Protheroe v. Department of Defense et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER denying as moot 36 Motion to Dismiss. Granting 19 Motion to Dismiss and granting 27 Motion to Dismiss. Signed by District Judge Carlos Murguia on 3/28/17. Mailed to pro se party Crystalee Protheroe by regular mail. (hw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF KANSAS
Case No. 16-2325-CM
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, et al.,
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
Pro se plaintiff Crystalee Protheroe filed suit against defendants Department of Defense and
Secretary of the Air Force/Inspector General (“the federal defendants”), and the Kansas National
Guard, General Lee E. Tafaneli, General Jay Selander, and Colonel William Heiffner (“the Kansas
Guard defendants”) for declaratory, injunctive and monetary relief resulting from her alleged wrongful
non-selection for reenlistment in the Kansas Air National Guard.
Both the Kansas Guard and federal defendants filed motions to dismiss (Docs. 19 and 27). The
Kansas Guard moved for dismissal with prejudice. Plaintiff failed to timely respond to either motion
and was ordered by this court to show cause as to why she had not responded, and to file her response
to defendants’ motions. (Doc. 31). Instead of filing a response—even after the court granted a time
extension to do so—plaintiff filed her own motion to dismiss (Doc. 36) asking this court to dismiss the
case without prejudice. The federal defendants did not object to plaintiff’s motion (Doc. 37), however,
the Kansas Guard defendants filed a response requesting again that the court dismiss the complaint
with prejudice (Doc. 38). Because plaintiff failed to respond to defendants’ motions to dismiss, the
court may consider defendants’ motions as uncontested pursuant to D. Kan. Rule 7.4(b).
Plaintiff’s complaint consists of a pro se civil cover sheet and a letter addressed to the Air
Force Board of Military Corrections. In the civil cover sheet, plaintiff alleges her career was ruined
because she was discriminated and retaliated against. She claims the court has federal jurisdiction
under 10 U.S.C. § 1034, 28 U.S.C. § 1341, 5 U.S.C. § 3204, 5 U.S.C. § 1221, 32 U.S.C. §§ 362 and
328, and K.S.A. §§ 44-1133 and 1132.
Within the letter addressed to the Air Force Board of Military Corrections, plaintiff alleges
generally that, just prior to her enlistment renewal, she was notified by her commander that she was
being placed on a performance development plan. Because she felt she was denied adequate reasoning
for her poor performance, she began sending complaints to her commander citing specific areas,
guidelines, and directives he was failing to meet, many dealing with the Guard’s treatment of victims
of domestic violence. Plaintiff claims that as she began filing complaints, she was increasingly
subjected to punitive personnel actions, hostility, and discrimination.
She was eventually “non-
selected” for reenlistment.
Defendants moved to dismiss plaintiff’s complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(1) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Under Rule 12(b)(6), a court may dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted.” Rule 8(a)(2) states that a pleading must contain “a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” To withstand a motion to dismiss under
12(b)(6), a complaint must contain “enough allegations of fact, taken as true, ‘to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.’” Khalik v. United Air Lines, 671 F.3d 1188, 1190 (10th Cir. 2012)
(quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)). A claim is plausible when “the
pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for
the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009). When the complaint contains
well-pled factual allegations, a court should “assume their veracity and then determine whether they
plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Id.
Rule 12(b)(1) provides for dismissal when a court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over a case.
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and must have a statutory basis to exercise jurisdiction.
Montoya v. Chao, 296 F.3d 952, 955 (10th Cir. 2002). Thus, a federal court only has jurisdiction over
a civil action arising under the constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States or where there is
diversity of citizenship. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332. “Jurisdiction is a threshold question that a
federal court must address before reaching the merits of a statutory question, even if the merits
question is more easily resolved and the party prevailing on the merits would be the same as the party
that would prevail if jurisdiction were denied.” Montoya, 296 F.3d at 955.
Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed an unconventional complaint in the form of a letter addressed
to the Air Force Board of Military Corrections in which she outlined her grievances against defendants.
A court must liberally construe a pro se complaint and apply “less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). A court may not,
however, supply “additional factual allegations to round out a plaintiff’s complaint or construct a legal
theory on plaintiff’s behalf.” Whitney v. New Mexico, 113 F.3d 1170, 1173–74 (10th Cir. 1997).
As noted above, plaintiff asserts this court has jurisdiction over her claims based on a number
of federal statutes and two Kansas statutes. Her claims, however, are based mainly on her accusations
of retaliatory discharge for filing complaints regarding the Guard’s failures in dealing with victims of
Retaliatory discharge is actionable in Kansas if an employee is able to demonstrate that she
falls within one of the exceptions to the employment-at-will doctrine. See Goodman v. Wesley
Medical Center, L.L.C., 78 P.3d 817, 821 (Kan. 2003). The Kansas Supreme Court has recognized
termination for whistleblowing as one of these exceptions. See Palmer v. Brown, 752 P. 2d 685, 689
(Kan. 1988). To establish a retaliatory discharge claim for whistleblowing, a plaintiff must prove: (1)
a reasonably prudent person would have concluded the employee’s co-worker or employer was
engaged in activities in violation of rules, regulations, or the law pertaining to public health, safety, and
the general welfare; (2) the employer had knowledge of the employee’s reporting of such violation
prior to discharge of the employee; and (3) the employee was discharged in retaliation for making the
There are also remedies for retaliatory discharge under federal law. Plaintiff cites various
statutory provisions she claims provide a federal cause of action for retaliatory discharge. None of the
cited provisions, however, create a private cause of action.
Plaintiff cites, among others, the
Whistleblower Protection Act, 5 U.S.C. § 1221, and 10 U.S.C. § 1034, which protects members of the
armed forces from retaliatory action based on communications with a Member of Congress or the
Inspector General. While these provisions do protect against retaliatory discharge, both establish only
an administrative remedy rather than a private cause of action. And, notably, the Whistleblower
Protection Act does not apply to non-civilian military personnel.
Because plaintiff has failed to state a claim under any actionable federal statute, no federal
question jurisdiction exists. And to the extent that plaintiff may have stated a claim for retaliatory
discharge under Kansas law, she has failed to plead any facts to establish diversity jurisdiction. The
court, therefore, has no authority to hear plaintiff’s case. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3) (“If the court
determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.).
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that defendants’ Motions to Dismiss (Doc. 19) and (Doc.
27) are granted. Plaintiff’s complaint, however, is dismissed without prejudice.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff’s Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 36) is denied as moot.
This case is closed.
Dated March 28, 2017, at Kansas City, Kansas.
s/ Carlos Murguia
United States District Judge
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