United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION
SCOTT COOGLER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Reshawn Armstrong (“Plaintiff” or
“Armstrong”) brings this action against the
United States Attorney General for claims emerging from her
employment at FCI Aliceville in Pickens County,
Alabama. Before the Court are Defendant's
Motion to Dismiss Defamation/Libel Claim (doc. 64.) and
Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint
(doc. 69). Plaintiff has filed her timely response to
Defendant's motion to dismiss (doc. 67). The motions are
now ripe for review. For the reasons stated below,
Defendant's Motion (doc. 64) is due to be granted, and
Plaintiff's Motion (doc. 69) is due to be granted in part
and denied in part.
facts of this case were previously discussed by this Court in
its two prior Memorandums of Opinion and Orders on
Defendant's Motions to Dismiss. (Docs. 20 & 46.)
Accordingly, the Court includes only a brief overview of the
relevant facts alleged. Plaintiff has been a Federal Bureau of
Prisons employee since 2007. Armstrong began work at FCI
Aliceville, in Pickens County, Alabama in August of 2012.
Currently, Armstrong serves as a Senior Officer Specialist.
While at FCI Aliceville, Armstrong has received
exceed/excellent and outstanding ratings as well as incentive
awards for her job performance. Prior to 2015, Armstrong had
no disciplinary actions taken against her.
2015, Armstrong began to apply for various jobs and
promotions at other institutions within the Department of
Justice. When Armstrong applied, she alleges that her
supervisors provided a number of false and derogatory
reference checks. Armstrong alleges that these reference
checks interfered with her promotion to Gl-9 and GS-9/11
positions at other institutions. For example, on March 30,
2015, the Warden at FCI Aliceville is alleged to have falsely
stated in her reference check that there was an “open
case” of “disciplinary action within the last two
years” against Armstrong for job announcement
HR-N-2015-009-HON. The Warden again answered yes to the
question of whether Armstrong had any disciplinary action
against her within the last two years and rated Armstrong job
skills as average for job posting HR-N-2015-0009-HON, despite
her prior high ratings. Armstrong asserts that the Associate
Warden at FCI Aliceville made similar statements in
Armstrong's reference checks for job postings
MEN-2015-0030-0002, BSG-2015-0040-0001, PHX-2015-00439,
HR-N-2015-0007-LOM. Armstrong alleges that at least two
reference checks were purposefully written to confuse
August 2015, Armstrong became aware of these reference checks
and met with her EEO Counselor. Subsequently, Armstrong filed
an EEO Complaint (“2015 EEO Complaint”) alleging
discrimination based on sex and retaliation that included her
allegations of that the Warden and others at FCI Aliceville
were writing false and negative reference checks. After the
EEO process was initiated, Armstrong alleges that the Warden
admitted “fault” regarding Armstrong's
complaints about the contents of the reference checks.
Standard of Review
motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction
filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure challenges a court's statutory or
constitutional power to adjudicate a case. Motions to dismiss
under Rule 12(b)(1) may take the form of either a facial or a
factual attack. Scarfo v. Ginsberg, 175 F.3d 957,
960 (11th Cir. 1999). Under a facial attack, the allegations
in the complaint are taken as true for the purposes of the
motion. Sea Vessel, Inc. v. Reyes, 23 F.3d 345, 347
(11th Cir. 1994). A factual challenge, on the other hand,
questions the existence of subject matter jurisdiction based
on matters outside the pleadings. Lawrence v.
Dunbar, 919 F.2d 1525, 1529 (11th Cir. 1990). Under a
factual challenge, the Court may hear conflicting evidence
and decide the factual issues that determine jurisdiction.
Colonial Pipeline Co. v. Collins, 921 F.2d 1237,
1243 (11th Cir. 1991). The burden of proof on a Rule 12(b)(1)
motion is on the party averring jurisdiction. Thomson v.
Gaskill, 315 U.S. 442, 446 (1942).
general, a pleading must include “a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). However, in order to
withstand a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6), a complaint “must plead enough facts to state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Ray v. Spirit Airlines, Inc., 836 F.3d 1340, 1347-48
(11th Cir. 2016) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)) (internal quotation
marks omitted). “A claim has facial plausibility when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Stated another way, the
factual allegations in the complaint must be sufficient to
“raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.” Edwards v. Prime, Inc., 602 F.3d 1276,
1291 (11th Cir. 2010). A complaint that “succeeds in
identifying facts that are suggestive enough to render [the
necessary elements of a claim] plausible” will survive
a motion to dismiss. Watts v. Fla. Int'l Univ.,
495 F.3d 1289, 1296 (11th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556) (internal quotation marks
evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint, this Court first
“identif[ies] pleadings that, because they are no more
than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of
truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. This Court
then “assume[s] the veracity” of the
complaint's “well-pleaded factual
allegations” and “determine[s] whether they
plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.”
Id. Review of the complaint is “a
context-specific task that requires [this Court] to draw on
its judicial experience and common sense.” Id.
If the pleading “contain[s] enough information
regarding the material elements of a cause of action to
support recovery under some ‘viable legal theory,
'” it satisfies the notice pleading standard.
Am. Fed'n of Labor & Cong. of Indus. Orgs. v.
City of Miami, 637 F.3d 1178, 1186 (11th Cir. 2011)
(quoting Roe v. Aware Woman Ctr. for Choice, Inc.,
253 F.3d 678, 683-84 (11th Cir. 2001)).