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Carter v. Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

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

July 27, 2018

VONNE HARRISON CARTER, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF GAME AND INLAND FISHERIES, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          M. HANNAH LAUCK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs Ms. Vonne Harrison Carter, Dr. Joice Eaddy Conyers, Ms. Charlene Thomas Easter, and Ms. Carol King-Robinson's (collectively, "Plaintiffs") collective Motion For Leave to File Amended Complaint (the "Motion to Amend"). (ECF No. 25.) Defendant Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries ("VDGIF") opposes the Motion to Amend. (ECF No. 28.) Plaintiffs replied. (ECF No. 29.) The matter is ripe for disposition. The Court dispenses with oral argument because the materials before it adequately present the facts and legal contentions, and argument would not aid the decisional process. For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny the Motion to Amend.[1]

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         A. Procedural History

         Plaintiffs commenced this action by filing a 34-page, 172-paragraph Complaint (the "Original Complaint") against VDGIF, the Virginia Department of Human Resources Management ("VDHRM"), and VDGIF Executive Director Robert W. Duncan (collectively, the "Original Defendants"). (Original Compl., ECF No. 1.) The Original Complaint alleged four causes of action in the following manner:

Count I: Claim of Title VII Racial Discrimination[2] against VDGIF and VDHRM;
Count II: Claim of Title VII Hostile Work Environment[3] against VDGIF and VDHRM;
Count III: Claim of Title VII Retaliation[4] against VDGIF and VDHRM; and,
Count IV: Claim of § 1983 Racial Discrimination, Hostile Work Environment, and Retaliation against Duncan in his Individual Capacity pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983[5]

         In total, Plaintiffs asserted 28 claims in the Original Complaint.

         The Original Defendants filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss (the "Motion to Dismiss"), seeking to dismiss 26 of the 28 claims.[6] (ECF No. 6.) The Original Defendants did not seek dismissal of Dr. Conyers's Title VII claim for retaliation against VDGIF or Ms. King-Robinson's Title VII claim for racial discrimination against VDGIF. Plaintiffs opposed the motion, (ECF No. 10), and the Original Defendants replied, (ECF No. 12).

         In September 2017, the Court issued a 39-page Memorandum Opinion granting in part and denying in part the Motion to Dismiss (the "First Dismissal Decision").[7] (ECF No. 20.) The decision exhaustively examined—viewing the allegations in the proper lens and favorably to Plaintiffs—the factual basis of Plaintiffs' claims and the nature of the Original Defendants' retorts. The Court thoroughly explained its legal determination. The Court allowed six claims to proceed: one retaliation claim (Plaintiff Conyers); two race discrimination claims (Plaintiffs Conyers and King-Robinson); and, three hostile work environment claims (Plaintiffs Conyers, King-Robinson, and Carter). The Court also dismissed VDHRM and Duncan as defendants.

         Plaintiffs thereafter filed the three-page Motion to Amend.[8] (ECF No. 25.) Plaintiffs do not contest the dismissal of VDHRM or the § 1983 claims against Defendant Duncan. (Mot. Am. ¶ 4, ECF No. 25.) In support of their motion, Plaintiffs argue only that the Motion to Amend should be granted because of the complex set of facts before the Court. Resting solely on the precept that leave to amend should be granted freely, Plaintiffs proffer cursory argument echoing their earlier suggestion that their four narratives require detailed explication:

The fact pattern alleged in the Complaint is complex, and Plaintiffs believe that a retooling of the narrative for each of the four original Plaintiffs to this action would address the Court's concerns [in its First Dismissal Decision] and clarify and support the clear factual nexus between each Plaintiffs account of discrimination and the specific claims alleged against Defendant VDGIF.

(Mot. Am. ¶ 5.) Plaintiffs contend that no basis to deny leave to amend exists because they do not "allege any new claims, but merely [offer] a good faith effort to provide clarity and detail to Plaintiffs' already pled Title VII claims." (Mot. Am. ¶ 8.)

         VDGIF opposes the Motion to Amend except as to Count VIII, the hostile work environment claim raised by Plaintiff Easter. (ECF No. 28.) Of the five other individual claims Plaintiffs seek to revive, VDGIF contends that "the remainder of Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend should be denied because the new alleged facts do not address the deficiencies" the Court found in dismissing the claims in the Complaint. (Resp. Mot. Am. 2, ECF No. 28.)

         B. Allegations in the Proposed Amended Complaint

         Plaintiffs propose a 51-page, 312-paragraph Amended Complaint[9] that organizes claims by Plaintiff rather than by cause of action. (ECF No. 25-1.) While acknowledging the inability to file a claim against two defendants, Plaintiffs nonetheless seek—a second time—to raise three claims per named Plaintiff. Via the 51-page document, Plaintiffs raise a total of twelve claims against VGDIF. Each Plaintiff alleges one generic count of race discrimination, one count of hostile work environment, and one count of retaliation as follows:

Count I: Ms. Carter's Title VII Racial Discrimination Claim against VDGIF;
Count II: Ms. Carter's Title VII Hostile Work Environment Claim against VDGIF;
Count III: Ms. Carter's Title VII Retaliation Claim against VDGIF;
Count IV: Dr. Conyers's Title VII Racial Discrimination Claim against VDGIF;
Count V: Dr. Conyers's Title VII Hostile Work Environment Claim against VDGIF;
Count VI: Dr. Conyers's Title VII Retaliation Claim against VDGIF;
Count VII: Ms. Easter's Title VII Racial Discrimination Claim against VDGIF;
Count VIII: Ms. Easter's Title VII Hostile Work Environment Claim against VDGIF;
Count IX: Ms. Easter's Title VII Retaliation Claim against VDGIF;
Count X: Ms. King-Robinson's Title VII Racial Discrimination Claim against VDGIF;
Count XI: Ms. King-Robinson's Title VII Hostile Work Environment Claim ...

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