Kloeckner v. Solis

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: January 17, 2012
  • Case #: 11-184
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 630 F.3d 1834 (8th Cir. 2011)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has sole subject matter jurisdiction over an appeal from a ruling by the Merit Systems Protection Board when the case includes both discrimination and unlawful termination claims.

In June 2005, Carolyn Kloeckner, who worked as a Senior Investigator for the Department of Labor (DOL), filed an equal employment opportunity (EEO) complaint alleging discrimination on account of her age and sex. In July 2005, the DOL charged Kloeckner for absence without leave and she amended her EEO complaint to include a charge of retaliation. Kloeckner never returned to work and was terminated effective July 21, 2006. Kloeckner appealed her termination to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). In August 2006, Kloeckner requested that the MSPB dismiss the appeal so that she could include the removal claim in her EEO complaint. The MSPB ordered the complaint dismissed without prejudice and stated that the case would not be accepted for refiling after January 2007. Kloeckner then amended her EEO complaint to include the removal claim, but the EEEOC cancelled a hearing on the complaint due to Kloeckner’s abuse of the discovery process and sent the EEO to the DOL for a final ruling. In October of 2007, the Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, issued a final agency action which upheld Kloeckner’s removal and rejected her claims of discrimination and retaliation. Kloeckner appealed to the MSPB which dismissed the appeal as untimely. She then filed in the D.C. District Court which transferred venue to the Eastern District of Missouri. The district court dismissed the complaint, holding that the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit had exclusive subject matter jurisdiction.

Kloeckner appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed the district court’s ruling. The Eight Circuit held that judicial review of all MSPB decisions are governed by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, which divided cases based on subject matter. According to the Act, most petitions for final review must be filed in the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, but those actions seeking review in cases of discrimination must be filed in the appropriate district court. Holding that Kloeckner’s dispute became a mixed case when she challenged her removal while the discrimination complaint was pending, the Eight Circuit found that because the MSPB did not address the merits of Kloeckner’s case, the Federal Circuit had exclusive jurisdiction to review the claim’s dismissal.

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