Lawson v. U.S. Attorney General et al
Memorandum of Opinion and Order for the reasons set forth herein the Court dismisses the 1 Complaint. Judge Benita Y. Pearson on 5/31/2017. (E,CK)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY
GENERAL, et al.,
CASE NO. 4:17CV358
JUDGE BENITA Y. PEARSON
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND
Pro se Plaintiff Sheila Lawson filed a fee-paid Complaint in this action against the United
States Attorney General and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”). ECF
No. 1. She alleges discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et. seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment
Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621, et. seq., in connection with her efforts to obtain reinstatement
of employment with the FBI. For the following reasons, the Court dismisses the Complaint.
Plaintiff contends that she worked for the FBI as a Special Agent (“SA”) from
approximately October 15, 1995 through July 7, 2006, when she resigned from her position.
ECF No. 1 at PageID #: 4, ¶¶ 9, 10. Plaintiff alleges that, prior to her resignation, she
“participated in the [Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”)] discrimination complaint
process,” but later “withdrew” that complaint. Id. at PageID #: 4, ¶ 13. From 2007 through
2010, she requested that she be reinstated to her SA position, but was ultimately denied
reinstatement in 2010. Id. at PageID #: 4, ¶ 14. In 2010 and 2011, Plaintiff “participated in the
formal [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”)] complaint process,” arguing
that she was denied reinstatement with the FBI based on “discriminatory age-based policies,
discriminatory hiring practices and/or retaliation.” Id. at PageID #: 4–5, ¶ 15. Additionally,
Plaintiff alleges that, around the same time, she filed a “spinoff EEOC discrimination and/or
retaliation complaint” with an “EEOC Administrative Judge.” Id. at PageID #: 5, ¶ 16. This
complaint alleged that the former FBI Unit Chief “intentionally deterred [her] from participating
in EEO activity.” Id. In August of 2014, Plaintiff filed another EEO discrimination and
retaliation complaint, alleging that FBI SAs in the Cleveland Division and FBI Confidential
Human Sources officials deterred Plaintiff from participating in the 2010 EEOC complaint. Id.
at PageID #: 6–7, ¶ 28. Plaintiff also contends that the FBI and others committed various
criminal actions against Plaintiff because of her participation in EEO activities. Id. at PageID #:
7–16. Ultimately, the EEOC did not find discrimination in connection with her EEO complaints.
See id. at PageID #: 9, ¶ 41 (stating that Plaintiff received two notices from the EEOC in July
2015 informing her of her “right to file a lawsuit . . . in either or both matters that were being
reviewed by the EEOC[.]”)
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants discriminated against her in violation of Title VII and the
ADEA by denying her reinstatement with the FBI, and that Defendants unlawfully retaliated
against her based on “prior and pending protected EEO activity.” She seeks reinstatement to her
SA position, as well as damages.
II. Standard of Review
Although pro se pleadings are held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings
drafted by lawyers, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), “the lenient treatment generally
accorded to pro se litigants has limits.” Pilgrim v. Littlefield, 92 F.3d 413, 416 (6th Cir. 1996).
A district court “may, at any time, sua sponte dismiss a [pro se] complaint for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when the
allegations of [the] complaint are totally implausible, attenuated, unsubstantial, frivolous, devoid
of merit, or no longer open to discussion.” Apple v. Glenn, 183 F.3d 477, 479 (6th Cir. 1999).
The Court finds that all of Plaintiff’s claims warrant sua sponte dismissal pursuant to
Apple v. Glenn. Plaintiff has already filed two federal lawsuits against the Attorney General and
FBI Director, alleging discrimination and retaliation under Title VII and the ADEA, in
connection with her efforts to obtain reinstatement with the FBI.1 See Lawson v. Lynch, No.
4:15CV2140, 2017 WL 979115 (N.D. Ohio Mar. 14, 2017); Lawson v. Lynch, No. 15CV1723
(D.D.C.) (filed Oct. 19, 2015). On March 14, 2017, Judge Lioi dismissed Plaintiff’s
discrimination and retaliation claims against the Attorney General and FBI Director on the
merits, detailing two bases for dismissal. Lawson, 2017 WL 979115, at *8. First, Plaintiff’s
claims were time-barred because she did not file her lawsuit within the strict ninety-day statutory
Plaintiff has also filed other pro se lawsuits alleging discrimination and
retaliation against the City of Youngstown and others, which have been dismissed. See
Lawson v. City of Youngstown, et al., No. 4:16CV1057, 2016 WL 28962715 (N.D. Ohio
May 17, 2016); Lawson v. City of Youngstown, et al., Case No. 4:10CV2945.
of limitations period following receipt of her July 2015 right-to-sue letters. Id. at *4–5. Second,
Plaintiff failed to state plausible discrimination and retaliation claims, because she did not plead
facts plausibly connecting Defendants to any adverse employment against her after the FBI
denied her reinstatement. Id. at *6–7.
Under the doctrine of res judicata, a final judgment on the merits in an action bars
re-litigation between the parties or their privies on issues that were or could have been raised in
the prior action. W.J. O’Neil Co. v. Shepley, Bullfinch, Richardson & Abbott, Inc., 765 F.3d
625, 630 (6th Cir. 2014). In the case before Judge Lioi, Plaintiff raised, and lost, discrimination
and retaliation claims against Defendants under Title VII and the ADEA in connection with her
attempts for reinstatement with the FBI. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s claims in this action are barred,
frivolous, and no longer open to litigation because Plaintiff raised, or could have raised, these
claims in her prior lawsuit before Judge Lioi.
Furthermore, to the extent Plaintiff purports to base her retaliation claims in this case on
different or subsequent allegations than those she alleged in her prior case, her retaliation claims
are also implausible for the same reasons Judge Lioi found her prior retaliation claims
insufficient. Plaintiff’s Complaint does not set forth discernible facts plausibly connecting
Defendants to any adverse employment action against her after the FBI denied her reinstatement.
For the reasons set forth above, this action is dismissed pursuant to the Court’s authority
established in Apple v. Glenn.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
May 31, 2017
/s/ Benita Y. Pearson
Benita Y. Pearson
United States District Judge
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