BRAUN v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER granting 17 Motion to Dismiss or Transfer Case. Plaintiff's claims against EEOC are dismissed with prejudice. The case, including all remaining claims against DOI and the Secretary of the Interior, shall be trans ferred to the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke shall be substituted for Defendant Sally Jewell pursuant to FRCP 25(d). See Opinion and Order for details. The Clerk's Office shall send a copy of the Opinion and Order to Plaintiff at his address of record by first-class mail. Signed by Judge Timothy J. Kelly on 2/13/2018. (lctjk2)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
JASON BRIAN BRAUN,
Civil Action No. 16-2457 (TJK)
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Jason Brian Braun, proceeding pro se, is a former employee of the Department
of the Interior (“DOI”) who was based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After his employment
ended in 2010, Braun brought administrative claims that he had been subject to employmentrelated misconduct, including discrimination based on disability. Those claims were heard by an
administrative judge, who granted summary judgment for the agency. DOI adopted the
administrative judge’s decision. Braun subsequently appealed to the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”), which affirmed the dismissal. Braun has brought suit
against DOI, the Secretary of the Interior,1 and the EEOC, alleging misconduct in his
employment and the post-employment administrative proceedings.
Defendants have moved to dismiss Braun’s claims against the EEOC for failure to state a
claim. They also ask the Court either to dismiss the claims against DOI and the Secretary of the
Interior for improper venue, or to transfer them to the District of New Mexico. See ECF No. 17.
It appears that Braun has sued former Secretary Sally Jewell in her official capacity.
Defendants have requested that the current Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, be substituted
for former Secretary Jewell pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25(d). The Court agrees
that this request is proper and will grant it.
For reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted. Braun’s claims against the EEOC will
be dismissed with prejudice. In addition, the Court agrees that this District is not a proper venue
for Braun’s remaining claims against DOI and the Secretary of the Interior. Therefore, the case
will be transferred to the District of New Mexico.
Braun’s Complaint appears to assert claims against DOI and the Secretary of the Interior
under various federal statutes and regulations, including: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964 (“Title VII”); the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Rehabilitation Act”), and specifically 29
U.S.C. § 791; the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (“CSRA”), specifically 5 U.S.C. §§ 2301(b)
and 2302; 5 U.S.C. § 2108; 5 U.S.C. § 3330;2 5 U.S.C. § 7203; the Americans with Disabilities
Act of 1990; criminal statutes dealing with false statements (18 U.S.C. § 1001), perjury (18
U.S.C. § 1621), and improper disclosure of confidential information (18 U.S.C. § 1905); two
executive orders, Executive Order 12,674 and Executive Order 13,518; and 5 C.F.R.
§ 2635.100(11) and (13). See ECF No. 1 (“Compl.”) at 3.
Braun also asserts claims against the EEOC for violations of its procedures (namely,
EEOC Management Directive 110, the EEOC Judges’ Handbook, and 29 C.F.R. § 1614.109(a)
and (g)); violations of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 7(b)(1)(A)-(C); and for criminally
obstructing an agency proceeding, 18 U.S.C. § 1505. See Compl. at 3.
Braun alleges that he is a veteran with disabilities arising from his military service. See
id. at 4-5. In December 2009, DOI posted a job announcement for an Audiovisual Specialist in
Albuquerque. Id. at 4. Braun claims that the job posting was fraudulent because it inaccurately
It is possible that Braun intended to invoke 5 U.S.C. § 3330a, a section of the Veterans
Employment Opportunities Act of 1998.
described the position. Id. According to Braun, once he arrived at his new job, he was
improperly trained in his unexpected new duties and “set up” to fail. Id. at 5. He further
alleges that DOI made no effort to accommodate his disabilities and that he was subjected to
harassment and a hostile work environment, which included being berated in front of other
employees. See id. at 4-6. He alleges he was terminated on November 23, 2010. Id. at 6.
After his employment ended, Braun sought administrative relief for this alleged
misconduct.3 Braun’s claims were heard by an administrative judge, who granted summary
judgment in favor of DOI on April 14, 2014. See Transfer Mot. at 77. On May 5, 2014, DOI
adopted the administrative judge’s decision and determined that no discrimination had occurred.
See id. at 70. Braun subsequently appealed to the EEOC, which affirmed the DOI’s order on
July 13, 2016. See id. at 21-25. The EEOC denied reconsideration on September 20, 2016. See
id. at 9-11.
Braun was dissatisfied with the EEOC’s handling of the case, and wrote several letters
expressing his dissatisfaction to representatives in Congress. See id. at 27-55. In particular,
Braun complained that the administrative judge had failed to rule on his motions, tampered with
evidence, and obstructed justice. See, e.g., id. at 48. At one point, Braun reported his concerns
to Federal Bureau of Investigation, which, according to Braun, failed to take them seriously. See
id. at 51-52. Braun makes similar allegations in the Complaint, including that the administrative
judge and the EEOC ignored his arguments, improperly limited his discovery requests,
obstructed and slow-walked his case, and “gave the unwavering impression to the Plaintiff that
While the Complaint does not describe these administrative proceedings in detail, Braun has
filed documents related to these proceedings in connection with another motion. See ECF No. 2
(“Transfer Mot.”). All citations to that motion and its attachments will use the page numbers
generated by ECF.
they were protecting the US Department of the Interior by its [sic] lack of action, lack of ethics
and attitude.” Compl. at 7-8.
Defendants have moved to dismiss the claims against the EEOC for failure to state a
claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See ECF No. 17. Defendants also
argue that venue is improper with respect to the remaining claims against DOI and the Secretary
of the Interior, and that these claims should either be dismissed or transferred to the District of
New Mexico pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3) and 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). See
ECF No. 17. Defendants have submitted a declaration from a DOI employee stating that Braun
was employed in New Mexico and that his Official Personnel Folder was “located” in Herndon,
Virginia, until 2011, when it was sent to the National Archives in Valmeyer, Illinois. See ECF
No. 17-1 (“Carruthers Decl.”).
The Court also ordered the parties to make a supplemental submission on whether venue
would be proper in the Eastern District of Virginia. In their submission, Defendants argue that
venue cannot lie in the Eastern District of Virginia. They further assert that at least two
important witnesses are located in the District of New Mexico, and urge the Court to transfer the
action there. See ECF No. 37 at 1-2. Braun has filed two responses to the Court’s order. In the
first, Braun states that his preference is to continue litigating the case in this Court, but that the
Eastern District of Virginia would also be a convenient venue for him. See ECF No. 38 at 4-6.
In the second, Braun provides additional reasons why the Eastern District of Virginia would be a
proper forum. ECF No. 42. Specifically, Braun argues that records relating to his employment
were located in Virginia when he brought his administrative claims, which, he asserts, means
that venue is proper there under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3). See ECF No. 42 at 3-4.
A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) “tests whether a plaintiff has properly stated a
claim.” BEG Invs., LLC v. Alberti, 85 F. Supp. 3d 13, 24 (D.D.C. 2015). “A court considering
such a motion presumes that the complaint’s factual allegations are true and construes them
liberally in the plaintiff’s favor.” Id. Nonetheless, the complaint must set forth enough facts to
“state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009)). “[A]lthough a pro se complaint ‘must be construed liberally, the complaint must
still present a claim on which the Court can grant relief.’” Untalasco v. Lockheed Martin Corp.,
249 F. Supp. 3d 318, 322 (D.D.C. 2017) (quoting Budik v. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Med. Ctr., 937
F. Supp. 2d 5, 11 (D.D.C. 2013)).
If venue is improper, the court must either dismiss the action or, “if it be in the interest of
justice, transfer such case to any district . . . in which it could have been brought.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 1406(a). While “‘the defendant must present facts that will defeat the plaintiff’s assertion of
venue’” to prevail on a Rule 12(b)(3) motion, “the burden remains on the plaintiff to establish
that venue is proper.” Slaby v. Holder, 901 F. Supp. 2d 129, 132 (D.D.C. 2012) (quoting Wilson
v. Obama, 770 F. Supp. 2d 188, 190 (D.D.C. 2011)). Even though pro se plaintiffs’ pleadings
must be liberally construed, the Court “cannot relieve [them] of this burden merely because they
are acting without the benefit of counsel.” King v. Caliber Home Loans, Inc., 210 F. Supp. 3d
130, 134 (D.D.C. 2016). “In reviewing such a motion, the Court ‘accepts the plaintiff’s wellpled factual allegations regarding venue as true, draws all reasonable inferences from those
allegations in the plaintiff’s favor and resolves any factual conflicts in the plaintiff’s favor.’”
Slaby, 901 F. Supp. 2d at 132 (quoting Wilson, 770 F. Supp. 2d at 190). “The Court, however,
need not accept the plaintiff’s legal conclusions as true, and may consider material outside the
pleadings, including undisputed facts evidenced in the record, to determine whether it has
jurisdiction in the case.” Id. (quoting Ebron v. Dep’t of Army, 766 F. Supp. 2d 54, 57 (D.D.C.
The Court will first analyze Defendants’ motion to dismiss the claims against the EEOC
under Rule 12(b)(6), and then turn to their motion to dismiss or transfer the remaining claims
against DOI and the Secretary of the Interior under Rule 12(b)(3) and 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a).
Claims Against the EEOC
As Defendants correctly argue, “Congress has not authorized, either expressly or
impliedly, a cause of action against the EEOC for the EEOC’s alleged negligence or other
malfeasance in processing an employment discrimination charge.” Smith v. Casellas, 119 F.3d
33, 34 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (per curiam). This “analysis is equally applicable to allegations of
improper handling of a complaint by the EEO office of a federal agency, which provides a
function analogous to the EEOC.” Koch v. White, 967 F. Supp. 2d 326, 336 (D.D.C. 2013).
Rather, if a federal employee believes that his administrative employment-discrimination claim
was mishandled, his remedy is to file an employment-discrimination suit against the relevant
agency in federal district court. See id. All of Braun’s claims against the EEOC are based on
allegations of misconduct by the administrative judge and the EEOC in handling Braun’s
discrimination claims. See Compl. at 7-8. Braun therefore does not assert a valid cause of action
against the EEOC, and so those claims must be dismissed.
Claims Against DOI and the Secretary of the Interior
Defendants assert that the only claims properly pleaded by Braun arise under the
Rehabilitation Act.4 They argue that those claims are subject to the venue provisions of 42
U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3), pursuant to which venue is not proper in this District. The Court agrees
that venue is not proper here, and will grant Defendants’ request to transfer the case—including
Braun’s remaining Rehabilitation Act claims against DOI and the Secretary of the Interior, as
well as any non–Rehabilitation Act claims against those Defendants—to the District of New
Braun’s Rehabilitation Act Claims
Rehabilitation Act claims are governed by Title VII’s venue provision, 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e-5(f)(3). See, e.g., Slaby, 901 F. Supp. 2d at 132. Under that provision, Title VII and
Rehabilitation Act claims:
may be brought [i] in any judicial district in the State in which the
unlawful employment practice is alleged to have been committed,
[ii] in the judicial district in which the employment records
relevant to such practice are maintained and administered, or [iii]
in the judicial district in which the aggrieved person would have
worked but for the alleged unlawful employment practice, but if
the respondent is not found within any such district, such an action
may be brought [iv] within the judicial district in which the
respondent has his principal office.
42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3). Venue is proper under the fourth, residual prong of the statute
“[o]nly if the defendant is not found within any of [the first three] districts.” Herbert v. Sebelius,
925 F. Supp. 2d 13, 18 (D.D.C. 2013).
Defendants suggest in a footnote that Braun’s non–Rehabilitation Act claims should be
dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. See ECF No. 17 at 3 n.2. However,
Defendants have not moved to dismiss on that ground.
Braun argues that venue can and should lie in this District because his EEOC appeal was
processed here, and because it would be a burden on him to litigate the case in New Mexico
when he resides in Virginia. See ECF No. 23 at 4-5. Under the statute, the only possible
relevance of these arguments is that certain records related to Braun’s employment may have
found their way to the District of Columbia in the course of the EEOC proceedings. However,
“[c]ourts in this district have ‘rejected the argument that the location where plaintiff’s EEO
complaints were initiated and processed provides a basis for venue under prong [two] of
§ 2000e-5(f)(3).’” Herbert, 925 F. Supp. 2d at 21 (second alteration in original) (quoting EllisSmith v. Sec’y of Army, 793 F. Supp. 2d 173, 176 (D.D.C. 2011)).
Braun also suggests that venue is proper in this District under prong four of the statute
because DOI’s principal office is located here. See ECF No. 23 at 5. But that prong does not
apply to this case. Under the plain language of § 2000e-5(f)(3), venue under the first and third
prongs is proper in the District of New Mexico, the place where Braun was employed during the
alleged misconduct. And because DOI can be found in New Mexico, it is plain that the fourth,
residual prong of the statute does not apply. Therefore, Braun’s arguments are unavailing, and
the Court agrees with Defendants that venue does not lie in this District.
Given that venue is improper here, the Court must consider whether and where to transfer
the case. “Generally, the ‘interest of justice’ instructs courts to transfer cases to the appropriate
judicial district, rather than dismiss them.” James v. Booz-Allen & Hamilton, Inc., 227 F. Supp.
2d 16, 20 (D.D.C. 2002). Given that Defendants have presented no argument for why dismissal
would be preferable, see ECF No. 17 at 6, the Court concludes that transfer to a proper venue is
the more appropriate path forward.
As discussed above, it is clear that venue is proper in the District of New Mexico under
prongs one and three of the statute. Less clear is venue under prong two, which is proper in the
“judicial district in which the employment records relevant to such practice are maintained and
administered.” Prong two could potentially support venue in one of two additional jurisdictions.
The first possibility is the Southern District of Illinois, where the relevant employment
records are now archived. See Carruthers Decl. But courts in this District have disagreed on
whether venue would be proper there. One court has held that, when a plaintiff’s records were
moved to storage after her employment, they were not “maintained and administered” at the
storage location for purposes of the statute. See Saran v. Harvey, No. 04-cv-1847 (JDB), 2005
WL 1106347, at *4 (D.D.C. May 9, 2005). Other courts, however, have disagreed, reasoning
that the statute speaks in the present tense and holding on that basis that the place where the
records were archived provided a venue under prong two. See, e.g., Jyachosky v. Winter, No. 04cv-01733 (HHK), 2006 WL 1805607, at *3 n.2 (D.D.C. June 29, 2006). Ultimately, however,
the Court does not need to decide that issue, because neither party has expressed an interest in
litigating this case in the Southern District of Illinois.
The other potential venue under prong two is the Eastern District of Virginia, where the
records were previously located during Braun’s employment. See Carruthers Decl. But in light
of the facts as they stood when Braun filed suit, it is doubtful whether venue lies there. The
statute authorizes venue where the relevant records “are maintained and administered,” but
Braun’s records are not presently there, and have not been at any time during this lawsuit. Saran
could be read as implicitly blessing venue there, since the court in that case declined to recognize
venue in the district to which the records had been sent for archival purposes. However, the
court did not reach the issue because the records in that case had been located in Germany
(outside any judicial district) during the plaintiff’s employment. See 2005 WL 1106347, at *4.
In the end, neither party has brought to the Court’s attention a case that squarely supports venue
in the Eastern District of Virginia on the facts here.
Therefore, in light of all of the above, the Court will transfer the case to the District of
New Mexico. Although transfer there may be somewhat inconvenient for Braun, it is the only
district in which venue clearly lies. Moreover, it is the only venue with a meaningful nexus to
the facts of the case. The events related to Braun’s employment allegedly took place there, and
Defendants have proffered that at least two important witnesses are located there. Therefore, the
Court finds that it is in the interest of justice to transfer the case to the District of New Mexico.
Braun’s Non–Rehabilitation Act Claims
Braun invokes a large number of other statutes and authorities to support his claims
against DOI and the Secretary of the Interior. For many of these authorities, in particular the
criminal statutes that Braun cites, it is doubtful that he has a valid cause of action. See, e.g., Lee
v. USAID, 859 F.3d 74, 78 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (per curiam) (holding there is no private cause of
action under 18 U.S.C. § 1001). For others, such as the CSRA, it appears that this Court may
lack subject matter jurisdiction. See, e.g., Elgin v. Dep’t of Treasury, 567 U.S. 1, 23 (2012)
(holding district courts generally lack jurisdiction under the CSRA). And Defendants suggest
that all of these claims should be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. See
ECF No. 17 at 3 n.2. However, because Defendants have moved to dismiss these claims only for
improper venue, the Court will not address those other possible grounds to dismiss. See, e.g.,
Shay v. Sight & Sound Sys., Inc., 668 F. Supp. 2d 80, 82 (D.D.C. 2009) (holding that district
courts may address motion to transfer for improper venue before jurisdictional issues).
“[T]he authority in this Circuit indicates that when a plaintiff brings a Title VII action,
which is covered by Title VII’s restrictive venue provision, as well as an action governed by the
general venue provision, the narrower venue provision of § 2000e-5(f)(3) controls.” Munoz v.
England, No. 05-cv-2472 (CKK), 2006 WL 3361509, at *7 (D.D.C. Nov. 20, 2006); see also
Johnson v. Deloitte Servs., LLP, 939 F. Supp. 2d 1, 6 (D.D.C. 2013) (“[E]ven when only some of
the claims in the complaint arise under Title VII, courts regularly transfer the entire case if they
find venue for the Title VII claims to be improper.”). In other words, a plaintiff cannot make an
end-run around the Title VII venue statute by piling additional causes of action on top of his
Title VII claims. The same result obtains for Rehabilitation Act claims governed by Title VII’s
venue provision. See Gardner v. Mabus, 49 F. Supp. 3d 44, 47-48 (D.D.C. 2014) (transferring
entire case when venue was improper for Title VII and Rehabilitation Act claims). Therefore,
the entire case—including any other claims Braun has asserted against DOI and the Secretary of
the Interior—will be transferred to the District of New Mexico.
Conclusion and Order
For the reasons set forth above, it is hereby ORDERED that Defendants’ Motion to
Dismiss or Transfer is GRANTED. Braun’s claims against the EEOC are DISMISSED WITH
PREJUDICE, and the case (including all of Braun’s remaining claims against DOI and the
Secretary of the Interior) shall be TRANSFERRED to the U.S. District Court for the District of
New Mexico. It is FURTHER ORDERED that Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke shall be
substituted for Defendant Sally Jewell pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25(d).
/s/ Timothy J. Kelly
TIMOTHY J. KELLY
United States District Judge
Date: February 13, 2018
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