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Plaintiff: Carl Butler

Defendants: D.C. Department of Corrections and its director, Devon Brown

Damages Sought: Reinstatement of Butler’s position, back pay, legal fees, and punitive damages to be determined

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Complaint: Butler was a correctional officer hired in 1990. He was laid off in 2003, then reinstated in 2004—that is, until the day he was caught bringing fried fish to a couple of inmates. A hearing officer recommended that this skirting of the D.C. Jail’s contraband policy should earn Butler a suspension. After talking with Brown, however, the hearing officer changed the recommendation to termination. She later said Brown wanted her to get rid of Butler. The matter went through two rounds of arbitration; Butler won both and got his job back. Brown fired him anyway. “In light of the forty-five (45) day suspension you received for the cause of Malfeasance,” Brown wrote him in a November letter, “I have decided not to retain you.”

Quality of Representation: Good but tedious. Attorney J. Michael Hannon’s complaint presents the facts in a way that might lead the average reader to think Butler got hung out to dry—if the average reader could get through it. Abbreviations run amok (DOC, PERB, CBA, RIF, et al.), sentences sprawl into lists, and the narrative vanishes into dry process-speak.

Summary Judgment: Smells fishy. Brown told the hearing officer something behind a closed door; we don’t know what. Was the fried fish more than just fish? Was a file or a rock hammer hidden in it? The bench needs more information to rule. Defendants Brown and D.C. Department of Corrections must produce the contents of Brown’s discussion with the hearing officer as well as all files regarding Butler. If these show no evidence of anything worse than whiting, plaintiff wins his job, his damages, and dinner at the Shrimp Boat on the D.C. Jail’s tab.