Simon v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, Civil Action No.: 20-580 (RC)

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtRUDOLPH CONTRERAS United States District Judge
PartiesCHARLES SIMON, Plaintiff, v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date07 August 2020
Docket NumberCivil Action No.: 20-580 (RC)


Civil Action No.: 20-580 (RC)


August 7, 2020

Re Document No.: 2, 3, 5, 6, 7




Pro se Plaintiff Charles Simon has filed a complaint against the United States Department of Justice ("DOJ"); Federal Prison Industries, Inc. ("FPI"); Steve Schwalb, in his official capacity as Chief Operating Officer of FPI; and T. Speights, Coordinator of FPI (collectively "Defendants"). Mr. Simon attempts to re-litigate the amount of a monthly compensation award he received in 1994 pursuant to the Inmate Accident Compensation Act ("IACA"), 18 U.S.C. § 4126 et seq., for a back injury he sustained while incarcerated in 1987. See Compl. at 1-6, ECF No. 1; Mot. to Dismiss at 6, ECF No. 3. Mr. Simon also challenges the termination of his compensatory award under IACA and its implementing regulations. Compl. at 1. Though his Complaint is not drafted with perfect clarity, he appears to bring his charges under Title VII and the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"). Id. The instant action follows a string of materially identical lawsuits filed by Mr. Simon in various courts.

Page 2

Defendants have moved to dismiss Mr. Simon's latest suit, and Mr. Simon has moved to disqualify the undersigned Judge, for default judgment, and for judgment on the pleadings. As an initial matter, the Court denies Plaintiff's motions. The Court dismisses Mr. Simon's benefits termination claim without prejudice because he has failed to demonstrate that he has exhausted his administrative remedies. Finally, the Court concludes that the doctrines of claim preclusion (res judicata) and collateral estoppel bar Mr. Simon's claims pertaining to the calculation of his compensatory payment under the IACA. In the alternative, the Court finds that the time period in which Mr. Simon could have litigated the compensation amount he received for his back injury has lapsed and that his claims are thus time-barred.


Plaintiff suffered a back injury while incarcerated in a federal facility in Wisconsin in 1987. See Mot. to Dismiss at 4. In 1994, as compensation for this inmate work injury, he was awarded $73.57 per month, an amount that would be adjusted in line with increases in the federal minimum wage. See Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss & Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot. for Prelim. Inj., Simon v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, No. 15-cv-1310 (RC), 2016 WL 427061, (D.D.C. Feb. 3, 2016), aff'd No. 16-5031, 2016 WL 3545484 (D.C. Cir. June 10, 2016), ECF No. 4-1 at 2. Following an administrative appeal to Defendant Steve Schwalb, at that time FPI's Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Simon acknowledged and accepted the award as a "full and final settlement." Id.

In 1997 Mr. Simon filed a petition for a writ of mandamus "arising from the November 1987 injury and subsequent compensation award," which was dismissed and a motion for a preliminary injunction, which was denied. See Simon v. Fed. Prison Indus., Inc., No. 09-cv-0692, 2009 WL 2618349, at *1 (D.D.C. Aug. 24, 2009) (describing Simon v. Fed. Prison Indus., Inc., No. 97-cv-0757 (D.D.C. Oct. 30, 1997) (Mem. Op.)). In 1998, the D.C. Circuit affirmed the

Page 3

District Court's denial of Mr. Simon's petition for a writ of mandamus, holding that his "award of compensation was properly calculated under the Inmate Accident Compensation Act and its implementing regulations," that there was "no merit to [his] challenge to the validity of the inmate compensation system," and that he "ha[d] not shown that he [was] entitled to medical treatment after his release." Simon v. Fed. Prison Indus., Inc., 159 F.3d 637 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (per curiam) (unpublished table decision).

In recent years, Mr. Simon has continued to file similar actions in this district against FPI, Schwalb, and various other defendants. Those actions have been dismissed as barred by the doctrines of claim preclusion and collateral estoppel. See Simon, 2016 WL 427061, at *1; Simon v. Bickell, 737 F. Supp. 2d 10, 14-15 (D.D.C. 2010); Simon, 2009 WL 2618349, at *1. Additionally, Mr. Simon has filed similar cases against FPI and other agencies or instrumentalities of the United States around the country. See, e.g., Simon v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, No. 18-cv-11431, 2018 WL 6045254, at *2 (D. Mass. Nov. 19, 2018), aff'd, No. 18-2206, 2019 WL 6124881 (1st Cir. June 26, 2019), cert. denied, 140 S. Ct. 539 (2019), reh'g denied, 140 S. Ct. 950 (2020); Simon v. Fed. Prison Indus., Inc., No. 03-cv-10792, 2003 WL 26128191, at *1 (D. Mass. Jul. 15, 2003); see also Simon v. Robinson, 196 F. App'x 54, 55 n.1 (3d Cir. 2006) (noting that Mr. Simon has "filed suit and lost in the United States District Courts for the District of Wisconsin, the District of Massachusetts, the Southern District of New York, the District of Columbia, and the District of New Jersey" and providing additional citations).

A. Motion for Disqualification

Plaintiff moves to disqualify the undersigned Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 455(a)-(b). See Pl's Mot. for Disqualification, ECF No. 7. Plaintiff claims that this Court displayed "deep-

Page 4

seated favoritism" by "disregarding" his Complaint and Motion for Default Judgment. Id. Plaintiff also alleges that this Court "impermissibly" advised Plaintiff to file a response to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. Id.; see Order, ECF No. 4 (advising Plaintiff to file a response to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss in accordance with the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure and D.D.C. Civ. R. 7(b)).

Under Section 455(b)(1), a judge must recuse "[w]here he has a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party, or personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceeding." 28 U.S.C. § 455(b)(1). A movant must "demonstrate actual bias or prejudice based upon an extrajudicial source . . . by providing evidence of the judge's extrajudicial conduct . . . that are plainly inconsistent with his responsibilities as an impartial decisionmaker." Osei v. Standard Chartered Bank, No. 18-cv-1503, 2019 WL 917998, at *4 (D.D.C. Feb. 25, 2019), aff'd, No. 19-7018, 2019 WL 2563460 (D.C. Cir. June 4, 2019) (quoting Cobell v. Norton, 237 F. Supp. 2d 71, 98 (D.D.C. 2003) and Cobell v. Norton, 310 F. Supp. 2d 102, 120-21 (D.D.C. 2004)) (internal quotation marks omitted). "Unfavorable judicial rulings alone almost never constitute a valid basis for reassignment." United States v. Hite, 769 F.3d 1154, 1172 (D.C. Cir. 2014).

In advising Plaintiff to respond to Defendants' dispositive motion, the Court was merely fulfilling its obligations under Fox v. Strickland, 837 F.2d 507 (D.C. Cir. 1988). The Court did not ignore Plaintiff's complaint or his motion, but had simply not issued any rulings yet. This Court's dismissal of Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment is likewise not grounds for disqualification. See discussion infra Part III.B. Accordingly, this Court finds that Plaintiff's allegations fail to establish a basis for recusal under § 455(a) and the motion to disqualify is denied.

Page 5

B. Motion for Default Judgment

Plaintiff moves for default judgment on the basis that Defendants failed to respond to his Complaint. See Pl.'s Mot. for Default J. at 1. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55 "sets forth a two-step process for a party seeking default judgment: entry of default, followed by entry of default judgment." Farris v. Rice, No. CV 05-1975 (RMU), 2006 WL 8435181, at *1 (D.D.C. Jan. 17, 2006). If a defendant has failed to plead or otherwise defend against an action, the plaintiff may request that the clerk of the court enter default against that defendant. Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(a). After the clerk's entry of default, the plaintiff may move for default judgment. Id. 55(b)(2). However, under Rule 55(b)(2), the "determination of whether default judgment is appropriate is committed to the discretion of the trial court." Flynn v. JMP Restoration Corp., No. CIV. A. 10-0102 (ESH), 2010 WL 1687950, at *1 (D.D.C. Apr. 23, 2010) (citing Jackson v. Beech, 636 F.2d 831, 836 (D.C. Cir. 1980)). For default judgment to occur, a "defendant must be considered a 'totally unresponsive' party and its default plainly willful, reflected by its failure to respond to the summons and complaint, the entry of default, or the motion for default judgment." Id. (quoting Gutierrez v. Berg Contracting Inc., No. 99-cv-3044, 2000 WL 331721, at *1 (D.D.C. Mar. 20, 2000)).

Here, Plaintiff has filed a Motion for Default Judgment against Defendants without providing proof of service. See Ibiza Bus. Ltd. v. United States, No. 10-296 (RCL), 2010 WL 2788169, at *1 (D.D.C. July 8, 2010) ("The Court will only enter a default judgment against a defendant when there is proof that plaintiffs properly served the defendant."). Equally important, Defendants are no longer unresponsive as they have moved to dismiss the complaint and have opposed the Motion for Default Judgment. See Mot. to Dismiss at 8. The Court therefore cannot

Page 6

find that Defendants willfully disregarded their legal responsibilities. Accordingly, the Court denies Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment.1

C. Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

Mr. Simon moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). See Mot. J. Pleadings, ECF No. 6. Rule 12(c) provides that "[a]fter the pleadings are closed—but early enough not to delay trial—a party may move for judgment on the pleadings." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c). The "moving party [must] demonstrate[ ] that no material fact is in dispute and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Schuler v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, 514 F.3d 1365, 1370 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (quoting Peters v....

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT