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N'Jai v. Floyd

May 29, 2009

JACQUELINE B. N'JAI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MR. HOMER C. FLOYD, ET AL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Nora Barry Fischer

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I. Introduction

This matter comes before the Court on the Court's Order to Show Cause (Docket No. 52) directing pro se Plaintiff Jacqueline B. N'Jai ("Plaintiff")*fn1 to show good cause why her case should not be dismissed for failure to prosecute due to her failure to comply with this Court's Orders dated March 3 and 5, 2008 (Docket Nos. 43, 44, 45), which ordered Plaintiff to file an amended complaint on or before April 3, 2008, and Defendants' responses to same (Docket Nos. 58, 59, 60). Plaintiff brought this action asserting numerous federal, state, and common law causes of action against Defendants, Mr. Homer C. Floyd, Stephen A. Glassman, Raquel Oterode Yiengst, Robert Flipping, Michael Hardiman, Manuel A. Zuniga, Jr., the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC"), Human Relations Commission (the "Commonwealth Defendants"), Wilkinsburg School District ("Wilkinsburg), the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education*fn2 ("Pittsburgh Board" or the "Board"), the Equal Opportunity Commission,*fn3 Sue Goodwin,*fn4 the law firm of Andrews & Price and attorney Anthony Sanchez, Esquire.*fn5

II. Background of the Plaintiff, Jacqueline B. N'Jai

Given the nature of the present dispute and its relation to prior lawsuits filed by Plaintiff against the Pittsburgh Board,*fn6 the Court first writes to describe pro se Plaintiff Jacqueline B. N'Jai and the various lawsuits she has brought to date. Plaintiff is a 52 year-old African-American woman and a resident of the borough of Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. (Docket No. 3 at ¶ 6). Plaintiff avers that she holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Masters Degree in Elementary and Early Childhood Education from Long Island State University. (Docket Nos. 62-6 - 62-9). She further claims to have completed additional course work at New York University and the University of Pittsburgh. ( Id. ). Plaintiff was allegedly working towards her Doctorate in Administration and Policy Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, but has not yet completed the program. (Docket No. 72 at 23:1-5). Plaintiff further avers that she is certified to teach in Pennsylvania. (Docket No. 62-5). As discussed herein, Plaintiff is a skilled legal brief writer. Moreover, she has handled some of her cases, which will be discussed below, before a jury, both in state court and federal court.

Plaintiff has previously filed as many as fifteen (15) lawsuits against the Pittsburgh Board and attorney Anthony Sanchez. (Docket No. 3 at ¶10; Docket No. 72 at 24:12-20). The Court is aware of the following actions filed in the Western District of Pennsylvania:

(1) N'Jai v. Mary Ellen McBride , Civil Action No. 94-72 (defendant's motion to dismiss granted);

(2) N'Jai v. Pittsburgh Board of Public Education, et al. , Civil Action No. 94-2096 (jury verdict for the defendants);

(3) N'Jai v. Pittsburgh Board of Public Education, et al. , Civil Action Nos. 98-640 and 98-1883 (consolidated) (jury verdict for the defendants);

(4) N'Jai v. Pittsburgh Board of Public Education, et al. , Civil Action No. 99-645 (defendants' motions for summary judgment granted);

(5) N'Jai v. Pittsburgh Board of Public Education, et al. , Civil Action No. 99-1290 (defendants' motions for summary judgment granted); and

(6) N'Jai v. Pennsylvania Department of Education, et al. , Civil Action No. 02-0268 (defendants' motions to dismiss granted).*fn7

Additionally, the Court is aware of the following actions filed in state court:

(1) N'Jai v. Pittsburgh Board of Public Education, et al. , GD 99-12829 in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas (defendants' preliminary objections sustained);

(2) N'Jai v. Pittsburgh Board of Public Education, et al. , AR 00-775 in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas (jury verdict for the defendants);

(3) N'Jai v. Pittsburgh Board of Public Education, et al. , AR 00-3167 in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas (defendant's motions for summary judgment granted);

(4) N'Jai v. Pittsburgh Board of Public Education, et al. , SA 01-952 in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas (defendant's preliminary objections sustained); and

(5) N'Jai v. Anthony Sanchez, et al. , 533 M.D. 2001 in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania and GD 01-023695 in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas (Commonwealth Court transferred case to Court of Common Pleas for lack of jurisdiction; preliminary objections by defendants were sustained).

Further, Plaintiff has significant experience at the both the federal and state appellate court level. To this Court's present knowledge, Plaintiff has appeared in the following matters on appeal:

(1) N'Jai v. McBride , 52 F.3d 316 (3d Cir. 1995)(affirming Judge Diamond's dismissal of Civ. A. No. 94-72);

(2) N'Jai v. Pittsburgh Board of Public Education , 537 U.S. 1199 (2003)(petition for writ of certiorari denied in appeal from jury verdict at AR 00-775);

(3) In re N'Jai , 537 U.S. 811 (2003)(petition for writ of mandamus denied);

(4) N'Jai v. EEOC , 80 Fed. Appx. 287 (3d Cir. 2003)(summary judgment for the EEOC at Civ. A. No. 99-1290 affirmed);

(5) N'Jai v. Pittsburgh Board of Public Education , 55 Fed. Appx. 105 (3d Cir. 2003)(jury verdict for defendants at Civ. A. No. 98-640 affirmed);

(6) In re N'Jai , 210 F.3d 358 (3d Cir. 2003)(Plaintiff's petition for writ of mandamus to remove the Honorable William L. Standish from several of her civil actions denied);

(7) N'Jai v. Pittsburgh Board of Public Education , 32 Fed. Appx. 31 (3d Cir. 2002)(jury verdict for defendants at Civ. A. No. 94-2096 affirmed);

(8) N'Jai v. Pittsburgh Board of Public Education , 151 F.3d 1026 (3d Cir. 2003)(Civ. A. No. 94-2096 affirmed in part, reversed for clarification of court order);

(9) N'Jai v. Pittsburgh Board of Public Education , 799 A.2d 995 (Pa. Commw. 2002)(summary judgment at AR-00-3167 affirmed, petition for allowance of appeal denied at 809 A.2d 906; 570 Pa. 702 (Pa. 2002)); and

(10) N'Jai v. Sanchez , 845 A.2d 269 (Pa. Commw. 2004)(dismissal at GD 01-023695 affirmed).

Plaintiff's various employment discrimination, conspiracy, and constitutional claims against the Defendants as well as their defenses will be more fully detailed below. Initially, the Court takes judicial notice of Plaintiff's previous lawsuits filed in both the Western District of Pennsylvania and the state court actions.

III. Standard for Judicial Notice

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has held that in evaluating a motion to dismiss a plaintiff's claims, a court may take judicial notice of prior judicial proceedings because the opinions filed therein constitute public records. See Southern Cross Overseas Agencies, Inc. v. Wah Kwong Shipping Group Ltd. , 181 F.3d 410, 426 (3d Cir. 1999)(citations omitted); see also Sands v. McCormick , 502 F.3d 263, 268 (3d Cir. 2007). Another court's opinion, which is not subject to reasonable dispute over its authenticity, may be referenced by a court not for the truth of the fact recited therein, but for its existence. Southern Cross , 181 F.3d at 426 (citations omitted); Sands , 502 F.3d at 268. In light of Plaintiff's averments that she has had favorable outcomes in prior cases against the Board (Docket No. 72 at 30:21 - 31:19) and that those cases are connected to her instant claims of conspiracy and retaliation (Docket No. 3 at ¶ 65), and the fact the Court is presently tasked with evaluating the merits of her claims, see Poulis , 747 F.2d at 869-70, the Court takes judicial notice of the existence of the opinions from some of the previous lawsuits Plaintiff has filed against the Board and Anthony Sanchez. Southern Cross , 181 F.3d at 427 (legal opinions upon which a plaintiff relies may be examined to determine if their contents "contradict[] the complaint's legal conclusions or factual claims"); see also Lum v. Bank of Am. , 361 F.3d 217, 222 n.3 (3d Cir. 2004)(considering a document outside the pleadings that a plaintiff has relied on is not unfair because the plaintiff is on notice that such document may be considered).

IV. Plaintiff's Previous Lawsuits

A. Federal Court

In N'Jai v. Pittsburgh Board of Public Education, et al. , Civil Action No. 94-2096 (W.D. Pa. 2002), Plaintiff sued the Board, the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers ("PFT"), and various individual employees of the Board.*fn8 Similar to Plaintiff's subsequent lawsuits described herein, Plaintiff had difficulties securing service on all of the defendants and was ordered to amend her complaint to clarify her claims. (Civ. A. No. 94-2096, Docket No. 16). Her amended complaint included various claims for civil rights violations, racial retaliation, violations of Pennsylvania law and Title VII, and claims related to Plaintiff's employment contract with the school district.*fn9 ( Id. ; Docket No. 17). The Honorable Gustave Diamond, upon motions to dismiss by the defendants, dismissed Plaintiff's Amended Complaint in its entirety for failure to state a claim. ( Id. ; Docket Nos. 35, 36, and 47).*fn10 The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed that order, in part, and remanded the case for further proceedings on Plaintiff's claim of retaliation based on her filing of previous discrimination suits against the defendants. ( Id. ; Docket Nos. 53 and 54); N'Jai v. Pittsburgh Board of Public Educ., et al. , 151 F.3d 1026 (3d Cir. 1998).*fn11

After discovery was completed on the retaliation claim, following the denial of summary judgment motions by both sides, the matter proceeded to trial.*fn12 ( Id. ; Docket No. 112). At the close of trial, Judge Diamond granted the individual defendants' motions for judgment as a matter of law while the jury found for the school district and the PFT. ( Id. ; Docket Nos. 138, 140). On appeal by Plaintiff, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the district court. ( Id. ; Docket No. 165). In re: N'Jai , 210 F.3d 358 (3d Cir. 2000).

In N'Jai v. Pittsburgh Board of Public Education, et al. , Civil Action No. 98-1883 (W.D. Pa. 1999), Plaintiff initiated the suit using a complaint nearly identical to her amended complaint filed at Civil Action No. 98-640, detailed below, but noticeably crossed out references to an attorney that once represented her in the other case. ( Id. ; Docket No. 17 at n.1). In said complaint, Plaintiff set out violations of the ADA, Title VII, and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1986 against the Board, employees of the Board, and the PFT. ( Id. at 1). The Honorable Judge William Standish partially granted defendants' motions to dismiss and then consolidated the remaining claims with Civil Action No. 98-640. ( Id. ; Docket Nos. 17 and 20).

At Civil Action No. 98-640, Plaintiff filed suit against the Board, represented by Anthony Sanchez, the PFT, and several individual employees of the school district and the PFT. (Civ. A. No. 98-640; Docket No. 1). Her claims included wrongful discharge, violations of the Railway Labor Act, 45 U.S.C. § 151, and First Amendment, harassment, constructive discharge, violations of the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729, et seq. , the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Act, "labor management report/disclosing act," the Pennsylvania Public School Code, and the "public employee relations act."*fn13 ( Id. ). Upon the PFT defendants' motions to dismiss, Judge Standish dismissed Plaintiff's complaint and ordered her to amend. ( Id. ; Docket Nos. 5, 24). Thereafter, upon the PFT defendants' motions to dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint, the court dismissed with prejudice several of the school district employees and dismissed part of Plaintiff's claims under Title VII and ADA because they were time-barred and her claims under Title IX for failure to state a claim. ( Id. ; Docket No. 48 at 8-11,13). Additionally, the court dismissed various of the individual Board employees while also dismissing Plaintiff's Title IX claim against the PFT. ( Id. ; Docket No. 49). Some of Plaintiff's other discrimination claims against the PFT were also dismissed as time-barred. ( Id. ). Judge Standish's orders were appealed by Plaintiff, but the appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeals for lack of jurisdiction. ( Id. ; Docket Nos. 62 and 77).

The case then proceeded through discovery, which was fraught with discovery motions including motions for sanctions brought by Plaintiff, after which a jury trial commenced. During the trial, Judge Standish granted various motions for judgment as a matter of law filed by some of the defendants as to some of Plaintiff's claims.*fn14 ( Id. ; Docket Nos. 114 and 115). The jury returned a verdict in favor of the remaining defendants. ( Id. ; Docket No. 121). Thereafter, the court denied Plaintiff's Motion "as a Matter of Law." ( Id. ; Docket Nos. 122 and 127). Plaintiff appealed this decision denying her Motion "as a Matter of Law" to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit which affirmed the judgment of the district court. ( Id. ; Docket Nos. 128 and 145). N'Jai v. Pittsburgh Board of Public Educ., et al. , 55 Fed. Appx. 105 (3d Cir. 2003).

Thereafter, Plaintiff again sued the Board, the PFT, and individual employees of the school district in N'Jai v. Pittsburgh Board of Public Education, et al. , Civil Action No. 99-645 (W.D. Pa. 2003). Plaintiff's complaint repeated many of the claims made in her previous law suits against the various defendants such as discrimination, violation of her civil and constitutional rights, violation of Title VII, violation of the ADA, breach of contract, and violation of the Pennsylvania Public School Code. Her claims surrounded her request for a sabbatical leave from her position as an elementary school teacher that was denied because she had not yet worked the statutory minimum amount of years. (Civ. A. No. 99-645, Docket No. 78 at 1-3). Judge Standish granted the defendants' motions for summary judgment because Plaintiff failed to set forth any evidence of her claims. ( Id. at 3).*fn15 In his opinion he did not consider as evidence materials*fn16 from Plaintiff's many other cases. ( Id. at 7 n.3). In declining to consider those materials, the court noted that it did examine "each and every page of the, to say the least, confusing" documents filed by Plaintiff in the case before him and said examination made it apparent to him that most of her "evidence" consisted of documents she wrote to various school and union officials. ( Id. ). At the same time, the court failed to see the relevance of many other documents she submitted. ( Id. ).

In N'Jai v. Pittsburgh Board of Public Education, et al. , Civil Action No. 99-1290 (W.D. Pa. 2003), Plaintiff asserted claims against the Board, the PFT, the Pittsburgh Teachers Credit Union, the Bacharach & Klein law firm*fn17 and John A. Bacharach, Esquire alleging various discrimination claims*fn18 and claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981-1986 and 1988 and the Pennsylvania Whistleblower's Act.*fn19 (Civ. A. No. 99-1290, Docket No. 118 at 1-2). The court dismissed all of Plaintiff's claims on motions to dismiss or motions for summary judgment. ( Id ; Docket Nos. 41 and 118). In its memorandum opinion granting some of the defendants' motions to dismiss, the court stated that "plaintiff's amended complaint borders on the unintelligible and fatally deficient[]"and he "appreciat[ed] the seemingly herculean task that confront[ed] defendants as they under[took] to answer plaintiff's amended complaint." (Civ. A. No. 99-1290, Docket No. 41 at n.6). Also, in its memorandum opinion granting defendants' motions for summary judgment, the district court noted Plaintiff's "confusing, disjointed, rambling and often duplicative" filings and stated that the "newspaper articles, school bulletins and student or parent testimonials" and "documents written by plaintiff herself to various school and union officials" did not collectively satisfy Plaintiff's burden of proof at the summary judgment stage as either movant or non-movant. ( Id ; Docket No. 118 at 28).

Upon Plaintiff's appeal of the dismissal of her case, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment.

N'Jai v. EEOC, et al., 80 Fed. Appx. 287 (3d Cir. 2003).

In N'Jai v. Pa. Dept. of Education, et al. , Civil Action No. 02-268 (W.D. Pa. 2003), Plaintiff asserted claims against the Pennsylvania Department of Education ("DOE"), the Board, the PFT, Anthony Sanchez and Andrews & Price, and other individuals associated with those organizations, including two additional law firms and several attorneys. (Civ. A. No. 02-268, Docket No. 39 at 1-2). Plaintiff claimed that she was wrongfully terminated from her position as a teacher. When she attempted to appeal her termination to the DOE, it was dismissed as untimely. ( Id. at 3-4). Judge Standish granted defendants' motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims as the court found that 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 763(a)(1) granted exclusive jurisdiction over appeals from final orders of Commonwealth agencies to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. ( Id. at 11). The court further opined that because Plaintiff failed to effectively serve several defendants with process,*fn20 those defendants were accordingly dismissed from the action. ( Id. at 6-10). The court also noted that Plaintiff had filed numerous lawsuits in federal court before this case and should have gained experience and familiarity with the proper procedures, particularly in light of the "lengthy opinions instructing plaintiff on the necessity of proper service[.]" ( Id. at 7-8).

B. State Court

In 2001, in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, Plaintiff initiated N'Jai v. Anthony Sanchez, et al. , No. 522 C.D. 2003 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2004), by filing a criminal complaint against the Board, Anthony Sanchez, the PFT, and several other defendants associated with either the Pittsburgh schools, the PFT, or law firms that had previously represented the Board, some of which were named defendants in Plaintiff's previous lawsuits. (No. 522 C.D. 2003, Memorandum Opinion at 1-2). Her claims included malicious prosecution, malicious abuse of legal process, "persistent negligence" and "persistent violations of school laws" including the Whistleblowers Act, and "persistent cruelty." ( Id. at 3)

In its per curiam opinion, the Commonwealth Court noted that Plaintiff's complaint "repeated many of the allegations made in her numerous other law suits, such as discrimination, harassment, denial of benefits, exposure to disease, and theft of paychecks." ( Id. ) The court treated Plaintiff's criminal complaint as a civil action for damages and transferred the case to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas for lack of jurisdiction in the Commonwealth Court. ( Id. at 2). The Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas dismissed Plaintiff's complaint because she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies and failed to state a cause of action. ( Id. at 1). Plaintiff appealed to the Commonwealth Court where the dismissal was affirmed. ( Id. at 7). In affirming, the court noted that any inconveniences to Plaintiff were of "her own making" due to her "failure to comply with the rules of the court" and to that end, the court highlighted several procedural missteps by Plaintiff including lack of proper service on the defendants and failure to comply with the Pennsylvania Rules of Appellate Procedure. ( Id. at n.12). The court further reflected that many of the questions Plaintiff posed for review were "so vague to defy meaningful appellate review." ( Id. ).

V. Factual Background of the Instant Action

The Court gleans the following relevant factual background from Plaintiff's Complaint (Docket No. 3),*fn21 Plaintiff's response to this Court's Order to Show Cause (Docket No. 54 and 55), the transcript from the hearing on this Court's Order to Show Cause held on January 30, 2009, including Plaintiff's sworn testimony (Docket No. 72), and Plaintiff's Brief in Response to the Oral Argument on January 30, 2009. (Docket No. 69).

The Pittsburgh Board is the School District of Pittsburgh, a previous employer of Plaintiff. ( Id. at ¶ 10). The Commonwealth Defendants are the PHRC and its individual employees. The PRHC is a state agency acting under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. §§ 951-953. ( Id. at ¶ 7). Wilkinsburg is a school district located in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. ( Id. at ¶ 8). The gravamen of Plaintiff's claims are that these Defendants acted together in order to deprive Plaintiff "of her right to recover for deliberate and long-term discrimination from 1994-2006, thereby violating both federal and state law." ( Id. at ¶¶ 12-14). Specifically, she claims she has been discriminated against by Defendants on the basis of various protected traits, including race, age, and perceived disability.

In response to Plaintiff's Complaint, each of the following Defendants filed a motion to dismiss: Andrews & Price and attorney Anthony Sanchez (Docket No. 22); the Board (Docket No. 27); Wilkinsburg (Docket No. 31); and the Commonwealth Defendants (Docket No. 35). As noted above, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's claims against Andrews & Price and Mr. Sanchez with prejudice. (Docket No. 42). Hence, they are no longer parties to the present action.*fn22 As to the Pittsburgh Board, the Court granted its motion to dismiss (Docket No. 27) without prejudice, allowing Plaintiff to file an amended complaint in order to comply with Rules 8 and 10 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and current federal pleading standards. ( See Docket No. 43 at 3).

As to the Commonwealth Defendants, the Court dismissed with prejudice all of Plaintiff's claims against these Defendants in their official capacities, specifically those claims brought under sections 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, and1988. (Docket No. 45 at 4). Additionally, the Court dismissed with prejudice Plaintiff's claims against these Defendants for alleged violations of the Freedom of Information Act and the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. ( Id. at 5-6). The Court permitted Plaintiff leave to amend her claim against the Commonwealth Defendants under the Right to Know Act. ( Id. at 7). As discussed herein, Plaintiff failed to amend her claim under the Right to Know Act against the Commonwealth Defendants.

With regard to Wilkinsburg, the Court dismissed the following claims with prejudice: (1) any and all claims under sections 1983 and1985 arising on or before November 6, 2005; (2) any and all claims under section 1986 arising before November 6, 2006; (3) Plaintiff's claim under section 1988; and (4) Plaintiff's claim under the Freedom of Information Act. (Docket No. 44). The Court granted Plaintiff leave to amend her claims against Wilkinsburg under section 1983, conspiracy under sections 1983 and 1985, section 1986, Title VII and ADA, the Whistleblower Act, and the Right to Know Act. ( Id. ). Plaintiff failed to amend.

In sum, Plaintiff's failure to amend her claims against any of the Defendants was the reason this Court dismissed this case for failure to prosecute. ( See Docket No. 46). The Court will now address Plaintiff's remaining claims against the Pittsburgh Board, the Commonwealth Defendants and Wilkinsburg.*fn23

A. Plaintiff's Remaining Claims Against the Pittsburgh Board

Plaintiff claims that when she applied for various positions within the Wilkinsburg School District, she listed the Board as a reference for her teaching experience. (Docket No. 3 at ¶ 23; Docket No. 72 at 30:14-20). Plaintiff had been previously employed by the Pittsburgh Board as a substitute teacher. (Docket No. 59 at 3; Docket No. 62 at 4). She alleges that the Board gave her "bad references" which resulted in her not being hired for any of the positions she applied for with Wilkinsburg. ( Id .) These claims were clarified at the January 30, 2009 Show Cause hearing as follows:

THE PLAINTIFF: My claim against the City of Pittsburgh is that when I filed for promotions and for jobs in the Wilkinsburg School District, I ...


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