Soto, et al. v. Quechan Tribally Designated Housing Entity, et al.

Filing 32

ORDER Defendants' motion for attorneys' fees and costs (Doc. 30) is granted in part and denied in part. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k) and 4 2 U.S.C. § 1988(b), attorneys' fees in the amount of $29,947.50, and costs in the amount of $1,109.52, are awarded in favor of Defendants Quechan Tribally Designated Housing Entity, Robert Letendre, and Tad Zvodsky. The Clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly. Signed by Judge David G Campbell on 9/16/10.(KMG)

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Soto, et al. v. Quechan Tribally Designated Housing Entity, et al. Doc. 32 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 WO IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA ) ) ) Plaintiff, ) ) vs. ) Quechan Tribally Designated Housing ) ) Entity; Robert Letendre, Executive Director; Tad Zvodsky, Supervisor; and ) ) Housing and Urban Development, ) ) Defendants. ) Barbara Soto; and Victoria Craun, No. CV-10-533-PHX-DGC ORDER Plaintiffs Barbara Soto and Victoria Craun claim that they were discriminated against in the workplace on the basis of perceived sexual orientation. They brought suit against Quechan Tribally Designated Housing Entity ("Quechan Housing"), that entity's executive director and supervisor, and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Doc. 1. The complaint asserted claims under Executive Order 13,087, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq., and 42 U.S.C. 1983. Id. 36-77. In an order entered July 1, 2010 (Doc. 28), the Court granted Defendants' motions to dismiss (Docs. 15, 22) on the ground that the complaint fails to state a valid claim to relief. Defendants Quechan Housing, Robert Letendre, and Tad Zvodsky have filed a motion for attorneys' fees and costs. Doc. 30. No response has been filed, and the time for doing so has expired. See LRCiv 54.2(b)(3). For reasons stated below, the Court will grant the motion in part and award Defendants $29,947.50 in fees and $1,109.52 in costs. Dockets.Justia.com 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 "[A] district court may in its discretion award attorney's fees to a prevailing defendant in a Title VII case upon a finding that the plaintiff's action was frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation, even though not brought in subjective bad faith." Christianburg Garment Co. v. EEOC, 434 U.S. 412, 421 (1978). Similarly, fees may be awarded to a prevailing defendant in a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. 1983 where the suit is "meritless in the sense that it is groundless or without foundation." Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 10 (1980); see also 42 U.S.C. 2000e-5(k); 42 U.S.C. 1988(b). Plaintiffs' claims were entirely lacking in foundation. No private right of action exists under Executive Order 13,087. See Exec. Order No. 13152, 65 Fed. Reg. 26115 (May 2, 2000); Centola v. Potter, 183 F. Supp. 2d 403, 413 (D. Mass. 2002). Indian tribes and their agencies are exempt from the requirements of Title VII. See 42 U.S.C. 2000e(b)(1); Pink v. Modoc Indian Health Project, Inc., 157 F.3d 1185, 1188 (9th Cir. 1998). Title VII claims may not be asserted against individual employees. See Pink, 157 F.3d at 1189; Coffin v. Safeway, Inc., 323 F. Supp. 2d 997, 1002 (D. Ariz. 2004). Because Indian tribes are separate and distinct sovereigns, no claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 can be maintained in federal court for persons alleging deprivation of federal rights under color of tribal law. See R.J. Williams Co. v. Fort Belknap Hous. Auth., 719 F.2d 979, 982 (9th Cir. 1983). In opposing Defendants' motion to dismiss, Plaintiffs failed to address the legal challenges to the complaint. Docs. 15, 25. Concluding that the complaint's deficiencies could not be cured through amendment, the Court dismissed the complaint without leave to amend. Doc. 28 at 6-7. The Court finds that Defendants, as prevailing parties on utterly unfounded claims, are entitled to an award of reasonable attorneys' fees and costs. Defendants request an award of fees in the amount of $34,963.25. Doc. 30 at 3. Having reviewed the supporting memorandum, affidavit of counsel, and itemized statement of fees (Doc. 31), and having considered the record as a whole and the relevant fee award factors, see Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 429-30 & n.3 (1983), the Court finds a reasonable fee to be $29,947.50. The Court will not award fees ($1,895.50) incurred in connection with Defendants' erroneous motion for summary ruling. See Docs. 17, 23. Nor -2- 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 will the Court award fees ($3,120.25) for the time spent reviewing "Hudson guidelines for pre-trial report[.]" Doc. 31-1 at 36-37. Defendants provide no explanation as to the nature of this review and why it was necessary to the litigation. The Court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 2000e-5(k) and 42 U.S.C. 1988(b), will grant Defendants' motion in part and award them attorneys' fees in the amount of $29,947.50. The Court also will award costs in the amount of $1,109.52. IT IS ORDERED: 1. Defendants' motion for attorneys' fees and costs (Doc. 30) is granted in part and denied in part. 2. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 2000e-5(k) and 4 2 U.S.C. 1988(b), attorneys' fees in the amount of $29,947.50, and costs in the amount of $1,109.52, are awarded in favor of Defendants Quechan Tribally Designated Housing Entity, Robert Letendre, and Tad Zvodsky. 3. The Clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly. DATED this 16th day of September, 2010. -3-

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