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Buhendwa v. Regional Transportation District

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 10, 2015


Madina Buhendwa, Plaintiff, Pro Se, Boulder, CO.

For Regional Transportation District, University Based Pass, CU Student Bus Pass, Board of Directors, in their official capacity, Bill James, Barbara Deadwler, Angie Rivera Malpiede, Jeff Walker, Claudia Folska, Tom Tobiassen, Gary Lasater, Kent Bagley, Judy Lubow, Larry Hoy, Paul Daniel Solano, Loraine Anderson, Natalie Menten, Bruce Daly, Charles L. Sisk, Defendants: Rolf Gunnar Asphaug, Regional Transportation District, Department of General Counsel, Denver, CO.


PHILIP A. BRIMMER, United States District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Craig B. Shaffer (the " Recommendation" ) filed on February 6, 2015 [Docket No. 41]. The magistrate judge recommends that the Court grant two motions to dismiss, one filed by defendant Regional Transportation District (" RTD" ) [Docket No. 10] and a second filed by defendants Charles L. Sisk, Bruce Daly, Natalie Menten, Lorraine Anderson, Paul Daniel Solano, Judy Lubow, Larry Hoy, Kent Bagley, Gary Lasater, Tom Tobiassen, Claudia Folska, Jeff Walker, Angie Rivera Malpiede, Barbara Deadwyler, Bill James, and the 15 RTD Board of Directors (collectively, the " board members" ) [Docket No. 31].[1] Plaintiff filed timely objections to the Recommendation on February 20, 2015. Docket No. 42.

The Court will " determine de novo any part of the magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3). In the absence of a proper objection, the Court may review a magistrate judge's recommendation under any standard it deems appropriate. See Summers v. Utah, 927 F.2d 1165, 1167 (10th Cir. 1991); see also Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150, 106 S.Ct. 466, 88 L.Ed.2d 435 (1985) (" [i]t does not appear that Congress intended to require district court review of a magistrate's factual or legal conclusions, under a de novo or any other standard, when neither party objects to those findings" ). An objection is proper if it is specific enough to enable the Court " to focus attention on those issues--factual and legal--that are at the heart of the parties' dispute." United States v. One Parcel of Real Prop., 73 F.3d 1057, 1059 (10th Cir. 1996). In light of plaintiff's pro se status, the Court construes her filings liberally. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972); Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 & n.3 (10th Cir. 1991).


Plaintiff brings claims of statutory race discrimination and tortious interference with contract on the basis that defendant RTD restricted her access to its public transportation services because of her race.[2]

Plaintiff brought a previous federal lawsuit against defendant RTD seeking damages for (1) violation of her Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection and due process pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, (2) interference with her contractual rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, (3) racial discrimination in violation of Title VI, and (4) tortious interference with contractual rights. See Buhendwa v. Regional Transp. Dist., Case No. 12-cv-01711-PAB-CBS (" Buhendwa I " ) (Docket No. 12).[3] On March 22, 2013, the Court granted RTD's motion to dismiss. Id. (Docket No. 18). Plaintiff appealed. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's claims. Buhendwa v. Regional Transp. Dist., 553 F.App'x 768 (10th Cir. 2014). Further relevant facts are set forth in detail in the Recommendation, see Docket No. 41 at 2-6, and will not be recited here.

A. Statutory Claims

Plaintiff objects to the Recommendation's finding that her federal statutory claims are barred by the doctrine of res judicata because of the dismissal of plaintiff's previous federal lawsuit. Docket No. 42 at 7. " The doctrine of res judicata, or claim preclusion, will prevent a party from relitigating a legal claim that was or could have been the subject of a previously issued final judgment." MACTEC, Inc. v. Gorelick, 427 F.3d 821, 831 (10th Cir. 2005) (internal citations omitted). Three elements are required to apply the doctrine of claim preclusion: (1) a final judgment on the merits in an earlier action, (2) identity or privity of the parties in the two suits, and (3) identity of the cause of action in both suits. Id. (citing Wilkes v. Wyo. Dep't of Emp't Div. of Labor Stds., 314 F.3d 501, 504 (10th Cir. 2003)). " If these requirements are met, [claim preclusion] is appropriate unless the party seeking to avoid preclusion did not have a 'full and fair opportunity' to litigate the claim in the prior suit." Id. (citing Yapp v. Excel Corp., 186 F.3d 1222, 1226 n.4 (10th Cir. 1999)).

Plaintiff's lone objection to the Recommendation's finding on claim preclusion is that the defendant board members were not in privity with the RTD because the board members were not defendants in the earlier suit. See Docket No. 42 at 6-7, ¶ 25. Plaintiff, however, does not dispute the Recommendation's finding that the claims in the instant case are identical to those she brought in Buhendwa I, that she had a full and fair opportunity to litigate her claims in the prior action, and that plaintiff and the RTD were parties to the earlier action.

" RTD is a political subdivision of the state of Colorado" and is considered a " local government unit." Elam Constr., Inc. v. Regional Transp. Dist., 129 F.3d 1343, 1345-46 (10th Cir. 1997). The board members are the RTD's governing body. See Colo. Rev. Stat. § 32-9-109.5. The Tenth Circuit has held that " [t]here is privity between officers of the same government so that a judgment in a suit between a party and a representative of the [government] is res judicata in relitigation of the same issue between that party and another officer of the government." United States v. Rogers, 960 F.2d 1501, 1509 (10th Cir. 1992); see also Dean v. Mississippi Bd. of Bar Admissions, 394 F.App'x 172, 177 (5th Cir. 2010) (finding claims precluded where, " [i]n [the first case], only the Board was a named defendant," while in the second case, " the Board's members are named individually as defendants" but " [plaintiff's] allegations only refer to actions taken by the individual defendants while functioning in their capacities as Board members" ); Simonsen v. Chicago Bd. of Educ., 115 F.App'x 887, 889-90 (7th Cir. 2004) (" the inclusion of individual board members as defendants in the federal suit does not prevent the application of claim preclusion because a government and its officers are in privity for purposes of res judicata" ) (quotation and citation omitted).

Because the board members are in privity with the RTD, plaintiff's claims against them in their official capacity are barred by the doctrine of res judicata. Accordingly, the Court finds ...

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