Bennett v. U.S. Chess Federation

Decision Date07 July 2006
Docket NumberNo. 05-2225 (RJL).,05-2225 (RJL).
Citation468 F.Supp.2d 79
PartiesVaughn L. BENNETT, Plaintiff, v. UNITED STATES of America CHESS FEDERATION, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia

Vaughn L. Bennett, Washington, DC, pro se.

Tina M. Maiolo, Carr Maloney PC, David P. Durbin, Jordan Coyne & Savits, LLP, Washington, DC, Jeffrey Thomas Brown, Sr., Decaro, Doran, Siciliano, Gallagher & Deblasis, L.L.P., Lanham, MD, Elizabeth M. Borinsky, Office of the Attorney General, Baltimore, MD, for Defendants.

Timothy Just, Gurnee, IL, pro se.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

LEON, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Vaughn Bennett ("plaintiff'), brought this action pro se against five nonprofit organizations involved in sponsoring chess tournaments for students, sixteen individuals associated with the organizations, individually and in their official capacities, two private entities, and a state university, including the university's president and one of its professors ("defendants"). Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages for alleged violations of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981; 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the First, Fourth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as retaliatory acts stemming from a conspiracy among the defendants to keep African American and Vietnamese children from participating in various chess competitions. Currently before the Court are a myriad of motions filed by defendants seeking to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment on a wide array of grounds including lack of standing, lack of jurisdiction, failure to render service of process, sovereign immunity restriction by statute of limitations, an Illinois State statute regarding suits against non-profit organizations, and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS defendants' motions and, hereby, dismisses this case with prejudice as to each and every moving defendant.

BACKGROUND

Since 2000, plaintiff has been a member of the United States of America Chess Federation ("USCF") and subsequently became a USCF certified tournament director. (See Compl. ¶ 32.) Plaintiff also later became an executive director of Olympic Chess House, a District of Columbia nonprofit chess organization, (Id.) Plaintiffs action arises from allegations of racial discrimination within the USCF, including inequitable treatment of Black African-American adult and child chess players. (Id. ¶ 33.) Specifically, plaintiff alleges that sometime in 2001, he discovered an ongoing racially motivated scheme designed by several of the defendants to deny Black African-American and Vietnamese children the opportunity to win chess scholarships by representing the District of Columbia at a national high school chess tournament. (Id. ¶ 33a.)

Plaintiff also alleges that members of the chess organization defamed him (id. ¶¶ 33, 39, 40, 43, 48, 63-71); plotted to have him incarcerated (id. ¶¶ 45-47); interfered with his attempts to teach chess at a District of Columbia high school (id. ¶ 49); denied him an opportunity to officiate at chess tournaments (id. ¶ 50); manipulated chess competition rating systems and organization rules to discriminate against African-American competitors (id. ¶ 51); falsified ratings in order to deny the Howard University Chess Team its place in a 2003 competition (id. ¶¶ 54-55); and disrupted a 2004 chess competition in Hershey, Pennsylvania and subsequently suspended plaintiffs membership in one of the chess organizations (id. ¶¶ 59-62, 71).

I. Plaintiff Lacks Standing to Seek Redress for Other Victims in Counts I. VIII. and IX

Several defendants in this action have moved to dismiss the current action due to plaintiffs lack of standing.1 In particular, these defendants claim that the plaintiff does not have the standing to bring this action on behalf of "other Black African-Americans" in Counts I, VIII and IX.2 To establish standing to bring an action against a proper party, a plaintiff must establish that they were injured by the action of the defendant(s). See Raines v. Byrd, 521 U.S. 811, 837-38, 117 S.Ct. 2312, 138 L.Ed.2d 849 (1997). A plaintiff cannot usually litigate on behalf of another person's legal rights. See Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 751, 104 S.Ct. 3315, 82 L.Ed.2d 556 (1984). Our Circuit Court has stated that actions alleging discrimination should be "brought by the direct victims of the alleged discrimination because they are the best situated to assert the individual rights in question." Clifton Terrace Associates v. United Tech. Corp., 929 F.2d 714, 721 (D.C.Cir.1991).

When reviewing a motion to dismiss for lack of standing, the Court "must accept as true all material allegations of the complaint, and must construe the complaint in favor of the complaining party." Id. at 501, 95 S.Ct. 2197. Where a motion to dismiss, however, presents a dispute over the factual basis of the Court's jurisdiction, the Court "must go beyond the pleadings and resolve any disputed issues of fact the resolution of which is necessary to a ruling upon the motion to dismiss." Phoenix Consulting, Inc. v. Rep. of Angola, 216 F.3d 36, 40 (D.C.Cir.2000); In re Swine Flu Immunization Prods. Liability Litig., 880 F.2d 1439, 1442-43 (D.C.Cir.1989). If, after considering the record before the Court, "the plaintiffs standing does not adequately appear from all materials of record, the complaint must be dismissed." Warth, 422 U.S. at 502, 95 S.Ct. 2197.

While plaintiff is a chess coach and a mentor to many young children in the District of Columbia and is actively involved in promoting the development of chess within the District of Columbia, plaintiff is prohibited from bringing claims on the behalf of other litigants, no matter how dear to his heart they may be. See Allen, 468 U.S. at 751, 104 S.Ct. 3315; see Clifton Terrace Associates, 929 F.2d at 721. The "other Black African-Americans", the African-American and Vietnamese chess playing children within the District are both identifiable and able to present their own claims if they so choose. Thus, Counts I, VIII, and IX are dismissed for lack of standing so far as they allege defendants violated the rights of alleged victims other than the plaintiff.

II. Plaintiff is Precluded by Collateral Estoppel and Res Judicata From Suing Defendants Mehler, United States Chess Center Federation ("USCCF") and Mikell

Plaintiff previously brought suit against defendants Mehler, USCCF and Mikellin the District of Columbia Superior Court, Civil Action No. 02-7007, alleging violations of plaintiffs First and Fourth Amendment rights, defamation and false imprisonment. Defendants were granted summary judgment on the First and Fourth Amendment claims, as well as the false imprisonment claim. (See Def. Mehler's Mot. To Dismiss Ex. 3.) The remaining claim of defamation was settled and an Order of Dismissal with Prejudice was entered on May 2, 2005. (See Def. Mehler's Mot. To Dismiss Ex. 2.) For the following reasons, plaintiff is barred from bringing this current action against defendants Mehler, USCCF and Mikell, as the current claims are barred by collateral estoppel, res judicata and by the settlement agreement entered into between plaintiff and these defendants in the Superior Court action.3

Counts II, IV and VII of the current action are identical to previous claims raised against defendant Mehler, USCCF and Mikell in the D.C. Superior Court action and, therefore, those claims, having been fully adjudicated on the merits, are barred by collateral estoppel. See Stanton v. Dist. of Columbia Ct. of Appeals, 127 F.3d 72, 76-78 (D.C.Cir.1997). The other claims brought in the current action against defendants Mehler, USCCF and Mikell are barred by res judicata as they all stem out of the same cause of action. See id. at 78. Our Circuit Court has stated that the District of Columbia has adopted the "transaction approach" in defining the term "cause of action" for claim preclusion purposes and that approach includes "all or any part of the transaction, or series of connected transactions, out of which the action arose." Id. (quoting Smith v. Jenkins, 562 A.2d 610, 613 (D.C.1989)). All of plaintiffs current claims against defendants Mehler, USCCF and Mikell, stem from of the same transactions that were the basis of his D.C. Superior Court action, and, therefore, plaintiff is barred from litigating them against those defendants in this action as the events did not take place "post-judgment." Stanton, 127 F.3d at 78-79. While the defamation claim by plaintiff in the D.C. Superior Court action was settled, plaintiff is barred from bringing that claim against defendants Mehler, USCCF and Mikell in the current action, since plaintiff voluntarily accepted the settlement agreement dismissing the case with prejudice. Thus, he is equitably estopped, from attacking the settlement through this suit. See Asberry v. U.S. Postal Serv., 692 F.2d 1378, 1381-82 (Fed.Cir.1982) ("Having voluntarily accepted the settlement and its benefits, [plaintiff] is equitably estopped to attack it."); Johnson v. Washington Gas Light Co., 404 F.Supp.2d 179, 181 (D.D.C.2005). Accordingly, all claims against defendants Mehler, USCCF and Mikell are dismissed with prejudice.4

III. All Claims Against the University of Maryland. Baltimore County and Its Officers Must Be Dismissed

Defendants University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, and Professor Alan Sherman (the "University defendants") moved to dismiss this action for lack of standing, lack of personal jurisdiction, failure to state a cognizable claim and because the action is barred by the Eleventh Amendment and statutory immunity. Because the University of Maryland, Baltimore County is a arm of the state of Maryland, and defendants Hrabowski and Sherman are State personnel as employees of...

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  • Schmidt v. Shah
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    ...See Restatement § 380(2). This outcome is also supported by principles of equitable estoppel. See Bennett v. U.S. Chess Fed'n, 468 F.Supp.2d 79, 85 (D.D.C.2006); Asberry v. U.S. Postal Serv., 692 F.2d 1378, 1382 (Fed.Cir.1982) ("Having voluntarily accepted the settlement and its benefits, t......
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