United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
PHIL GILBERT U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
case, plaintiff and former bailiff Pleas Griffin sued his old
employer-St. Clair County, Illinois-for age and race
discrimination, even though the undisputed facts showed that
the County instead fired Griffin because of his
unsatisfactory job performance: he was sexually harassing
women who worked for the Domestic Violence Prevention Center
and was banned from two courtrooms. (See generally
ECF No. 59.) For that reason, the Court granted summary
judgment to the defendants. (Id.)
defendants have now moved for attorney's fees pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k) of Title VII and 42, U.S.C.
§ 1988(b)-arguing specifically that Griffin pursued
groundless race discrimination claims. (ECF No. 63.) They are
entitled to fees “if the Plaintiff's ‘claim
was frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless,' or if
‘the plaintiff continued to litigate after it clearly
became so.'” CRST Van Expedited, Inc. v.
E.E.O.C., 136 S.Ct. 1642, 1646 (2016) (quoting
Christiansburg Garment Co. v. EEOC, 434 U.S. 412,
422, (1978)); see also Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5,
15 (1980). And there is no bad faith requirement-the action
simply must have been meritless or without foundation.
Munson v. Milwaukee Bd. of Sch. Directors, 969 F.2d
266, 269 (7th Cir. 1992) (quoting Hughes, 449 U.S.
at 14) (internal citation omitted). That being said, the fee
request must be reasonable: you multiply the “number of
hours reasonably expended on the litigation...by a reasonable
hourly rate.” Pickett v. Sheridan Health Care
Ctr., 664 F.3d 632, 639 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433, 103 S.Ct.
1933, 76 L.Ed.2d 40 (1983).
the defendants have made an extremely reasonable request:
instead of asking for fees from the entire litigation, they
only ask for fees they incurred after the parties took
Griffin's depositions on January 10 and 11, 2019. The
defendants argue that once Griffin's attorneys took his
deposition, they should have known that Griffin's
position was frivolous and stopped pushing this
suit-particularly because of this exchange:
Defendants' Counsel: “So you believe you were
discriminated against based on race because, according to
you, no one of your age and second seniority was also
terminated; is that correct?”
Defendants' Counsel: “Is there any other reason
that you believe you were discriminated against based on
(ECF No. 55-9, 61:17-24). The defendants accordingly ask for
$23, 873.50 in fees. That reflects only the amount
that select attorneys and paralegals spent when preparing (1)
their motion for summary judgment, and (2) their response in
opposition to Griffin's midnight-hour motion for leave to
file an amended complaint.
Court will grant the defendants' request. As an initial
matter, this litigation was groundless-and the plaintiff
continued to litigate it after it became apparent that the
case was groundless at Griffin's deposition. CRST Van
Expedited, Inc., 136 S.Ct. at 1646. Griffin could not
even carry his burden in this case to make a prima facie
showing that he was performing his job at a satisfactory
level. That was very clear given his conduct at the
courthouse, and the Court will not repeat all of those
allegations again. (See generally ECF No. 59.)
the defendants' request for fees is reasonable. They have
provided affidavits outlining the hourly rates of the three
attorneys and two paralegals assigned to this case, and those
hourly rates are reasonable given the rates of this community
and the subject matter of this case. (ECF Nos. 63-1, 63-2.
74-1.) And perhaps the biggest factor in favor of their
reasonableness is the fact that the defendants tailored the
fee request to only cover those hours expended after
Griffin's deposition-when his attorneys learned that this
action was baseless.
none of Griffin's arguments in response are persuasive.
He first says that 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k) only reaches
race discrimination claims under Title VII, but there was an
age discrimination claim in this case too-so there is no way
to determine which hours the defense attorneys spent on the
age claims and which hours were spent on the race claims. But
the Seventh Circuit has already instructed that “where
several claims arise out of a common factual core or are
based on related legal theories, separating out the legal
services rendered with respect to these overlapping claims
would be an exercise in futility.” Munson v.
Milwaukee Bd. Of School Directors, 969 F.2d 266, 272
(7th Cir. 1992) (quoting Zabkowicz v. West Bend Co., Div.
of Dart Industries, Inc., 789 F.2d 540, 551 (7th Cir.
1986). And here, all claims arose out of the exact same
factual core-Griffin's employment as a bailiff with the
County and subsequent firing-so trying to separate out the
legal services with respect to age or race would be futile.
also says that a jury could draw reasonable inferences from
any admitted evidence here, so it is not appropriate to find
that his case was futile from his deposition testimony. To
the contrary, the Court here has already found that no
reasonable jury could find that Griffin was performing his
job at a satisfactory level-and he does not even dispute the
allegations surrounding his conduct towards the Domestic
Violence Prevention Center's victim advocates. (ECF No.
59.) There is nothing more to add.
Griffin objects to the defendants' bill of costs. (ECF
Nos. 64, 66.) He says that the defendants cannot requests
fees for both stenographic and video transcripts because 28
U.S.C. 1920(2) allows the Clerk to tax “[f]ees for
printed or electronically recorded
transcripts necessarily obtained for use in the case.”
(emphasis added). This District has already rejected that
argument: prevailing parties can recover for the costs of
both stenographic and video transcripts if both were
reasonably necessary for the preparation of the case.
Hallihan v. Progressive Direct Ins. Co., No.
3:15-CV-01068-NJR-SCW, 2016 WL 7404445, at *2 (S.D. Ill.Dec.
22, 2016) (citing Little v. Mitsubishi Motors N.Am.,
Inc., 514 F.3d 699 (7th Cir. 2008). Here, the parties
took a video deposition of Griffin in ...