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Blasi v. Pen Argyl Area School District

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

September 19, 2014

WILLIAM BLASI Plaintiff,
v.
PEN ARGYL AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

LAWRENCE F. STENGEL, District Judge.

This is a motion for the award of attorney's fees by the prevailing defendant, Pen Argyl Area School District (PAASD), under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). William Blasi brought this pro se suit against PAASD under Title VII and the ADEA for alleged discrimination after not being hired as a basketball or baseball coach. The defendant submitted a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, which I granted. The defendant then filed this motion for the award of attorney's fees based on plaintiff's history of failed complaints and suits against the defendant. For the reasons below, I will deny this motion.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff William Blasi is a 53-year-old white male, former attorney, and former educator.[1] He is married to a woman of Chinese descent with whom he has seven "mixed-race children."[2] Mr. Blasi has filed a number of lawsuits against PAASD. In November 2010, the plaintiff first brought suit against defendant PAASD, alleging discrimination and retaliation by the school basketball team against his mixed-race sons, as well as a First Amendment claim from his being banned from his sons' basketball games.[3] I granted the defendant's motion to dismiss.[4] The plaintiff filed three subsequent complaints against PAASD with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) alleging racial discrimination and retaliation.[5] OCR dismissed two complaints as meritless; the most recent complaint is still pending investigation.[6]

Mr. Blasi has a history of abusing the legal system. In 1997, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York suspended his license to practice law because, among other things, he engaged in a "clear abuse of the legal system in order to harass or maliciously injure others in an effort to settle personal disputes" and failed to pay a previous $1, 000 sanction for abusing the legal system.[7] Matter of Blasi , 231 A.D.2d 257, 259-60 (N.Y.App.Div. 1997).

In 2000 and 2003, the plaintiff brought two separate actions against the New York City Department of Education (DOE) claiming employment discrimination and retaliation under Title VII, as well as a violation of his First Amendment right to freedom of speech.[8] Blasi v. New York City Bd. of Educ., 00-CV-5320 RRM MDG, 2012 WL 3307227, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 12, 2012), report & recommendation adopted, 00-CV-5320, 2012 WL 3307346, at *5 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 12, 2012), aff'd, 544 F.Appx. 10 (2d Cir. Oct. 25, 2013). In the first action, the court ultimately denied Mr. Blasi leave to amend his complaint after he ignored numerous extensions and warnings to file an amended complaint and provide the defense with a copy. Blasi v. New York City Bd. of Educ., 2012 WL 3307227, at *5. Mr. Blasi brought the second suit in 2003, and the two cases were consolidated in 2006.[9] Id. at *6. On August 12, 2012, the court granted summary judgment for the defendants, adopting a 34-page Report and Recommendation of the magistrate judge that clearly outlined the standards required for plaintiff's claims to succeed. Id . The Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment in 2013, finding the plaintiff's remaining arguments meritless and noted that his assertion that the district court judge should have recused herself was "patently frivolous." Blasi v. New York City Bd. of Educ., 544 Fed.Appx. 10, 12 (2d Cir. Oct. 25, 2013).

Shortly before the district court's decision in his Title VII case against the New York City Board of Education, Mr. Blasi commenced this Title VII and ADEA action against PAASD on May 21, 2012. Blasi v. Pen Argyl Area Sch. Dist., CIV.A. 12-2810, 2013 WL 6388493, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 5, 2013). He alleged that the defendant did not hire him as the school's basketball or baseball coach because of his age and marriage to an Asian woman and, instead, hired young white males whose wives were also white. I granted the defendant's motion to dismiss the amended complaint in its entirety on December 5, 2013. The defendant filed this timely petition for award of attorney's fees on December 19, 2013 under both Title VII and the ADEA.[10]

The plaintiff has not responded to the defendant's petition for attorney's fees but has since filed a separate complaint against the Borough of Pen Argyl, with an accompanying request to proceed in forma pauperis .[11] In his request to proceed in forma pauperis , the plaintiff asserts that he has been unemployed since 2004, does not own a car, any real estate, stocks, bonds or money to speak of and is supported by his wife.[12]

II. LEGAL STANDARD

In general, under the "American Rule, " each party in a case is responsible for paying their own litigation expenses. Alyeska Pipeline Serv. Co. v. Wilderness Soc'y , 421 U.S. 240, 247 (1975). One exception is "when the losing party has acted in bad faith, vexatiously, wantonly, or for oppressive reasons, " in which case the court may award fees to the prevailing party at its discretion. Id. at 258-59 (citation and quotation marks omitted). Fees may also be shifted to the non-prevailing party if there is an express authorization of fee-shifting within the ruling statute. Id. at 260.

III. DISCUSSION

The defendant seeks to recover $19, 287 for prevailing party attorney's fees under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). Because Title VII and the ADEA have different standards for the award of attorney's fees, I will address each separately.

A. Attorney's Fees Under Title VII

i. Legal Standard for Prevailing ...


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