Dodson v. United States Capitol Police

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Docket NumberCivil Action 18-2680 (RDM)
Decision Date30 September 2022

ARREN DODSON, Plaintiff,


Civil Action No. 18-2680 (RDM)

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 30, 2022



Plaintiff Arren Dodson brings this action against Defendant United States Capitol Police (“the USCP” or “the Department”) pursuant to the Congressional Accountability Act (“CAA”), 2 U.S.C. § 1301 et seq., which requires various legislative branch agencies to comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. See 2 U.S.C. § 1302. Dodson alleges that the Department discriminated against him on the basis of his race (Count I), disciplined him in retaliation for speaking out against racial discrimination (Count II), and disciplined (and ultimately terminated) him without procedural due process (Count III). Dkt. 1 at 7-9 (Compl. ¶¶ 42, 48, 57). Defendant moves for summary judgment as to all three counts, Dkt. 42, and Plaintiff cross-moves for summary judgment as to Count III, Dkt. 54. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part and Plaintiff's partial cross-motion for summary judgment is DENIED.


For purposes of resolving the cross-motions for summary judgment, the Court takes “the facts in the record and all reasonable inferences derived therefrom in a light most favorable” to


the non-moving party. Coleman v. Duke, 867 F.3d 204, 209 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (quoting Al-Saffy v. Vilsack, 827 F.3d 85, 89 (D.C. Cir. 2016)).

Pursuant to Local Civil Rule 7(h)(1), the USCP has provided a statement of material facts as to which they contend there is no genuine dispute, see Dkt. 42-2 (Def.'s SUMF), and Dodson has responded, to some extent, see Dkt. 53-2 (Pl.'s SOF). The Court notes that Plaintiff's responses as to Counts I and II purport to dispute a large number of the USCP's undisputed material facts. Dkt. 53-2. But rather than set forth a “concise statement of genuine issues setting forth” those “issue[s] necessary to be litigated,” L. Civ. R. 7(h)(1) (emphasis added), Plaintiff frequently uses his responses to supplement Defendant's statement of facts in lengthy form, rather than to contest the validity thereof, see, e.g., Dkt. 53-2 at 10-11 (Pl.'s SOF ¶ 35). This approach does not accord with the procedures outlined in Local Rule 7(h)(1), which “places the burden on the parties and their counsel, who are most familiar with the litigation and the record, to crystallize for the district court the material facts and relevant portions of the record.” Walker v. District of Columbia, 279 F.Supp.3d 246, 253 (D.D.C. 2017) (quoting Jackson v. Finnegan, 101 F.3d 145, 151 (D.C. Cir. 1996)). Accordingly, to the extent that Plaintiff labels certain facts as “disputed” but does not directly respond to the material facts in Defendant's statement (or does so without reference to specific portions of the record), the Court considers those facts admitted for purposes of resolving the instant motion. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e) (indicating that a court can “consider [a] fact undisputed for purposes of the motion” where “a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact”). Where factual assertions are genuinely disputed, however, the Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Coleman, 867 F.3d at 209.


A. Factual Background

1. Dodson's Employment History with the USCP

Plaintiff Arren Dodson was an officer in the Uniformed Services Bureau of the USCP for eleven years, beginning on January 19, 2007. Dkt. 42-2 at 1, 4 (Def.'s SUMF ¶¶ 3, 23-24). Throughout his tenure, Dodson was assigned, at various points, to the House office buildings (“the House Division”), the Senate office buildings (“the Senate Division”), and to the United States Capitol (“the Capitol Division”). Id. at 4 (Def.'s SUMF ¶¶ 24-25). Between 2009 and 2017, Dodson received a series of performance reviews indicating that he had “me[t] expectations,” see, e.g., Dkt. 53-12 at 2, 10, 18, 28, 36, 44, 70 (Pl.'s Ex. 10), and that he had, at times, exceeded expectations as to some of his core competencies, see, e.g., id. at 4, 7, 12. Dodson also received several letters of appreciation from USCP management throughout his tenure, including for his musical performance at ceremonies, Dkt. 53-32 at 2, 4 (Pl.'s Ex. 30); for his outstanding attendance record during the 2007 calendar year, id. at 3; for his service at a contentious committee hearing in June 2010 and at the January 2017 presidential inauguration, id. at 5-6; and for his efforts to locate suspects during critical incidents in February and December 2017, id. at 7-8.

But Dodson was also disciplined by Department leadership several times throughout his tenure. USCP officers are given notice of proposed disciplinary action through the form of CP-534s (for “Command Discipline”) and CP-535s (for “Department Discipline”), each of which officers can contest or appeal through procedures set out in the USCP Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”). Dkt. 53-10 at 3-4 (Pl.'s Ex. 8). CP-534s typically recommend a written warning or a time-limited loss of time or pay, while CP-535s typically recommend forfeitures of time or salary, demotion, or removal from the USCP altogether. Id. at 3. The CBA provides that


officers can appeal CP-534s to the Chief of Police or file grievances as to those CP-534s that include a proposed loss of time or pay. Id. Officers can contest CP-535s with the Assistant Chief of Police and can appeal the Assistant Chief's written decision to the Chief of Police or file a grievance. Id. Officers receiving CP-535s that propose demotion, removal, or forfeiture of more than fourteen days of time or pay, moreover, have the option of requesting a hearing through the Disciplinary Review Board (“DRB”) before appealing the DRB's decision to the Chief of Police or filing a grievance. Id.

In March 2012, a USCP investigation concluded that Officer Dodson had violated Department rules governing “Use of Alcohol” when he purportedly “consumed alcohol to the point that he was unable to report for his scheduled tour of duty” on August 11, 2011. Dkt. 42-4 at 130 (Def.'s Ex. 2). Dodson was also charged with a violation of the rules governing “Abuse of Process” five days later, when he allegedly “submitted a falsified medical certification to the Department in connection with his August 11-12, 2011 absence from work.” Id. at 133. Dodson unsuccessfully appealed the CP-535s associated with both incidents to Deputy Chief Donald Rouiller, see Dkt. 53-13 at 2-4 (Pl.'s Ex. 11), and ultimately received five- and seven-day unpaid suspensions for the use-of-alcohol and abuse-of-process violations, respectively, Dkt. 42-2 at 4-5 (Def.'s SUMF ¶¶ 30, 34).[1]

Dodson received another CP-535 in July 2012 for “conduct unbecoming” based on an allegation that he, “while off-duty and in a local nightclub, . . . became involved in a physical


altercation and struck a bar patron 4[ to ]6 times with a bottle.” Dkt. 42-4 at 127 (Def.'s Ex. 2). After an unsuccessful appeal to then-Assistant Chief of Police Matthew Verderosa, Plaintiff received another five-day unpaid suspension. See id. at 128; Dkt. 42-2 at 5 (Def.'s SUMF ¶ 36); Dkt. 53-2 at 12-13 (Pl.'s SOF ¶ 36).

In February 2016, Dodson was charged with “Improper Remarks” and “Unsatisfactory Performance” in what ultimately became OPR Case No. 15-122. Dkt. 42-2 at 5 (Def.'s SUMF ¶ 37). An investigation by the USCP's Office of Professional Responsibility (“OPR”) concluded that Dodson “responded to a fellow officer's question . . . with inappropriate language, questioning who she was, using profanity, and referring to another officer as the ‘white boy.'” Dkt. 42-4 at 136 (Def.'s Ex. 2); see also Dkt. 42-2 at 5 (Def.'s SUMF ¶ 38). OPR further “determined that Officer Arren Dodson violated . . . [the rule governing] Unsatisfactory Performance” by having a “‘written record of repeated infractions of the rules, regulations, Directives and orders of the Department' as well as ‘repeated sustained complaints of misconduct.'” Dkt. 42-4 at 136 (Def.'s Ex. 2). Plaintiff received a CP-535 recommending a five-day unpaid suspension in connection with the improper-remarks violation, Dkt. 42-2 at 5 (Def.'s SUMF ¶ 39), and a CP-535 recommending a “termination of [his] employment in connection with” the unsatisfactory performance violation, Dkt. 42-4 at 136-37 (Def.'s Ex. 2).

In lieu of termination, however, Dodson and the USCP executed a Last Chance Agreement (“LCA”), see Dkt. 53-36 at 43 (Pl.'s Ex. 34), which provided Dodson “with a final opportunity to demonstrate, on a continuing basis, satisfactory performance,” Dkt. 42-2 at 6 (Def.'s SUMF ¶ 44); Dkt. 42-4 at 139 (Def.'s Ex. 2). Dodson, who was represented by Union counsel at the time, Dkt. 42-2 at 6 (Def.'s SUMF ¶ 42), agreed in the LCA “to serve a 5-day


suspension without pay for the Improper Remarks charge” and “to refrain from further misconduct in the workplace.” Dkt. 42-4 at 139 (Def.'s Ex. 2). The LCA further provided that:

[A]ny future sustained CP-535 discipline approved by the Chief of Police or his designee which results in a suspension without pay during a five (5) year period from the date of this LCA, will result in termination of his employment for the prior misconduct sustained in OPR Case No. 15-122, as a violation of this LCA.

Id. The LCA indicated, moreover, that:

In exchange for this LCA and in order to demonstrate his intent to follow the Department's Rules of Conduct, Officer Dodson voluntarily and knowingly agrees to waive any and all rights in accordance with the Congressional Accountability Act, Department orders, policies and/or directives to appeal/grieve, litigate, or in any way challenge the results of

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