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Williams v. City of Austin

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division

July 25, 2017




         Before the Court is the motion of Debra L. Stephens (“Stephens”) to Intervene as Plaintiff. (Dkt. 17). By way of her motion, Stephens asserts that she satisfies the requirements for intervention as of right and permissive intervention and thus requests leave to intervene as a plaintiff in this matter. The Court disagrees and, for the reasons that follow, denies her motion.


         Plaintiff Blayne D. Williams, formerly a police officer employed by the Austin Police Department (“APD”), brought this action against the City of Austin, the Austin Police Department, Police Chief Art Acevedo, police monitor Margo Frasier, and police commander Fred Fletcher.[1]

         Plaintiff's allegations largely concerned disciplinary actions taken against him up to the eventual termination of his employment in the summer of 2015. Plaintiff asserted that this discipline violated several of his federal constitutional rights and was contrary to state law and his collective bargaining agreement. Plaintiff also raised claims concerning Acevedo's decision to terminate APD's secondary employment contract and purported retaliation following his reports of criminal activities by City employees.

         The Court dismissed Plaintiff's claims on July 10, 2017, finding that the allegations contained in Plaintiff's complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (See Order, Dkt. 16). The court dismissed several claims with prejudice but granted Plaintiff leave to amend his other claims within fourteen days of the issuance of the order. The deadline to file an amended complaint was thus July 24, 2017. Plaintiff did not file an amended complaint and, on July 25, 2017, the Court entered final judgment dismissing Plaintiff's claims with prejudice.

         Stephens filed her motion to intervene on July 17, 2017, one week after the Court granted the motion to dismiss Plaintiff's action. She claims to have a direct interest in the litigation because she, like Plaintiff, is claiming discrimination and retaliation leading to her termination from the APD Laboratory. Stephens's allegations concern gender discrimination, rather than the racial discrimination that Plaintiff complained of. The individuals Stephens accuses of perpetuating discrimination are also different from those named as defendants in Plaintiff's actions. Additionally, it is unclear when the events described in Stephens's motion have taken place.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24 provides for two avenues to intervene in an action: intervention of right and permissive intervention. A person may intervene as of right if a federal statute gives her an unconditional right to do so. Absent a statutory right, however, a movant must satisfy four requirements in order to intervene as of right under Rule 24(a): (1) the motion to intervene must be timely; (2) the movant must demonstrate an interest that is related to the property or transaction forming the basis of the action in which she seeks to intervene; (3) the disposition of the main action must impair or impede the movant's ability to protect her interest; and (4) the existing parties must not adequately represent the movant's interest. Saldano v. Roach, 363 F.3d 545, 551 (5th Cir. 2004). “Failure to satisfy any one requirement precludes intervention of right.” Haspel & Davis Milling & Planting Co. Ltd. v. Bd. of Levee Comm'rs, 493 F.3d 570, 578 (5th Cir. 2007).

         Where a movant does not meet the requirements for intervention of right, a court may still allow permissive intervention if a federal statute provides the individual with a conditional right to intervene, or if she “has a claim or defense that shares with the main action a common question of law or fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 24(b). The Court must consider whether the intervention will unduly delay or prejudice the adjudication of the rights of the original parties in exercising its discretion. Taylor Commc'ns Grp., Inc. v. Sw. Bell Tel. Co., 172 F.3d 385, 389 (5th Cir. 1999). A district court's decision to deny permissive intervention will be overturned only in extraordinary circumstances where the court has abused its discretion. Trans Chem. Ltd. v. China Nat'l Mach. Imp. & Exp. Corp., 332 F.3d 815, 825 (5th Cir. 2003).


         1. Intervention as of Right

         Stephens first argues that she has a statutory right to intervene in this action under 42 U.S.C. § 2000h-2. That statute provides that the United States Attorney General may intervene in the name of the United States in equal protection actions under the Fourteenth Amendment if the Attorney General certifies that the case is of general public importance. The statute is inapplicable because Stephens is not the Attorney General.

         The Court likewise concludes that Stephens does not satisfy the requirements for intervention under Rule 24(a)(2). First, she has not established an interest in Plaintiff's action. The Fifth Circuit has held that “the applicant's interest relating to the subject of the action must be ‘direct and substantial' and must be ‘something more than an economic interest.'” Trans Chem. Ltd., 332 F.3d at 823. “Moreover, ‘the interest must be one which the substantive law recognizes as belonging to or being owned by the applicant.'” Hartford Cas. Ins. Co. v. Border States Traffic Supply, Inc., No. EP-08-CV-118-PRM, 2009 WL 224107, at *2 (W.D. Tex. Jan. 12, 2009) (quoting Shaunfield v. Citicorp Diners Club, Inc., 2005 Dist. LEXIS 11244, at *17 (N.D. Tex. June 8, 2005)). Stephens has identified no such interest in Plaintiff's action, beyond claiming unrelated denial of equal protection on the basis of her gender-not her race-and retaliation for ...

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