United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Eastern Division
DANIELLE R. GOINS, Plaintiff,
ROBERT M. SPEER, acting Secretary of the Army, and DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY, Defendants.
C. DEVER III CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
April 8, 2016, Danielle R. Goins ("Goins") filed a
complaint against the Secretary of the Army and the
Department of the Army ("the government") alleging
breach of contract based on a settlement agreement the
parties executed in October 2004 to resolve a Title VII case
[D.E. 1]. On April 19, 2016, Goins filed an amended complaint
[D.E. 3]. Goins seeks specific performance of the
settlement agreement and compensatory damages "in excess
of $58, 631.00." Id. Prayer for Relief. On
October 31, 2016, the government answered [D.E. 8]. On
December 14, 2016, the government moved to dismiss
Goins's amended complaint for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction [D.E. 10] and filed a supporting memorandum
[D.E. 11]. On January 4, 2017, Goins responded in opposition
[D.E. 16]. On January 6, 2017, Goins moved to amend her
complaint [D.E. 18]. On January 18, 2017, the government
responded in opposition to Goins's motion to amend [D.E.
19] and replied to Goins's response in opposition to the
government's motion to dismiss [D.E. 20]. As explained
below, the court grants the government's motion to
dismiss and denies as futile Goins's motion to amend her
December 3, 2003, Goins sued the Acting Secretary of the
Department of the Army in this district. See Complaint,
Evans v. Brownlee. 5:03-CV-897, Compl. [D.E. 1]
(E.D. N.C. ). A civilian employee, Goins alleged that the
Army had fired her during her probationary period because of
her race and sex in violation of Title VII. See Id.
¶¶ 1, 3-4. On October 6, 2004, the parties executed
a settlement agreement ("the settlement
agreement"). See Am. Compl. [D.E. 3] ¶ 8; [D.E.
8-2] (settlement agreement). The Army agreed to remove a form
in Goins's personnel file stating that she had been
terminated during her probationary period and to replace it
with one stating that Goins had resigned for personal
reasons. See [D.E. 8-2] ¶ 3(b); Am. Compl. ¶ 11.
The Army agreed to cancel the original form and expunge it
from Army records and Goins's personnel file. [D.E. 8-2]
¶ 3(c), In return, Goins agreed to dismiss the action
with prejudice and to not seek employment with the Army for
three years. Id. ¶ 3(d), (f). The settlement
agreement also provided that it "constitute[d] the
complete understanding" between Goins and the Army and
that "[n]o other terms, promises, or agreements will
have any force or effect unless reduced to writing and signed
by all the parties to the Agreement." Id.
¶ 2. The court never approved the settlement,
incorporated it into an order, or explicitly retained
jurisdiction over its enforcement. On November 8, 2004, Goins
filed a stipulation of dismissal with prejudice. See
Evans v. Brownlee. 5:03-CV-897, [D.E. 9] (E.D. N.C. ).
December 1, 2004, an employee of the Army notified Goins that
the Army had removed the original form stating that Goins had
been terminated during her probationary period and replaced
it with a form stating that she had resigned for personal
reasons. Am. Compl. ¶ 12. On September 7, 2006, in
response to Goins's inquiries, the Army again told Goins
that it had removed and destroyed the original form.
Id. ¶¶ 13-17.
February 9, 2015, Goins obtained a conditional appointment to
serve in the Ultrasound Section of the U.S. Army Medical
Command's Department of Radiology. Id. ¶
18. Around March 2015, Goins applied to serve as a
Supervisory Medical Instrument Technician (Ultrasound) with
the U.S. Army Medical Command. Id.¶19. In her
application, Goins stated that she had resigned from her
position that was the subject of the 2003 lawsuit and
resulting settlement agreement. Id. ¶ 20. After
applying, Goins learned she was being investigated for
allegedly lying about having resigned from her previous
position. Id. ¶ 21. Nothing came of the
investigation, but Goins did not obtain the position and its
$58, 631.00 annual salary. Id. ¶¶ 22-23.
December 8, 2015, Goins reviewed her personnel file.
Id. ¶ 24. She discovered that the Army had not
replaced the original form. Id. ¶ 25. Her
electronic personnel file similarly stated that she was
terminated during her probationary period. Id.
December 17, 2015, Goins wrote the Equal Employment
Opportunity ("EEO") Director at Fort Bragg.
Id. ¶ 27; see [D.E. 8-9]. Goins alleged that
the Army had breached the settlement agreement and demanded
$55, 000.00 in compensatory damages. Am. Compl. ¶ 27;
[D.E. 8-9]. On December 21, 2015, the EEO Director told Goins
to notify the Director of EEO Compliance and Complaints
Review at Fort Belvoir of the alleged breach. Am. Compl.
¶ 28; [D.E. 8-10]. On January 5, 2016, Goins contacted
the Director of EEO Compliance and Complaints Review
concerning the alleged breach. See Am. Compl. ¶ 29.
January 12, 2016, the Director of EEO Compliance and
Complaints Review issued a Final Decision denying Goins's
request for relief because the agency lacked jurisdiction to
render a decision. [D.E. 8-3]. The agency lacked jurisdiction
because "the allegation of noncompliance involves a
settlement agreement reached in United States District Court
and the settlement agreement neither resolved other pending
administrative claims nor contained a blanket waiver of all
pending EEO claims." Id. at 2. In support, the
Final Decision cited EEOC opinions holding that the agency
lacks jurisdiction to entertain allegations that a federal
agency breached a settlement agreement entered into to
resolve a civil action filed in a United States District
Court. Id. at 3. The Final Decision concluded that
Goins's "allegations of breach of the civil action
settlement agreement should be raised in a different forum
such as a United States [D]istrict [C]ourt."
Id. The Final Decision also stated that Goins could
appeal to the EEOC or, "[i]n lieu of an appeal to the
Commission, " that Goins "may file a lawsuit in the
appropriate United States District Court" as
"authorized under Title VII, the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act ('ADEA'), and the Rehabilitation
Act." Id. at 5.
April 8, 2016, Goins filed a complaint in this court against
the Secretary of the Army and the Department of the Army
alleging breach of the settlement agreement [D.E.I]. Goins
seeks specific performance of the settlement agreement and
compensatory damages "in excess of $58, 631.00."
[D.E. 3] Prayer for Relief.
government moves to dismiss Goins's complaint for lack of
subject-matter jurisdiction. A motion to dismiss under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) tests subject-matter
jurisdiction, which is "the court's statutory or
constitutional power to adjudicate the case." Steel
Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't 523 U.S. 83, 89
(1998) (emphasis omitted); see Hollowav v. Paean River
Dockside Seafood Inc.. 669 F.3d 448, 453 (4th Cir.
2012). "[T]he party invoking federal jurisdiction bears
the burden of establishing its existence." Steel
Co.. 523 U.S. at 104; see, e.g., Evans v. B.F.
Perkins Co.T 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir.
1999). In considering a motion to dismiss for lack of subj
ect-matter jurisdiction, the court may consider evidence
outside the pleadings without converting the motion into one
for summary judgment. See, e.g.. Richmond. Fredericksburg
& Potomac R.R. Co. v. United States. 945 F.2d 765,
768 (4th Cir. 1991).
of a settlement agreement, "whether through award of
damages or decree of specific performance, is more than just
a continuation or renewal of the dismissed suit, and hence
requires its own basis for jurisdiction." Kokkonen
v. Guardian T.ife Tns. Co. of Am.. 511 U.S. 375, 378
(1994). One such basis arises when the district court retains
jurisdiction over a settlement agreement's enforcement.
For jurisdiction to exist on this basis, "[t]he
obligation to comply with a settlement's terms must be
expressly made part of a court's order." Smyth
ex rel. Smyth v. Rivero. 282 F.3d 268, 283 (4th Cir.
2002). A district court cannot enforce a settlement agreement
"unless the obligation to comply with its terms is
'made part of the order of dismissal-either by separate
provision (such as a provision 'retaining
jurisdiction' over the settlement agreement) or by
incorporating the terms of the settlement agreement in the
order.'" IcL at 280-81 (quoting Kokkonen, 511 U.S.
2004, the court did not expressly make the settlement
agreement's terms part of a court order. Accordingly,
"jurisdiction to enforce the settlement agreement [does]
exist absent some independent basis of ...