King v. ANDREWS & COMPANY et al

Filing 43

ORDER denying 41 Motion for Attorney Fees. Ordered by U.S. District Judge CLAY D LAND on 03/03/2015. (CGC)

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA COLUMBUS DIVISION LAWRENCE EDWARD KING, * Plaintiff, * vs. * ANDREWS & COMPANY, * Defendant. CASE NO. 4:13-CV-398 (CDL) * O R D E R Plaintiff Lawrence King brought discrimination claims against his former employer Defendant Andrews & Company under Title VII of the 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, Civil et Rights seq., Act and the of 1964 Age (“Title VII”), Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. The Court granted judgment, Andrews & Company’s motion for summary concluding that King had not established that he suffered an adverse employment action when he was transferred to a different duty station and had not presented any evidence to rebut Andrews & Company’s legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for firing him. Order (Feb. 11, 2015), ECF No. 38. Andrews & Company now seeks $13,940.00 in attorney’s fees from King, who has a fourth grade education and is pro se and indigent. See Mot. for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, ECF No. 2 (stating that King has no income and four years of education). Under limited circumstances, the Court may allow a prevailing defendant to recover a reasonable attorney’s fee in a Title VII or ADEA case. In ADEA cases, such an award is only available if the Court finds “that the plaintiff litigated in bad faith.” Turlington v. Atlanta Gas Light Co., 135 F.3d 1428, 1437 Cir. (11th defendant may ‘plaintiff’s (11th recover action foundation.’” 929 1998). was In Title VII attorney’s cases, fees frivolous, a prevailing “only unreasonable, when or the without Richardson v. Bay Dist. Sch., 560 F. App’x 928, Cir. 2014) (per curiam) (quoting Garment Co. v. EEOC, 434 U.S. 412, 421 (1978)). Christiansburg This means that “‘the plaintiff’s action must be meritless in the sense that it is groundless or without foundation.’” Id. (quoting Busby v. City of Orlando, 931 F.2d 764, 787 (11th Cir. 1991). “It is not enough for the prevailing defendant to show that the plaintiff's claim was ‘markedly weak,’ or even ‘exceedingly weak.’” Id. at 930 (internal citations omitted). “Instead, the plaintiff's case must be so patently devoid of merit as to be frivolous”— which means that factual support.” it Id. is “devoid of arguable legal merit or (internal quotation marks omitted). Andrews & Company does not argue that King litigated this action in bad faith. Rather, Andrews & Company contends that King’s claims were frivolous. The Court disagrees. It is true that King’s claims were weak, but the Court does not find that 2 they were “devoid of arguable legal merit or factual support.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). While the Court ultimately concluded that King did not point to any evidence in support of his claims, his failure to do so appeared to be based in large part unrepresented. on the fact that he is uneducated and Had King submitted an affidavit that contained the facts set forth in his response brief, he arguably would have established a prima facie case of discrimination on both of his claims. Under these circumstances, the Court declines to find that King’s claims were frivolous, and Andrews & Company’s Motion for Attorney’s Fees (ECF No. 41) is denied.1 IT IS SO ORDERED, this 3rd day of March, 2015. S/Clay D. Land CLAY D. LAND CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA 1 Even if attorney’s fees were warranted here, the Court would have to consider King’s ability to pay. Nesmith v. Martin Marietta Aerospace, 833 F.2d 1489, 1491 (11th Cir. 1987) (per curiam). King made $10 per hour at his job with Andrews & Company. And, according to his Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, King had no income when he filed his Complaint and could not afford to pay the Court’s $400 filing fee. He certainly does not have the ability to pay nearly $14,000 in attorney’s fees. 3

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