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Robinson v. Clarksville Montgomery County School System

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

August 29, 2017


          Magistrate Judge Newbern


          ALETA A. TRAUGER, U.S. District Court Judge

         Pending before the court in this pro se civil rights action is the unopposed motion for summary judgment of Defendant Clarksville Montgomery County School System (Doc. No. 34). For the reasons stated herein, the motion is GRANTED.

         I. Statement of the Case

         A. Factual History [1]

         Plaintiff Culen Keith Robinson began working as an assistant principal at Clarksville High School within the Clarksville Montgomery County School System (CMCSS) during the 2009-10 school year. (Doc. No. 38, PageID# 117-18.) When CMCSS hired him, it was aware of Robinson's status as a reserve member of the United States Army. (Id. at PageID# 118-19, 121- 22.) On July 1, 2010, while the school system was on summer recess, Robinson received orders to report to Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico on July 18, 2010, for a period of fifty days plus travel time. (Id. at PageID# 126-27.) On September 10, 2010, Robinson received orders to report to Fort Knox, Kentucky, on September 13, 2010, for 462 days of active-duty service; this period of active duty continued until August 1, 2012, pursuant to subsequent orders issued on January 18, 2011 and December 9, 2011. (Id. at PageID# 136-38.) Robinson only provided CMCSS with the initial July 1, 2010 orders requiring his service. (Id. at PageID# 139-40.)

         On July 26, 2010, CMCSS Director of Human Resources Bruce Jobe approved Robinson's military service leave of absence based on the July 1, 2010 orders, which included a return-to-work date of September 9, 2010. (Doc. No. 40, PageID# 222.) Jobe's letter directed Robinson to notify CMCSS “immediately” when his “official return date has been determined.” (Id.) Around September 1 or 2, 2010, Robinson returned temporarily to Clarksville. (Doc. No. 38, PageID# 149-50, 157-58.) During this period, Jobe called Robinson's then-wife to inquire about Robinson's leave status. (Id. at PageID# 166; Doc. No. 40, PageID# 211.) Robinson responded by email on September 3, 2010, that he had been directed to receive specialized training at a different location and had stopped in Clarksville to visit his family on the way. (Doc. No. 40, PageID# 224-25.) Robinson stated that he could not give Jobe more information about his status because of national security concerns and concluded, “[s]ince this is a problem, I do not wish to have any controversies or create any enemies, so you can give my position to someone else.” (Id. at PageID# 225.) Robinson ended the email by stating, “I had all of the respect in the world for you because you were always professional and thoughtful towards me and thanks for that.” (Id.)

         On September 3, 2010, Jobe responded to Robinson's email, stating that he had called Robinson's wife because he “need[ed Robinson's] new orders if [he] desired to extent [sic] [his] leave.” (Id. at PageID# 224.) Jobe stated, “we knew there was a possibility of a request to extend and that it would have to be accompanied by your new orders.” (Id.) Jobe indicated that he could not fill Robinson's position until it was vacated and said that he could accept Robinson's email “as [his] written resignation effective immediately.” (Id.) Jobe stated that he would waive the required thirty-day notice period for resignation to “assure [Robinson's] continued good standing with CMCSS and protect [his] Tennessee license.” (Id.) Jobe concluded, “[t]hanks for your past service to the children of our community and your current service to our nation.” (Id.) Jobe then sent Robinson a letter accepting his resignation effective September 9, 2010. (Id. at PageID# 227.) Robinson did not respond to Jobe's email or letter or communicate with anyone else in the school district regarding his resignation. (Doc. No. 38, PageID# 160-61.)

         Robinson completed his military service on August 1, 2012, and did not seek re-employment with CMCSS upon his return. (Doc. No. 38, PageID# 117, 162-63.) Instead, Robinson obtained a position with the Lake County School System, where he worked from November 2012 until February 2014. (Doc. No. 38, PageID# 162-63.) He did not apply for another position with CMCSS until July 22, 2014. (Id.) Robinson apparently was not selected for that job. (See Id. at PageID# 174.)

         B. Procedural History

         On November 5, 2015, Robinson filed this action alleging violations of the reemployment and antidiscrimination provisions of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. § 4301, et seq. (Doc. No. 1.) Robinson's counsel subsequently was suspended from the practice of law in Tennessee and, on October 3, 2016, the court ordered that the case be held in abeyance until December 9, 2016, to allow Robinson to obtain new counsel or decide to go forward pro se. (Doc. No. 13.) On December 6, 2016, Robinson requested additional time to seek new counsel, (Doc. No. 15), and the court extended the stay until January 8, 2017. (Doc. No. 16.) No counsel entered an appearance by that date, and the court noted Robinson's pro se status. (Doc. No. 19.)

         On February 10, 2017, CMCSS filed a motion for summary judgment, accompanied by a supporting memorandum of law (Doc. No. 35) and statement of undisputed material facts (Doc. No. 36), as well as Robinson's deposition (Doc. No. 38) and the affidavits of Jobe (Doc. No. 40) and Phyllis Casebolt, the former principal of Clarksville High School who was Robinson's direct supervisor during the relevant period (Doc. No. 39). CMCSS argues that Robinson has failed to show that CMCSS took any adverse employment action against him because Robinson resigned his assistant principal position. (Doc. No. 35, PageID# 85-86.) CMCSS also asserts that Robinson's reemployment claim fails because he did not timely reapply for a position with CMCSS after completing his military service. (Id. at PageID# 87.)

         Robinson did not appear for a scheduled case management conference on March 2, 2017. (Doc. No. 43.) On March 3, 2017, the court ordered Robinson to respond to CMCSS's motion for summary judgment by April 5, 2017. (Doc. No. 43.) Robinson did not responded to CMCSS's motion or statement of undisputed material facts, nor has he filed his own statement of undisputed material facts. He has not filed anything in this action since December 6, 2016.[2]

         II. ...

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