A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Black, female former Seattle-based agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that alleged she had been targeted for retaliation after she settled an earlier race-based lawsuit against the agency for $450,000.

In a 16-page ruling issued earlier this month, U.S. District Chief Judge Ricardo Martinez said comments made by other agents and ATF officials about Supervisory Special Agent Cheryl Bishop after that settlement did not rise to the level of retaliation because they did not have an adverse impact on her employment. Moreover, the ATF argued that the settlement precluded Bishop from pursuing any additional claims against the agency.

Bishop has filed a notice of appeal seeking review of the decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Bishop, a highly decorated senior agent with the bureau and the first woman to serve on the ATF’s Special Response Team, has since retired, as has the former supervisor whose actions were at the heart of her previous lawsuit, Bradley Devlin, who served as the resident agent in charge of the Eugene, Oregon, ATF office.

Bishop filed her first lawsuit in 2018, alleging the agency scuttled her prestigious appointment to work at its Washington, D.C., headquarters after she filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against Devlin.

According to court documents, Devlin has had a Nazi-themed tattoo — showing what’s described as a “German Eagle SS Lightning Bolt” — since the early 2000s. He says he got it while working undercover to infiltrate an Ohio white-supremacist biker gang called The Order of Blood. That operation led to several arrests. 

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Though his bosses have said they were “appalled,” Devlin hasn’t had the tattoo removed. The agency had said it would pay for the procedure.

After Bishop settled that lawsuit, Devlin wrote a widely distributed email denigrating many of Bishop’s claims and disputing he was racially provocative or insensitive in a series of emails he sent to his squad. He also denied that he placed a banana peel on her car and defended statements in which he called Bishop a “train wreck.”

“My use of that word was never based on Cheryl’s race. It was based on her incompetence as an agent and lack of investigative experience,” Devlin wrote. “I have heard several times and even read in The Seattle Times that ATF Management was ‘appalled’ that I had a racist tattoo.

“I am sorry you were appalled. I am not sorry for doing my job. I have never intentionally tried to offend or humiliate Cheryl Bishop. I am not a racist, never have been and never will be.”

Bishop, in her retaliation lawsuit, said she “experienced chilly, isolating hostility from ATF employees” both in Georgia, where she was teaching at the agency’s academy, and later when she returned to Seattle before she retired in May 2021.

Martinez, in his order dismissing the retaliation claim, said Bishop “failed to identify a cognizable adverse employment action in this case, or direct evidence that ATF — as opposed to Mr. Devlin — discriminated against her.”

Jesse Wing, Bishop’s Seattle attorney, has filed a notice of appeal and said in a statement that ATF’s behavior and response to Devlin’s widely circulated email — sent on the agency’s internal mail system — served to “poison her workplace.”

He said the bureau’s inaction smeared Bishop’s reputation, put her life in danger and “sets a chilling precedent that will deter its employees from reporting harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.”