The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, U.S. District Judge
A weak evidentiary case;
A reliance upon the wrong legal test; and
A pattern of bringing questionable Rutan claims against the State.
However, the Court does not believe that an award of attorney's fees is
appropriate under either 42 U.S.C. § 1988 or 28 U.S.C. § 1927.
Defendants' motion for attorneys' fees is denied.
On March 2, 2001, Plaintiff Charles G. Coffey filed the above-captioned
case, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants Warden
James C. Cox, Joseph Galassi, and James Simmons violated his First
Amendment rights by failing to award him one of the two vacant stationary
engineer positions at the Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln,
Illinois. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that Defendants filled the
vacant stationary engineer positions on the basis of political
considerations in violation of his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights
and the United States Supreme Court's holding in Rutan v. Republican
Party of Illinois, 497 U.S. 62 (1990). On September 7, 2002, Plaintiff
amended his Complaint to add identical allegations against Defendant
After discovery, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) on June 3, 2002. On
August 20, 2002, the Court allowed Defendants' motion for summary
judgment in toto. Coffey v. Cox, 218 F. Supp.2d 997 (C.D.Ill. 2002).
Defendants have now filed the instant motion, pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1988 and 28 U.S.C. § 1927, asking the Court to
exercise its authority to award them their reasonable attorneys' fees
incurred in litigating this case. Defendants claim that, based upon the
Court's findings in its Opinion allowing their motion for summary
judgment, the Court should also allow their request for attorneys' fees.
First, Defendants contend that Plaintiff's failure to tender any
evidence that his political affiliations, activities, and/or associations
(or lack thereof) was a substantial or motivating factor in Defendants'
decision not to offer him one of the stationary engineer positions which
he sought justifies an award of attorneys' fees.
Second, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's improper reliance upon and
invocation of the McDonnell Douglas test as the one applicable to his
Rutan claim (instead of the applicable Mt. Healthy standard) justifies an
award of attorneys' fees.
Defendants argue that these three factors, as found by the Court,
warrant an award of attorneys' fees under either 42 U.S.C. § 1988's
frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless litigation provision or 28 U.S.C.
§ 1927's multiplying the proceedings in any case unreasonably and
vexatiously provision. Accordingly, Defendants ask the Court to allow the
instant motion requesting reasonable attorneys' fees and to allow them
seven days thereafter within which to file a detailed accounting of the
attorneys' fees which they incurred in litigating this case.
Plaintiff argues that Defendants' request for attorneys' fees should be
denied. Plaintiff asserts that, in the instant suit, he raised two issues
of first impression: (1) whether a plaintiff may pursue a claim of
political discrimination when the politically favored person is selected
without consideration of the other applicants? and (2) whether
circumstantial evidence may be used to create a question for the jury as
to whether the defendants' articulated reason for not awarding a
plaintiff a position was pretextual or unworthy of belief?
As for the first issue, Plaintiff contends that the discrimination
which occurred in this case was a "preselection system" based upon
political affiliation rather than a "rejection system" based upon
political affiliation like that found in Rutan. Plaintiff asserts that,
under this scenario, the McDonnell Douglas test rather than the Mt.
Healthy test is the more reasonable and appropriate framework within
which to resolve his claim and that he should have been given the
opportunity to demonstrate that he was not awarded one of the stationary
engineer positions because the jobs were preordained for someone with
Accordingly, Plaintiff contends that he should be allowed to proceed on
this claim without facing the penalty of paying Defendants' attorneys'
Regarding the second issue, Plaintiff argues that he presented
circumstantial evidence with which a reasonable jury could have concluded
that he was not awarded one of the stationary engineer positions due to
Plaintiff claims that this circumstantial evidence demonstrates that
his suit was not frivolous, unreasonable, groundless, or vexatious.
In short, Plaintiff argues that he should not be penalized for
exercising his right to bring suit in order to seek redress for
Defendants' violating his First Amendment rights. Accordingly, Plaintiff
asks the ...