla Laird; and GS-15 Andrea V. Gardener, in their individual and personal capacities, Defendants.


          Shiva V. Hodges, United States Magistrate Judge

         Miyuki Maureen Johnson (“Plaintiff”) is a former federal employee of the Moncrief Army Community Hospital (“Moncrief”) at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. She brings this pro se action against her superiors, Colonel Eric Edwards, Colonel Clem Donald McDuffie, Carla Laird, and Andrea V. Gardener (“Defendants”), alleging they violated her Fifth Amendment rights to due process. The United States appears on Defendants' behalf, denying wrongdoing, and arguing that this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's personnel claims because the Civil Service Reform Act, 5 U.S.C. § 1201 et seq. (“CSRA”), provides the exclusive remedy for federal employees in such a case.

         This matter comes before the court on Defendants' motion to dismiss filed on September 14, 2017, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). [ECF No. 51]. The court issued an order pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), notifying Plaintiff of the dismissal procedure and possible consequences if she failed to adequately respond to the motion to dismiss. [ECF No. 52]. Plaintiff filed a response to the motion on September 19, 2017 [ECF No. 60]. The motion to dismiss having been fully briefed, it is ripe for disposition.

         All pretrial proceedings in this case were referred to the undersigned pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e) (D.S.C.). Because the motion to dismiss is dispositive, this report and recommendation is entered for the district judge's consideration. For the reasons that follow, the undersigned recommends the district court grant Defendants' motion and dismiss Plaintiffs complaint.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         In her amended complaint, Plaintiff states that she was a GS-5 Medical Support/Phlebotomy technician at Fort Jackson. [ECF No. 15 at 3]. She alleges that she “sustained debilitating traumatic injuries, at work, from a slip and fall on a wet floor while reporting to work” on May 17, 2012. Id. at 2. She claims that defendants Gardener, Laird, and McDuffie:

acting in collusion, did deny Plaintiff timely and adequate medical treatment, failed to pay her properly, allowed fraudulent documentation pertaining to her injuries to be filed in her case, allowed her medical benefits to be terminated due to personal incompetents or their subordinates' and refused to make corrections to her records when requested to do so in accordance with 5 U.S.C. § 552 (Freedom of Information Act).

Id. Plaintiff states that she medically retired on December 21, 2015. She requests $20, 000, 000 in damages against each defendant for pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional and mental distress, and punitive damages.

         Plaintiff attaches to her Amended Complaint documents that appear to be related to her settlement discussions with Moncrief before the Merit Systems Protection Board (“MSPB”). [ECF No. 15-1]. In her Amended Complaint, Plaintiff states that Colonel Edwards offered her a $4, 000 settlement “contrary to the procedural due process of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, ” depriving her of an evidentiary hearing. [ECF No. 15 at 4]. In one of her exhibits, Plaintiff provides a copy of her apparent objection to the proposed settlement offer and her demand for an evidentiary hearing “[t]o support her claim in the amount of GS-5 Step 4 $34, 445.00 of February 14, 2013.” Liberally construed, that document reflects that she did not receive a step-5 within grade increase to $36, 205.00 because of a negative evaluation she received that she claims was a result of her on-the-job injury. [ECF No. 15-1 at 6-7].

         In their motion, Defendants note Plaintiff withdrew her MSPB action on August 15, 2016 [ECF No. 51-4 at 2], with the administrative judge dismissing her appeal on August 17, 2016, due to Plaintiff's “clear, unequivocal, and decisive relinquishment of her right to appeal the agency's action.” [ECF No. 51-5 at 2]. The dismissal notified Plaintiff that she had 30 days to request review by the full MSPB or 60 days to appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Id. at 3-6. Defendants state Plaintiff did not seek timely review by the MSPB, nor did she file an appeal with the Federal Circuit. [ECF No. 51-1 at 3].

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         Dismissal is appropriate under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) where the court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction and under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) examines whether a complaint fails to state facts upon which jurisdiction can be founded. It is the plaintiff's burden to prove jurisdiction, and the court is to “regard the pleadings' allegations as mere evidence on the issue, and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment.” Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) examines the legal sufficiency of the facts alleged on the face of the plaintiff's complaint. Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243-44 (4th Cir. 1999). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The court is “not required to accept as true the legal conclusions set forth in a plaintiff's complaint.” Edwards, 178 F.3d at 244. Indeed, “[t]he presence of a few conclusory legal terms does not insulate a complaint from dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) when the facts alleged in the complaint cannot support the legal conclusion.” Young v. City of Mount Ranier, 238 F.3d 567, 577 (4th Cir. 2001).

         Pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). A federal court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). When a federal court is evaluating a pro se complaint, the plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be true. Fine v. City of N.Y., 529 F.2d 70, 74 (2d Cir. 1975). The mandated liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the plaintiff could prevail, it should do so. Nevertheless, the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court ...

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