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Webster v. Mattis

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

February 15, 2018

KIRK E. WEBSTER, Plaintiff,
JAMES MATTIS. Secretary of Defense, Defendant.


          Ivan D. Davis United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). (Dkt. No. 33.) After hearing oral argument on February 2, 2018, the undersigned Magistrate Judge took this matter under advisement. Upon consideration of the Complaint, Defendant's Motion, Plaintiffs Opposition to Defendant's Motion, and the exhibits attached thereto, the undersigned Magistrate Judge makes the following findings and recommends that Defendant's Motion be GRANTED and the Complaint be dismissed.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On October 24, 2016, Plaintiff filed his Complaint in the District of Columbia under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2OOOe el seq., against the Secretary of Defense.[1] (Dkt. Nos. 1, 29.) Plaintiff worked for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency ("NGA"), which is a component of the Department of Defense. (See Compl. at 2; Dkt. No. 29 at 1.) Plaintiff alleges that NGA has retaliated against Plaintiff since 2003. (Compl. ¶ 21.) During oral argument, Plaintiff explained that he engaged in a protected activity by sending a letter in 2001 to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the "Commission"). Plaintiffs 2001 letter described "illegal EEO [Equal Employment Opportunity] activity" between NGA officials and an administrative judge for the Commission. (Compl. ¶ 6.)

         In February 2012, NGA permanently revoked Plaintiffs security clearance, which Plaintiff alleges was a result of NGA's retaliatory actions. (See Compl. ¶¶ 45-46, 59-79.) Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant retaliated against Plaintiffs wife "for filing a joint EEO complaint in March of 2002 that exposed collusion and corruption between [NGA officials and the Commission]." (Compl. at 2.) However, in June 2012, Plaintiff entered into a settlement agreement with NGA (the "2012 Settlement Agreement") resolving "any and all claims of any nature" that Plaintiff may have had against NGA at the time Plaintiff signed the 2012 Settlement Agreement, including the aforementioned retaliation claims. (Dkt. No. 34-1 ¶ 2(B).)

         Plaintiff claims that he involuntarily executed the 2012 Settlement Agreement and that the 2012 Settlement Agreement is "legally invalid[.]" (Compl. ¶¶ 25, 33.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he was "under duress" at the time he agreed to the terms. (Compl. ¶¶ 90, 91.) Plaintiff explains his "duress" stemmed from "his declining health and immediate need for continued healthcare." (Compl. ¶ 90.) Plaintiff also "believes" that NGA deliberately failed to inform Plaintiff of "his statutory rights to a [discontinued service retirement, ]" (Compl. ¶¶ 64-73), and that NGA's failure to inform Plaintiff of this alternative retirement option "forced" Plaintiff to accept the terms of the 2012 Settlement Agreement. (See Compl. ¶¶ 40-43.) Additionally, Plaintiff claims that NGA breached the 2012 Settlement Agreement and requests that his "underlying complaint" be reinstated pursuant to 29 C.F.R. § 1614.504(a). (Compl. ¶¶ 101-13.)

         On December 6, 2017, this action was transferred to this Court pursuant to the District of Columbia's August 22, 2017 Order. (Dkt. Nos. 29, 30.) On December 20, 2017, Defendant filed his Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. (Dkt. No. 33.) On January 11, 2018, Plaintiff filed his Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. (Dkt. No. 41.) Also on January 11, 2018, the District Judge referred the matter to the undersigned Magistrate Judge. (Dkt. No. 42.) During oral argument held on February 2, 2018, the undersigned Magistrate Judge granted Defendant's Motion to Stay Discovery (Dkt. No. 48), staying discovery until Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is adjudicated. (Dkt. No. 56.)


         Under Rule 12(b)(1), a defendant may move to dismiss a complaint based on the Court's lack of subject-matter jurisdiction over the cause of action. Fed. R. Ci P. 12(b)(1). However, a plaintiff, not the movant, bears the burden of establishing jurisdiction. Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. United States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991). When a defendant argues that the complaint simply fails to allege sufficient facts to establish jurisdiction, "the plaintiff, in effect, is afforded the same procedural protection as he would receive under a Rule 12(b)(6) consideration." Adams Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982). In contrast, when the jurisdictional basis asserted in the complaint is challenged, the facts are not construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Id. Moreover, the trial court may consider facts outside of the complaint to determine if it has jurisdiction "without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment." Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiff asserts that "[j]urisdiction is found on 42 U.S.C. Section 2000, et seq., 20 U.S.C. Sections 1331 and 1343(3) and (4) . . . 28 U.S.C. Sections 2201 and 2202." (Compl. ¶ 1.) Defendant challenges Plaintiffs asserted bases for subject-matter jurisdiction rather than challenging the sufficiency of the facts alleged to support the bases. (See Dkt. No. 34 at 2). Thus, the Court may look beyond the Complaint. See Adams, 697 F.2d at 1219.

         The 2012 Settlement Agreement resolved "any and all claims of any nature . . . whether currently known or unknown" at the time Plaintiff signed it. (Dkt. No. 34-1 ¶ 2(B)) (emphasis added.) Therefore, Plaintiffs retaliation claims regarding his security clearance have been resolved. 29 C.F.R. § 1614.504(a) ("Any settlement agreement knowingly and voluntarily agreed to by the parties . . . shall be binding on both parties."); see e.g., Landino Carlson, l:10-cv-l385(LO/JFA), ECF No. 42 at 16-17 (E.D. Va. Feb. 7, 2012), aff'd sub nom. Landino Sapp, 520 Fed.Appx. 195 (4th Cir. 2013) (dismissing claims that were subject to "a binding agency agreement").

         Moreover, Plaintiff does not have standing to bring a retaliation claim on behalf of his wife because Plaintiff alleges NGA retaliated against Plaintiff's wife. Thus, the retaliation claim is for Plaintiffs wife to pursue, not Plaintiff. See Thompson N.Am. Stainless, LP, 562 U.S. 170, 177-78 (2011) (defining "persons aggrieved" by retaliation to include an employee who suffers an adverse action by reason of her spouse engaging in a protected activity). Accordingly, Plaintiffs current claims relate only to the validity and enforcement of the 2012 Settlement Agreement.[2]

         Plaintiff followed the proper procedure to enforce the 2012 Settlement Agreement. Paragraph 5 of the 2012 ...

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