United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
C. DEVER, III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
29, 2018, Sherry Crowder ("Crowder" or
"plaintiff') filed a complaint against the North
Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts
("NCAOC"), Judge N. Hunt Gwyn ("Judge
Gwyn"), Judge Christopher W. Bragg ("Judge
Bragg"), J.R. Rowell ("Rowell"), and the
United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
("EEOC"; collectively, "defendants"),
alleging that defendants violated Title VH of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et
seq. ("Title VH") [D.E. 1]. On July 25, 2018, the
EEOC moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of
subject-matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim
[D.E. 14] and filed a memorandum in support [D.E. 15]. On
August 15, 2018, Crowder responded in opposition [D.E. 18].
On August 22, 2018, the EEOC replied [D.E. 20]. On July 26,
2018, NCAOC, Judge Gwyn, Judge Bragg, and Rowell moved to
dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction and for
failure to state a claim [D.E. 16] and filed a memorandum in
support [D.E. 17]. On August 16, 2018, Crowder responded in
opposition [D.E. 19]. As explained below, the court grants
the motions to dismiss.
January 1, 1993, Crowder became a magistrate in Judicial
District 20-B. See Compl. [D.E. 1] ¶ 11. She
served as a magistrate for six consecutive terms from 1993
until 2016. See id. In 2010, Judge Bragg, who was
the Chief District Court Judge of Judicial District 20-B,
appointed Crowder as Chief Magistrate. See id ¶
12. In 2011, Judge Gwyn became the Chief District Court Judge
of Judicial District 20-B and reappointed Crowder as Chief
Magistrate. See Id. ¶ 13. On December
31, 2016, Crowder's term as Chief Magistrate ended.
28, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth
Circuit held that Virginia's marriage laws were
unconstitutional to the extent that the laws
"prevent[ed] same-sex couples from marrying and
prohibit[ed] Virginia from recognizing same-sex couples'
lawful out-of-state marriages." Bostic v.
Schaefer, 760 F.3d 352, 384 (4th Cir. 2014). Federal
district courts in North Carolina then applied that holding
to North Carolina's marriage laws. See
Fisher-Borne v. Smith. 14 F.Supp.3d 695, 697-98
(M.D. N.C. 2014); Gen. Synod of the United Church of
Christ v. Resinger, 12 F.Supp.3d 790, 791-92 (W.D. N.C.
2014). Because North Carolina law empowers magistrates to
perform marriages, on October 13 and 14, 2014, NCAOC issued
guidance to magistrates concerning these decisions.
See Compl. ¶¶ 16-18.
2014, Gayle Myrick ("Myrick") was a magistrate in
Union County. See Id. ¶ 19. When
Myrick received NCAOC's guidance, she felt that
compliance would violate her First Amendment right to free
exercise of religion. See Id. ¶ 20.
Thus, Myrick sought an accommodation from Judge Gwyn, her
supervisor, to avoid participation as a magistrate in a
same-sex marriage. See Id. ¶ 21. When
Myrick did not receive any accommodation, she resigned.
See Id. ¶¶ 21-22.
then filed a charge with EEOC that alleged that the events
leading to her resignation constituted religious
discrimination in violation of federal law. See
Id. ¶ 23. The EEOC determined that the
Government Employee Rights Act of 1991 ("GERA"),
not Title VJI, applied to Myrick and, following the
procedures in GERA, appointed an Administrative Law Judge
("ALT') to adjudicate her claim. See
Id. ¶ 24. After investigation, the ALT found
that Judge Gwyn, Judge Bragg, and NCAOC discriminated against
Myrick based on her religion, and the parties eventually
resolved the matter. See id ¶¶ 25-28.
testified as part of the ALJ's investigation into
Myrick's religious discrimination claim. See
Id. ¶ 30. Crowder did not believe that her
testimony would jeopardize her renomination to a new term as
Chief Magistrate. See Id. Crowder testified
that, in her opinion, the Union County magistrates'
office could have accommodated Myrick's request for an
accommodation for at least a few months. See
Id. ¶ 31. Crowder alleges that the ALT relied
on Crowder's testimony to find that Judge Gwyn, Judge
Bragg, and NCAOC had engaged in religious discrimination.
alleges that her testimony caused Judges Gwyn and Bragg to
retaliate against her by not renominating her for a new term
as Chief Magistrate. See Id. ¶ 33.
Crowder alleges that, within a few weeks of her testimony,
Judge Gwyn, Judge Bragg, and Rowell began to collect
information concerning Crowder to justify their decision not
to reappoint her to a new term. See Id.
¶ 34. For example, on September 30, 2016, Judge Gwyn met
with law enforcement officers to gather information
concerning Crowder. See Id. ¶ 36.
Judge Gwyn, Judge Bragg, and Rowell allegedly learned of
several complaints against Crowder. See Id.
¶¶ 35-37. Although the alleged conduct described in
the complaints predated Crowder's testimony in the Myrick
investigation, defendants did not address the complaints
before December 15, 2016. See Id. ¶
December 15, 2016, Judge Gwyn, Judge Bragg, and Rowell
informed Crowder that Rowell would not renominate her for a
new term. See Id. ¶ 39. They did not
explain the decision. See id. During Crowder's
time as magistrate, all eligible magistrates who did not
resign or retire had bee nrenominated. See
Id. ¶ 40. Thus, Crowder had expected to serve a
new term because she was 55-years-old and did not plan to
retire. See Id. ¶¶ 41, 43. A
24-year-old white woman whose mother works with Rowell
replaced Crowder. See Id. ¶ 42.
Crowder is African-American. See Id. ¶
15, 2016, as part of the Myrick investigation, Judge Gwyn
testified that Myrick, Crowder, and another magistrate came
into his office and that either Myrick or the other
magistrate stated that "in Union County there are some
parts of those federal laws that we don't follow, quite
like they do in other places." Id. ¶ 32.
Judge Gwyn was surprised that magistrates under his
supervision felt that way. See Id. On
September 7, 2016, Judge Gwyn testified that this statement
caused him concern over whether the magistrates under his
supervision would disregard other controversial areas of
federal law, such as the Fourth Amendment's probable
cause requirement for search warrants. See
Id. Judge Gwyn also could not remember if Crowder
had chastised Myrick for not coming to her before seeking an
accommodation. See Id. Crowder testified
that she did not say that magistrates in Union County do not
always follow federal law and that she personally would
follow federal law to the best of her abilities. See
id, Crowder did not remember anyone making that statement
during the meeting with Judge Gwyn and also did not remember
scolding Myrick for not coming to her before seeking an
accommodation. See id.
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure 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't523 U.S. 83, 89 (1998) (emphasis
omitted); seeHolloway v. Pagan River Dockside
Seafood. Inc.. 669 F.3d 448, 453 (4th Cir. 2012);
Constantine v. Rectors & Visitors of George Mason
Univ.,411 F.3d 474, 479-80 (4th Cir. 2005). A federal
court "must determine that it has subject-matter
jurisdiction over the case before it can pass on the merits
of that case." Constantine, 41 lF.3d at 479-80. As the
party invoking federal jurisdiction, Crowder bears the burden
of establishing that this court has subject-matter
jurisdiction in this action. See. e.g., Steel
Co.. 523 U.S. at 104; Evans v. B.F. Pairing
Co., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999); Richmond.
Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. v. United States., 945
F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991). In considering a motion to
dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, the court may consider
evidence outside the pleadings. See, ...