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Jacquelyn B. N‟Jai v. Pittsburgh Board of Public

June 10, 2011

JACQUELYN B. N‟JAI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PITTSBURGH BOARD OF PUBLIC
EDUCATION, IMANI CHRISTIAN ACADEMY, NAACP, MILTON RAIFORD, JR., MARLON BARNETT, SHERICE COLES, MAISHA JOHNSON, JASON WASHINGTON, DERRICK TURNER, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I. Introduction

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Pittsburgh Board of Public Education‟s (the "Board") Motion for Order to Show Cause Why an Injunction Should Not Be Issued Directing the Clerk of Court to Refuse to Accept Complaints filed by N‟Jai Against the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education. (Docket No. 13). The Board argues that Plaintiff Jacqueline B. N‟Jai ("N‟Jai") should be enjoined from filing further lawsuits against it in which she attempts to re-litigate previously resolved matters. N‟Jai adamantly refutes the Board‟s position in this case, repeatedly arguing that it is different from her prior actions. (Docket No. 17 at 2). This matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons discussed herein, the Board‟s motion (Docket No. [13]) is DENIED.

II. Procedural History

On October 8, 2010, N‟Jai filed a Complaint against the Board, among other defendants. (Docket No. 4). Because N‟Jai referred to various of the defendants as "Defendants" throughout her Complaint, it was unclear which claims she asserted against each defendant. Although N‟Jai‟s claims were not well articulated, she continuously stated throughout her pleadings that her claims were against the Board for "invasion of privacy" and "retaliation." (Docket No. 104-3 at 2). On May 2, 2011, N‟Jai filed an Amended Complaint wherein she clarified her claims against the Board to some degree. (Docket No. 106). Plaintiff‟s claims against the Board now appear to be narrowed to Count VIII for the Board‟s alleged violation of the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a, and Count IX for intentional infliction of emotional distress, although N'Jai continues to reference vague acts of retaliation by Board employees in her Amended Complaint. (Docket No. 106 at 72-81).

The Board filed its motion for an injunction on December 22, 2010. (Docket No. 13). N‟Jai responded to the Board‟s motion for injunctive relief in two separate documents:*fn1 (1) Response Motion to Motion for Rule to Show Cause Why an Injunction Should not be Issued Directing the Clerk of Courts to Refuse to Accept Complaints Filed by Jacqueline B. N‟Jai A/K/A/ Jacqueline B. N‟Jai Against the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education (Docket No. 17) and (2) Response Brief to Motion for Rule to Show Cause Why an Injunction Should not be Issued Directing the Clerk of Courts to Refuse to Accept Complaints Filed by Jacqueline B. N‟Jai A/K/A/ Jacqueline B. N‟Jai Against the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education (Docket No. 18). To address the Board‟s motion, the Court held hearings on February 9, 2011; February 11, 2011; and February 22, 2011. (Docket Nos. 72, 73, 74).

Following the hearings, the Court ordered the submission of proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. (Docket No. 47). The Board filed its proposed findings of fact on April 7, 2011. (Docket No. 99). On April 20, 2011, N‟Jai filed documents with the Court collectively titled "Proposed Taking Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law as True; in Light Most Favorable to Pro Se Plaintiff, Jacqueline B. N‟Jai."*fn2 (Docket No. 104). The Board responded by filing its counterstatements on May 5, 2011. (Docket No. 110). Finally, N‟Jai filed her counterstatements on May 9, 2011. (Docket No. 111).

III. Findings of Fact

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a)(2), in granting or refusing preliminary injunctive relief, the court must set forth findings of facts and conclusions of law which constitute the grounds of its action. FED. R. CIV. P. 52(a)(2). "The findings and conclusions may be stated on the record after the close of the evidence or may appear in an opinion or a memorandum of decision filed by the court." FED. R. CIV. P. 52(a)(1). Rule 52 requires that the district court make the findings and conclusions as the findings, in part, serve as a necessary aid to the appellate courts. See Bradley v. Pittsburgh Board of Education, 910 F.2d 1172 (3d Cir. 1990) (vacating the district court‟s rejection of a preliminary injunction because of its failure to comply with Rule 52); see also PharMethod, Inc. v. Caserta, 382 F.App‟x. 214, 216 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Berguido v. Eastern Air Lines, Inc., 369 F.2d 874, 877 (3d Cir. 1966)). "The failure of the trial judge to comply literally with the provisions of Rule 52(a), although it has been characterized as a "dereliction of duty,‟ is not always a ground for reversal and remand with instructions to make specific findings as required by the rule.‟" PharMethod, Inc., 382 F.App‟x. at 217 (quoting Hazeltine Corp. v. Gen. Motors Corp., 131 F.2d 34, 37 (3d Cir. 1942)). "As long as the district court‟s opinion affords a "clear understanding of the basis of the decision .... and resolve[s] the major factual disputes, the mere formal requirement of separation of findings of fact and conclusions of law has been held not sufficient to necessitate a reversal.‟" Id.

At the hearing on February 9, 2011, the Board offered the testimony of Nancy Kusko, the Director of Benefits Administration for the Board, and entered into evidence a number of documents. (Docket No. 72 at 4). The Court finds her testimony credible.*fn3 Id. N‟Jai countered with her own testimony. (Docket No. 72 at 24). Throughout the hearing, N‟Jai submitted 31 documents into evidence including court documents from prior lawsuits as well as email communications with employees of Pennsylvania Employees Retirement System ("PSERS"). (Docket No. 45-1). In addition, the Board submitted communications that it has had with PSERS regarding N‟Jai‟s benefit payments. (Docket No. 72 at 6-7). These documents have been admitted into evidence and have been marked as exhibits. (Docket No. 45-1). The Court has considered and weighed all evidence before it including exhibits and testimony.

Given the nature of the present dispute and its relation to prior lawsuits filed by N‟Jai against the Board,*fn4 the Court makes the following findings of fact regarding her claims in the current lawsuit against the Board as well as N‟Jai‟s prior lawsuits in both federal and state court:

A. Facts Relating to N'Jai's PSERS Account

1. N‟Jai is a former employee of the Board, who was officially terminated on October 25, 2001. (Plt. Ex. 26); (Docket No. 72 at 68).

2. The Board is a political subdivision and local agency. (Docket No. 74 at 52).

3. Following her separation from the Board in 2001, N‟Jai applied for retirement benefits with the state agency that manages the public pension system for education employees in Pennsylvania, PSERS. (Docket No. 72 at 5, 68-69). N‟Jai was approved and received a pension benefit. (Docket No. 72 at 68-69).

4. At the time N‟Jai separated from the Board she used two different mailing addresses: (1) 519 Rebecca Avenue, Apt. D, Wilkinsburg, PA 15221 (the "Rebecca Avenue Address"); and, (2) P.O. Box 10133, Pittsburgh, PA 15232 (the "P.O. Box"). (Plt. Ex. 1); (Docket No. 18-1 at 17); (Docket No. 72 at 79).

5. At the time N‟Jai was separated from the Board in 2001, N‟Jai used the Rebecca Avenue address as her primary address. (Docket No. 72 at 69). N‟Jai is not sure when she started to use her P.O. Box address as her primary address. Id. She estimates that it was between 2005 and 2007. Id. at 69-70. At the hearing on February 9, 2011, N‟Jai provided a PSERS form that it received from her on April 19, 2007 in which N‟Jai provided that her P.O. Box address was her current address. (Plt. Ex. 1); (Docket No. 18-1 at 18); (Docket No. 72 at 71).

6. N‟Jai worked as a part-time employee for the Wilkinsburg School District ("Wilkinsburg") during the 2004-05 school year. (Docket No. 72 at 34, 73).

7. N‟Jai also began employment with a private school in November 2004, the Imani Christian Academy, but she continued to work for Wilkinsburg in a part-time capacity during the 2004-05 school year. (Docket No. 72 at 101-102). By 2006, N‟Jai was no longer working for Wilkinsburg. (Docket No. 72 at 76, 102).

8. Deductions were taken from N‟Jai‟s pay while she was at Wilkinsburg that went toward her PSERS retirement account. (Plt. Ex. 1); (Docket No. 18-1 at 19); (Docket No. 72 at 34, 73-74, 89-90).

9. At some point in time between the years 2005 and 2007, the Rebecca Avenue address no longer was a valid address for N‟Jai. (Plt. Ex. 1); (Docket No. 18-1 at 17); (Docket No. 72 at 69-70, 78).

10. N‟Jai apparently did not notify the Board of an address change between the years 2005 and 2007, (Docket No. 72 at 78-79), nor was she required to do so by the Board because she was no longer an active employee. (Docket No. 72 at 5-9, 100).

11. N‟Jai received her pension benefit via a monthly direct deposit to her bank account, except in one instance in February 2010 where PSERS withheld two direct deposit payments, (Docket No. 72 at 25, 69), because it believed it did not have a correct mailing address for N‟Jai for a period of over 15 months. (Plt. Ex. 1); (Docket No. 18-1 at 15, 23); (Docket No. 72 at 91). N‟Jai did not receive paper documentation for the monthly direct deposit. (Docket No. 72 at 80).

12. In January or February 2007, PSERS mailed an envelope to N‟Jai that was addressed to the Rebecca Avenue address. (Plt. Ex. 1); (Docket No. 18-1 at 19). Underneath PSERS‟ return address are the words "address service requested." Id. The envelope was undeliverable as addressed and because PSERS had requested "address service," the U.S. Postal Service sent PSERS a "Form 3547" informing PSERS that N‟Jai‟s new address was the P.O. Box.*fn5 Id.; (Docket No. 72 at 27).

13. On April 4, 2007, PSERS sent N‟Jai a letter, addressed to the P.O. Box, notifying her that it may have important information in its office for her and that before this information can be sent to her, it needs to receive notice of her current address. (Plt. Ex. 1); (Docket No. 18-1 at 18). The lower portion of the letter is a blank form that directs N‟Jai to provide her social security number, date of birth, current address, telephone number and signature. Id. The letter states that if the social security number and date of birth match PSERS‟ records, it will update N‟Jai‟s address and forward any documents in its possession. Id.; (Docket No. 72 at 27). N‟Jai completed this form providing her P.O. Box address as her current address. (Plt. Ex. 1); (Docket No. 18-1 at 18). PSERS received the form on April 19, 2007. (Plt. Ex. 1); (Docket No. 18-1 at 18); (Docket No. 72 at 27, 92).

14. In February 2008, PSERS sent a letter to N‟Jai at the Rebecca Avenue address. (Plt. Ex. 1); (Docket No. 18-1 at 19). This letter informed her that during the 2004-2005 school year, her service to Wilkinsburg as a part-time school employee was reported to PSERS and contributions were deducted from her wages and sent to PSERS. Id. The letter further informs N‟Jai that she did not meet the minimum employment requirements (500 hours or 80 days of employment) during the 2004-2005 school year and, therefore, her contributions in the net amount of $512.37 will be returned to her. Id.; (Docket No. 72 at 27).

15. Plaintiff‟s Exhibit 1 contains an envelope marked "Return to Sender. Not deliverable as Addressed." (Plt. Ex. 1); (Docket No. 18-1 at 20). It appears that PSERS attempted to send N‟Jai a letter at the Rebecca Avenue address and that this letter was returned to PSERS on March 7, 2008. (Plt. Ex. 1); (Docket No. 18-1 at 20); (Docket No. 72 at 28).

16. In or around February 2009, PSERS mailed a 1099 Federal Income Tax Form to N‟Jai at the Rebecca Avenue address. This document was returned to PSERS because it was not deliverable as addressed. (Plt. Ex. 1); (Docket No. 18-1 at 21); (Docket No. 72 at 28).

17. In or around January 2010, PSERS sent a 1099 Federal Income Tax Form to N‟Jai at the Rebecca Avenue address. This mailing was returned to PSERS because it was not deliverable as addressed. (Plt. Ex. 1); (Docket No. 18-1 at 22); (Docket No. 72 at 28).

18. PSERS has a procedure for automatically discontinuing payment if, after 15 months, they do not have a correct address for a pensioner. (Plt. Ex. 1); (Docket No. 18-1 at 15); Plt. Ex. 11); (Docket No. 72 at 91).

19. In or around February and March 2010, PSERS suspended payments to N‟Jai because it believed it had an invalid address for her for at least 15 months. (Plt. Ex. 1); (Docket No. 18-1 at 15); (Plt. Ex. 15).

20. Because PSERS removed N‟Jai from its payroll, two direct deposits that would have otherwise been made to her bank account on February 26, 2010 and March 31, 2010 were not made. (Docket No. 72 at 25, 28-29).

21. When N‟Jai realized that the direct deposit had not been made to her account, she contacted PSERS and spoke with a person named Sandra J. Boyle. (Docket No. 72 at 29). N‟Jai also communicated with other persons at PSERS via telephone and email after the pension benefits were suspended, but she does not remember the names of these persons other than Sandra Boyle and a person named Evelyn Tatkovski. (Plt. Ex. 9); (Plt. Ex. 11); (Docket No. 72 at 30-32, 99) All of the PSERS employees N‟Jai communicated with were located in PSERS‟ Harrisburg office. (Docket No. 72 at 100).

22. As a result of N‟Jai‟s conversation with Ms. Boyle, N‟Jai completed and submitted a "change of address for PSERS retirees" form on March 1, 2010. (Plt. Ex. 1); (Docket No. 18-1 at 25); (Docket No. 72 at 29, 31-32, 87).

23. On March 3, 2010, N‟Jai sent an email to "PS, Contact" stating that on February 26, 2010 she did not receive her direct deposit check. (Plt. Ex. 9). N‟Jai stated that she called to find out why and was told that her 1099 form had been returned to PSERS and that it would take 3-4 weeks to issue payment. Id. N‟Jai also requested an explanation in writing as to why the direct deposit was suspended. (Plt. Ex. 9).

24. On March 4, 2010 a person named "Carol" emailed N‟Jai and stated that it is PSERS practice to temporarily suspend a direct deposit when an invalid address is involved. (Plt. Ex. 9).

25. On March 4, 2010, N‟Jai sent another email to "PS, Contact" stating that she faxed a change of address form on March 1, 2010. (Plt. Ex. 9).

26. On March 9, 2010, N‟Jai sent another email to "PS, Contact" requesting a written policy that states PSERS can suspend direct deposit because PSERS lacks a correct address. (Plt. Ex. 9). N‟Jai stated that PSERS has had the P.O. Box address since 2001. Id.

27. On March 11, 2010, N‟Jai‟s March 9, 2010 e-mail was forwarded to a PSERS employee, Sandra Colantuono. (Plt. Ex. 11).

28. On March 12, 2010, Ms. Colantuono sent an email to N‟Jai, requesting that N‟Jai fax PSERS a letter indicating her correct address. (Plt. Ex. 11). N‟Jai responded that she had already sent a signed letter. Id.

29. Sandra J. Boyle of PSERS then sent N‟Jai a letter on March 31, 2010, explaining that PSERS had made an error and was in the process of reinstating her monthly direct deposit. (Plt. Ex. 1); (Docket No. 18-1 at 23); (Docket No. 72 at 28-29). Ms. Boyle stated that the funds that should have been electronically deposited into N‟Jai‟s account on February 26, 2010 were not issued until March 22, 2010 and the funds due to her on March 31, 2010 were not issued until April 8, 2010. Id. The delayed funds were ultimately electronically deposited into N‟Jai‟s account. (Docket No. 72 at 75); (Docket No. 74 at 43).

30. On April 12, 2010, PSERS received a request from N‟Jai for her PSERS account records pursuant to the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law,*fn6 including all written information regarding the change in the address PSERS had on file for N‟Jai. (Plt. Ex. 8); (Docket No. 72 at 25, 31, 32, 98).

31. PSERS responded to N‟Jai‟s request on April 16, 2010 by providing records responsive to her request along with a cover letter signed by Evelyn Tatkovski. (Plt. Ex. 1); (Docket No. 18-1 at 24). Ms. Tatkovski‟s letter informed N‟Jai that PSERS members are not required to file a Right to Know Law Request for information about their own accounts. Id.

32. Aside from the two pension payments from February 26, 2010 and March 31, 2010 that were delayed, N‟Jai has continuously received a benefit from ...


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