U.S. Attorney Seeks Dismissal of Class Action Against Capitol Police

Posted January 6, 2004 at 12:50pm

The U.S. attorney’s office has filed a motion seeking to dismiss a class-action lawsuit against the Capitol Police Board, asserting that many of the current and retired black officers named in the class action failed to complete mediation or counseling required by the Congressional Accountability Act.

“Under the CAA, Congress has waived its sovereign immunity and consented to be sued in federal court for conduct covered explicitly by the CAA, but only after a plaintiff has exhausted enumerated jurisdictional prerequisites to obtaining a federal judicial forum,” the U.S. attorney’s office and Office of House Employment Council wrote in its Dec. 22 motion.

The CAA gives legislative branch employees the protection of 11 civil rights, fair-employment and anti-discrimination laws that prior to 1995 had not been applicable to Congress.

The lawsuit, Sharon Blackmon-Malloy et al v. U.S. Capitol Police Board (filed in 2001 by members of the U.S. Capitol Black Police Association), alleges that the Capitol Police Department denied promotions to, retaliated against, unfairly disciplined or fired more than 350 current and former black officers.

Attorneys representing the officers are expected to file a response later this month, and oral arguments from both sides are likely at a March 10 hearing before U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan.

In a related case, attorney Charles Day, who also represents the officers in the first class action, filed a second suit against the police board on Dec. 29, asserting that those same black officers have faced numerous counts of retaliation.

“Plaintiffs allege that Defendant U.S. Capitol Police Board has retaliated and discriminated against Plaintiffs through unwarranted disciplinary actions, denial of building access, and other harassment,” court documents state. Attorneys for the board have not yet filed a response.

The lawsuit, which includes all of the plaintiffs involved in the Blackmon-Malloy case, names officers Regina Bolden-Whitaker, Arnold Fields, Ave Maria Harris and retired officer Duvall Phelps as class agents.

During settlement negotiations attorneys for the officers had sought language creating “retaliation protection,” asserting that the second class action could be avoided. However, negotiations ended in mid-November when both sides failed to reach agreement on a variety of issues.

A Capitol Police spokeswoman could not be reached for comment.