Keelan vs. Denver Merchandise

Filing 920060531

Opinion

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United States Court of Appeals Tenth Circuit UNITED STATES CO URT O F APPEALS TENTH CIRCUIT F I L E D May 31, 2006 Elisabeth A. Shumaker Clerk of Court SH EILA G . K EELA N , Plaintiff - Appellee, v. DENVER M ERCHANDISE M ART, a Colorado corporation, Defendant - Appellant. No. 05-1400 D. Colorado (D.C. No. 00-CV -2303 EW N-CB S) OR D ER AND JUDGM ENT * Before L UC ER O, PO RFILIO, and HA RTZ, Circuit Judges. Sheila Keelan filed suit against her former employer, the Denver M erchandise M art (the M art), alleging claims of gender discrimination in her termination from employment and in the terms and conditions of her employment. A jury ruled against her on both claims and awarded no damages. On the termination claim it found that gender was a motivating factor in her termination but that she would have been terminated anyway. The district court awarded M s. Keelan a portion of her attorney fees based on the finding of a discriminatory This order and judgment is not binding precedent, except under the doctrines of law of the case, res judicata, and collateral estoppel. The court generally disfavors the citation of orders and judgments; nevertheless, an order and judgment may be cited under the terms and conditions of 10th Cir. R. 36.3. * motive. See 42 U.S.C. 2000e-5(g)(2)(B) (attorney fees may be awarded in employment-discrimination case even when employer proves the action would have occurred absent the discriminatory motive). The M art appeals the award of attorney fees, contending that (1) fees should have been denied because no damages were awarded, and (2) the district court should have considered the M art's pretrial offer of judgment in calculating the fees. W e have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1291. Because the M art's arguments are foreclosed by this court's decision in Gudenkauf v. Stauffer Communications, Inc., 158 F.3d 1074 (10th Cir. 1998), w e affirm the judgment of the district court. M s. Keelan's employment w ith the M art was terminated on April 13, 1999. She filed a gender-discrimination suit under Title VII in the United States District Court for the D istrict of Colorado. After the M art's motion for sum mary judgment was denied, it made an offer of judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 68 in the amount of $50,000, which M s. Keelan declined. The jury rendered a verdict in favor of the M art. Following this verdict, M s. Keelan contended that she was entitled to attorney fees because the jury had found that gender w as a motivating factor in her termination. She requested fees in the amount of $161,283.72. The district court agreed that some award of fees was appropriate, and granted her $64,513.49. -2- The M art makes several arguments why the district court erred in awarding attorney fees. Each is directly contradicted by Gudenkauf. First, the M art contends that M s. Keelan's total lack of success required a denial of fees, citing in support both Farrar v. Hobby, 506 U.S. 103, 115 (1992) ("W hen a plaintiff recovers only nominal damages because of his failure to prove an essential element of his claim for monetary relief, the only reasonable fee is usually no fee at all." (internal citation omitted)), and Barber v. T.D. Williamson, Inc., 254 F.3d 1223 (10th Cir. 2001). In Gudenkauf, however, we found the same contention "inconsistent with the proper reading of Farrar and inconsistent with the Civil Rights Act of 1991." 158 F.3d at 1077. W e held in Gudenkauf that not only did Farrar not foreclose an award of fees in financially unsuccessful mixed-motive cases, id. at 1080, but that a plaintiff who establishes a discriminatory motive, despite recovering no damages, "should ordinarily be awarded attorney's fees in all but special circumstances," id. at 1081 (internal quotation marks omitted). A s for Barber, it was not a mixed-motive case and, rather than limiting Gudenkauf, it reaffirmed it. See 254 F.3d at 1229-30. Additionally, to the extent that the M art relies on the approach of other circuits to attorney fees in mixed-motive cases, particularly the Fourth Circuit's opinion in Sheppard v. Riverview Nursing Center, Inc., 88 F.3d 1332 (4th Cir. 1996), we are bound by Gudenkauf. See Gudenkauf, 158 F.3d at 1080 ("we disagree with . . . [the Shepard decision of] the Fourth Circuit Court of A ppeals . . . ."). -3- Finally, the M art contends that the district court erred in not reducing the fee award based upon the offer of judgment. This argument was also specifically rejected by Gudenkauf, 158 F.3d at 1084 ("Congress . . . did not intend a district court to reduce a mixed motives plaintiff's fee award on the basis of a rejected pretrial settlement."). The M art conceded at oral argument that most of its contentions would be more appropriate for en banc review. That is indeed the case. Gudenkauf controls on each of the arguments the M art has raised. See United States v. Chanthadara, 230 F.3d 1237, 1260 (10th Cir. 2000) ("Absent an intervening change in the law . . . or en banc review, we cannot review the judgment of another panel of this court."). W e AFFIRM the judgment of the district court. ENTERED FOR THE COURT Harris L Hartz Circuit Judge -4-

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