Yowman v. Jefferson County Community Supervision

Decision Date28 January 2005
Docket NumberNo. 1:03-CV-543.,1:03-CV-543.
Citation370 F.Supp.2d 568
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Texas

Otto D. Hewitt, III, Hewitt Law Firm, Alvin, Richard Glenn Lewis, Law Office of Norman A. Desmarais, Jr., Port Arthur, TX, for Plaintiffs.

Larry James Simmons, Jr., Pamela D. Williams, Germer, Bernsen & Gertz, Beaumont, TX, Susan Elizabeth Werner, Attorney General's Office, Austin, TX, for Defendants Jefferson County, TX, Jefferson County Community Supervision & Corrections Dept.


CRONE, District Judge.

Pending before the court is Defendant Jefferson County Community Supervision & Corrections Department's ("JCCSCD") Motion to Dismiss (# 20) and Motion for Summary Judgment (# 25). JCCSCD seeks dismissal of Plaintiff Paulette W. Yowman's ("Yowman") complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, alleging, among other claims, that her amended complaint, adding JCCSCD as a defendant, was untimely and did not relate back to the original complaint. In addition, JCCSCD seeks summary judgment on Yowman's claims for race, gender, and age discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 1981a, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"), as amended, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2000h-6. Having reviewed the pending motions, the submissions of the parties, the pleadings, and the applicable law, the court is of the opinion that dismissal based on untimeliness is unwarranted, while summary judgment with respect to Yowman's claims of employment discrimination should be granted.

I. Background

Yowman, a resident of Jefferson County, Texas, is an African-American female, fifty-six years of age, who was employed as a probation officer with JCCSCD. JCCSCD is a governmental entity that provides for the monitoring of criminal defendants who have been sentenced by state district courts and county courts at law. JCCSCD was established, according to Texas law, by the state district court judges trying criminal cases in Jefferson County, Texas, and maintains offices in Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Mid-County. See TEX. GOV'T CODE ANN. § 76.002 (Vernon 2004). According to JCCSCD, over 100 individuals work in its three offices, supervising approximately 6,000 probationers.

The record reflects that Yowman was hired as a probation officer on November 1, 1979, and on May 6, 2003, after nearly twenty-four years of service with JCCSCD, she was terminated. When first employed, Yowman was assigned to the Port Arthur office, where she worked under Jim Stott ("Stott"), the Unit Supervisor, for approximately one year until he was transferred to the Beaumont office. According to Stott, Yowman "received good evaluations for the majority of her tenure, including the time she worked as a probation officer in my unit." In 1984, Stott was promoted to Deputy Director of JCCSCD. As Deputy Director, Stott approved each of Yowman's raises and allocated money in the budget to fund her promotion to Assistant Supervisor.

Throughout the years, however, Stott repeatedly received "complaints concerning [Yowman's] work performance and attendance." In 1986, Monti Morgan ("Morgan"), the Director of JCCSCD, conferred with Yowman and her supervisor, Allan Thomas ("Thomas"), about her job performance. Morgan explained that "[t]hough [Yowman] received good evaluations, in 1986, I had resolved a dispute between the two wherein Mr. Thomas had alleged insubordination on her part." After an investigation, Morgan cautioned Yowman "that her defiant behavior toward a supervisor was unacceptable."

In August 2000, due to insufficient funds, JCCSCD ended its Boot Camp program, which resulted in a reassignment and relocation of several employees. During this transition, Morgan reportedly received reports from staff complaining of Yowman's performance and inaccessibility. According to Morgan, Yowman's cases were not in compliance with agency standards, misdemeanor mail-in cases were not monitored properly, and several cases were not consistent with the original court orders. Due to her continued performance problems, Yowman was transferred to the Beaumont office in August 2000 and placed under the supervision of Jan Watts ("Watts"). Morgan elaborated that Yowman was reluctant to transfer despite the fact that she had previously applied for two supervisory positions in Beaumont, one of which was given to Watts, a white female, and the other to Elouise Brannon, a black female in her fifties.

At the Beaumont office, Yowman's duties "related to processing the cases for transfer, completing all the required paperwork, photocopying the required documents, and sending the transfer requests to the receiving jurisdiction and through interstate compact for out of state transfer cases." Watts stated in her affidavit that "[a]fter I became supervisor, I noticed that [Yowman] was absent from the office without notifying me of her whereabouts." Watts confronted Yowman about the absences and informed her that she needed to consult Watts before taking leave and to notify the staff and Watts of her whereabouts if she left during office hours.

In Fall 2001, JCCSCD was preparing for an audit by the Community Justice Assistance Division ("CJAD") of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice ("TDCJ"). Through the CJAD, TDCJ distributes funds for the operation of local community supervision and corrections departments. According to Morgan, "TDCJ promulgates rules and standards for delivery of probation services and audits to see that [community supervision and corrections departments] are using the money in accordance with standards and expectations." In preparation for this audit, Watts asked Yowman if her cases were in compliance with agency standards. Yowman indicated that they were and that she did not need assistance preparing for the audit. In October 2001, Watts reviewed some of Yowman's files and found that "cases lacked documentation and the transfer work had not been completed so some of the probationers were unsupervised." On October 19, 2001, Morgan met with Watts and Yowman and instructed Yowman to bring her cases into compliance. In addition, Morgan issued a letter of reprimand to Yowman on October 22, 2001, advising her that her cases needed to be in compliance by November 30, 2001, or she would be subject to discipline, including termination.

From December 2001 through January 2002, Morgan, Stott, and Watts conducted their own audit of Yowman's cases. Although Morgan did not complete his portion of the audit, Stott and Watts found Yowman's cases to be non-compliant and "poorly documented, if documented at all." According to Stott, "[s]pecifically, I found many of the cases on her docket which were not documented correctly and others retained on her docket which should have been closed." In July 2002, Watts and Morgan met with Yowman. During the meeting, Yowman complained that Watts was not doing her job and called Watts a liar. The meeting concluded with Morgan instructing Yowman to follow the directions of Watts, her supervisor.

In Spring 2003, Watts reported to her supervisors, Stott and Morgan, that Yowman "continued not to tell me of her whereabouts and absences and did not follow-up on my requests to see that her cases were in compliance with CJAD standards." In April 2003, an incident occurred in which a "transfer-out" probationer waited more than one hour to see Yowman to complete the transfer paperwork. One of the clerical staff informed Watts that Yowman had left over an hour previously to have her car repaired. Watts completed the intake and confronted Yowman about her absence, reminding her to seek permission if she was going to leave during office hours. On May 5, 2003, while looking for Yowman at around 12:00 p.m., Watts was informed that she had gone to the jail to visit a probationer and had signed out at 10:20 a.m. Watts discovered that the probationer had not been in jail since March 2003. In order to verify Yowman's time at the jail, Watts contacted two other individuals who had signed in before and after Yowman at the jail and who had completed their work in a timely manner. Yowman did not return until 12:45 p.m. When Watts inquired as to why it had taken her so long to visit one probationer, who was not even in jail, Yowman became hostile and refused to explain. According to Watts, a frequent visitor at the jail, an interview of a probationer, especially one not in custody, "should take about 45 minutes."

In the same month, Yowman complained about Watts to Stott. Stott and Yowman discussed her use of leave without notice and the possibility of a transfer. Stott was reluctant to transfer Yowman due to the "difficulties she had with personnel in the Port Arthur office and now in Beaumont." Stott was convinced that if Yowman were to transfer, the same problems would arise again. In Stott's opinion, "[Yowman] would not take instruction from her supervisors, particularly in relation to leave and notification of her whereabouts during work hours."

In May 2003, Watts reported to Morgan that Yowman was "once again refusing to accept my supervision of her" and recommended her termination. On May 6, 2003, a meeting was held between Morgan, Stott, and Yowman to discuss both the car repair and jail incidents. Morgan stated in his affidavit, that, when asked about the first episode, in which the probationer waited for Yowman for over an hour, Yowman responded that the probationer did not wait that long. When questioned about the second incident at the jail, despite the fact that Watts had provided information that other individuals had completed their work in a...

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