Marzett v. Charleston County School District et al
ORDER AND OPINION adopting 62 Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Mary Gordon Baker; granting 49 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Honorable Richard M Gergel on 2/14/2017.(ssam, )
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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURf, fEB \ 4
DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA IU
Patricia Mitchell Marzett,
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Case No 2: 14-cv-03932-RMG
ORDER AND OPINION
Charleston County School District and
James Winbush, Melvin Middleton
individually and in their official capacity
This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation ("R. & R.") of the
Magistrate Judge (Dkt. No. 62) recommending that the Court grant Defendants' motion for
summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 49.) This Court adopts the R. & R. as the order of the court and
grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment.
Patricia Mitchell Marzett ("Plaintiff') filed this pro se action in forma pauperis against
the Charleston County School District ("CCSD"), James Winbush, and Melvin Middleton in
October 2014. (Dkt. No. 1.) The Complaint contains allegations of race discrimination, gender
discrimination, and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42
U.S.C. § 1983; age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29
U.S.C. §§ 621-634 ("ADEA"); and disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with
Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-83 ("ADA").
In a previous order, this Court dismissed Defendant Middleton from the action, dismissed
all claims against Winbush in his individual capacity, and dismissed all claims that had accrued
during the 2010-2011 school year. (Dkt. No 31.) In June 2016, Defendants CCSD and Winbush
filed a motion for summary judgment on the remaining claims, including Plaintiff s claims of 1)
race, age, disability, and gender discrimination in connection with the non-renewal of her
teaching contract for the 2012-2013 school year (asserted against CCSD under Title VII and
against Winbush in his official capacity under § 1983), and 2) Plaintiff s claim of retaliation
against CCSD. (Dkt. No. 49.)
This Court adopts the facts as outlined at length in the R. & R. (Dkt. No. 62 at 3-12) so
summarizes only the relevant ones below in the Discussion.
a. Summary Judgment
Summary judgment is appropriate only "if the movant shows that there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter oflaw." Fed. R.
Civ. P. 56; see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-24 (1986). The movant has the
burden of establishing that there are no genuine issues of material fact, which may be
accomplished by demonstrating that the nonmoving party lacks evidence to support an essential
element of its case. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23. Conversely, the non-moving party must
demonstrate that there are disputes of material fact that preclude the award of summary judgment
as a matter oflaw. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586
b. Pro Se Pleadings
This Court liberally construes pro se pleadings, Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976),
holding them to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Hughes v. Rowe, 449
U.S. 5,9-10 (1980) (per curiam). The mandated liberal construction afforded pro se pleadings
means that if the Court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the
plaintiff could prevail, it should do so, but a court may not rewrite a complaint to include claims
that were never presented, Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128, 1133 (10th Cir. 1999), construct
the plaintiffs legal arguments for him, Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411, 417-18 (7th Cir. 1993),
or "conjure up questions never squarely presented" to the Court, Beaudett v. City of Hampton,
775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). Further, the requirement ofliberal construction does not
mean that the Court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a
claim currently cognizable in a federal district court. Weller v. Dep't ofSoc. Servs., 901 F.2d
387,391 (4th Cir. 1990).
Race, Age, Disability, and Gender Discrimination Claims
Plaintiff may prove discrimination under each relevant statute underlying the remaining
discrimination claims (Title VII and § 1983, the ADEA, and the ADA) through direct evidence
or indirectly through the burden-shifting framework set out by the United States Supreme Court
in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). See, e.g., Reeves v. Sanderson
Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 142 (2000) (ADEA); St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 509
U.S. 502,506 (1993) (42 U.S.C. § 1983); McDonnell Douglas Corp., 411 U.S. at 802-07 (Title
VII); Ennis v. Nat 'I Ass'n of Bus. & Educ. Radio, Inc., 53 F.3d 55,58 (4th Cir. 1995) (ADA).
As outlined in the R. & R., Plaintiff has not provided direct evidence of gender, race, age, or
disability discrimination, so she bears the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case of
discrimination. To establish a prima facie case of discrimination under all of the relevant statutes,
Plaintiff must submit evidence sufficient to create a genuine issue of fact about whether she was
satisfactorily performing her duties at the time she was dismissed. For all of the reasons listed in
the R. & R., Plaintiff has failed to do so. (Dkt. No. 62 at 19.) The record reflects that Plaintiffs
employer thoroughly documented her history of deficient job performance. Plaintiffs own
conc1usory statements about her job performance and the statements of a co-worker are not
particularly relevant to the Court's consideration here. King v. Rums/eld, 328 F.3d 145, 149 (4th
Cir. 2003) (citing Evans v. Techs. Applications & Servo Co., 80 F.3d 954,960-61 (4th Cir. 1996)
(citations omitted) ("It is the perception of the decision maker which is relevant, not the selfassessment of the plaintiff."»; Hawkins
PepsiCo, Inc., 203 F.3d 274,280 (4th Cir. 2000)
This Court reviews de novo any part of the R. & R. to which there has been proper
objection. Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(2). Plaintiff has objected to the Magistrate's recommendation
that this Court grant Defendant's motion for summary judgment because, she argues, there is a
genuine issue of material fact about whether her job performance was satisfactory and whether
her employer's reason for terminating her was pre-textual. (Dkt. No. 64 at 2.) Plaintiff has not
presented any new arguments or information that were not adequately addressed in the R. & R.I
The record unequivocally shows that Plaintiffs performance was not satisfactory to her
Plaintiff s employer documented her teaching deficiencies, followed the formal
evaluation process properly, and gave Plaintiff plenty of notice and opportunity to improve.
Plaintiff has objected to many facts in the R. & R. which, while technically relevant to the issue,
are simply not material to the question of whether her job performance was actually satisfactory
as gauged by her employer.
I In her objections to the R. & R, Plaintiff cites, for example, to her transfer to the Third Grade Academy
as evidence of her satisfactory job performance, but Principal Dixon's letter explaining this decision
shows that the transfer was made in an effort to help Plaintiff find her "niche' and to give her "the
opportunity to receive more explicit training, mentorship, and instructional feedback." (Dkt. No. 64-1 at
21.) Plaintiff s pleadings are rife with selective interpretations of communications from her employer that
were clearly intended to put Plaintiff on notice of her deficient performance and to encourage her to take
steps to improve.
For the reasons stated in the R. & R., Plaintiffs conclusory allegation that her employer
retaliated against her due to her complaints does not create a genuine issue of material fact about
whether there was a causal link between Plaintiffs complaint and the alleged retaliation. 2 Rather,
the facts in the record indicate that the decision-makers Plaintiff charges with retaliation were not
aware of her complaints when they decided not to hire her (or not to recommend her for the
position). The facts in the record indicate that Plaintiff was not given the new teaching position
for the entirely legitimate reason that those with knowledge of her deficient performance could
not recommend her for the position.
For these reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion for summary judgment.
AND IT IS SO ORDERED.
Richard Mar Gergel
United States istrict Court Judge
Charleston, South Carolina
2 Plaintiffs objections to the R. & R. contain conclusory allegations of a causal link between her
complaints and the alleged retaliation that also do not create a genuine issue of material fact on this
element of a retaliation claim.
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