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Anderson v. Sullivan

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

October 6, 2014

MARYANN ANDERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
SUSAN SULLIVAN, DEAN MAYNARD, REBECCA MANCINI, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM ORDER OF COURT RE: MOTIONS FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES (DOC. NOS. 312 AND 314)

ARTHUR J. SCHWAB, District Judge.

I. Introduction

This case was initiated in May 2007 by Plaintiff, Maryann Anderson (former administrator in the Millcreek Township School District), against Defendants, Board of School Directors of the Millcreek Township School District, Susan Sullivan (a former member of the school board), and Dean Maynard (the former Superintendent of the Millcreek Township School District).[1] Doc. No. 1. Plaintiff added claims against Defendant, Rebecca Mancini (a former fellow administrator), in an Amended Complaint and a Second Amended Complaint. Doc. Nos. 6 and 26. The case was assigned to then United States District Court Judge Sean J. McLaughlin, in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Erie division. Plaintiff's claims center on alleged retaliation for whistleblower activity. Doc. No. 26. Plaintiff alleged that Defendants violated her First Amendment right to free speech, retaliated against her in violation of the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law, interfered with Plaintiff's performance of her employment contract, negligently and intentionally inflicted emotional distress, and defamed her and injured her reputation. Doc. No. 26.

This case has been extensively litigated by the Parties. The filings to date include: six Motions to Dismiss; three Motions for Summary Judgment (granted as to Counts 1, 3, and 4, Doc. No. 287); Defendants Sullivan and Maynard's Motion to Dismiss/Motion for Sanctions pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(b) and 37(c)(1); Plaintiff's Motion for Sanctions pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(b) (denied, Doc. No. 297); Plaintiff's Motion for Spoliation Sanctions (denied, Doc. No. 298); and Plaintiff's Motion for Recusal (denied, Doc. No. 232). Doc. Nos. 12, 13, 32, 35, 37, 87, 175, 177, 183, 220, 233, 268. Judge McLaughlin held extensive hearings on several of these motions. Judge McLaughlin granted Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment. Doc. No. 286. In April 2013, after their Motions for Summary Judgment were granted, Defendants Mancini, Maynard, and Sullivan filed Motions for Attorneys' Fees. Doc. Nos. 288, 289. Defendants filed Bills of Costs in the amounts of $20, 824.29 and $2, 479.48 (Mancini) and $67, 732.66 (Maynard and Sullivan). Doc. Nos. 292, 293, 295.

In August 2013, this case was re-assigned to this Court when Judge McLaughlin resigned from the bench. Doc. No. 301. This Court denied the pending Motions for Attorneys' Fees as moot because several of Judge McLaughlin's Orders were on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. 08/27/13 Text Order.

On August 8, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit filed its Mandate and ordered that Judge McLaughlin's Orders entered on March 26, 2013, August 16, 2013, and September 19, 2013, including Judge McLaughlin's grant of Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment, be affirmed. Doc. Nos. 310 and 311. The Court of Appeals issued a certified Judgment on August 8, 2014, taxing all costs against Plaintiff. Doc. No. 311.

Presently before this Court are Motions for Attorneys' Fees filed by: (1) Defendants, Dean Maynard and Susan Sullivan (Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Non-Taxable Costs) and (2) Defendant, Rebecca Mancini (First Motion for Attorney Fees). Doc. Nos. 312 and 314.

II. Present Motions

Defendants contend that they are entitled to an award of attorneys' fees as prevailing parties. See 42 U.S.C. § 1988, 42 Pa.C.S. § 2503(9), Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(c)(2).

Mancini estimates that her attorneys' fees and other taxable costs over the seven years of this litigation exceed $1.1 million. Doc. No. 315, 4. Sullivan and Maynard estimate that their fees exceed $1.7 million. Doc. No. 313, 19.

III. Standard of Review

The Parties have ably set forth the case law pertaining to an award of attorneys' fees. A succinct standard for each of the cited provisions follows.

A. 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b); Section 1988 of the Civil Rights Act

The Parties agree that a prevailing defendant may be entitled to an award of attorneys' fees and costs where the plaintiff's actions were "frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless, or [where] the plaintiff continued to litigate after it clearly became so." Christiansburg Garment Co. v. E.E.O.C., 434 U.S. 412, 422 (1978). The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has noted several factors that are relevant to determining if a plaintiff's unsuccessful civil rights claim was frivolous, including whether: the plaintiff established a prima facie case, the defendant offered to settle, the trial ...


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