719 F.2d 383 (11th Cir. 1983), 82-7373, E.E.O.C. v. Pet Inc. Funsten Nut Div.
|Citation:||719 F.2d 383|
|Party Name:||EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, On Behalf of Itself and a Class of Persons Herein Delineated, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. PET INCORPORATED, FUNSTEN NUT DIVISION, Defendant-Appellant.|
|Case Date:||November 07, 1983|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit|
Ann Margaret Pointer, Robert John Bekken, Atlanta, Ga., for defendant-appellant.
Dianna B. Johnston, EEOC, Washington, D.C., for plaintiff-appellee.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.
Before GODBOLD, Chief Judge, RONEY and SMITH [*], Circuit Judges.
AFFIRMED on the opinion of the district court, 543 F.Supp. 911, a copy of which is attached as an appendix.
VARNER, Chief Judge.
This cause is before the Court on motion for award of attorneys' fees as part of costs and on a petition for award of costs, filed herein April 28 and 8, 1982, by Defendant
Pet. Upon consideration of the motion for award of attorneys' fees, this Court reluctantly declines to award attorneys' fees to Pet. This Court will also deny the petition.
STANDARD. The standard which must be utilized to determine whether attorneys' fees should be awarded Pet is provided by the Supreme Court's interpretation of congressional intent in passing 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e-5(k). That section reads as follows:
"In any action or proceeding under this subchapter the Court in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party 1, other than the Commission or the United States, a reasonable attorney's fee as part of the costs, and the Commission and the United States shall be liable for costs the same as a private person."
In Christiansburg Garment Co. v. EEOC, 434 U.S. 412, 98 S.Ct. 694, 54 L.Ed.2d 648 (1977), the United States Supreme Court interpreted that section to mean that a dual standard is to be applied in awarding attorneys' fees to a prevailing party. One standard applies to a prevailing plaintiff and another standard applies to a prevailing defendant. 2 In determining whether attorneys' fees should be awarded to a prevailing defendant, the inquiry prescribed by the Supreme Court requires the Court to find whether a plaintiff's claim "was frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless, or that the plaintiff continued to litigate after it clearly became so." Christiansburg, supra, at 422, 98 S.Ct. at 701.
The manner in which this standard should be applied was further qualified in Christiansburg. The Court cautioned a district court to:
"resist the understandable temptation to engage in post hoc reasoning by concluding that, because a plaintiff did not ultimately prevail, his action must have been unreasonable or without foundation. No matter how honest one's belief that he has been the victim of discrimination, no matter how meritorious one's claim may appear at the outset, the course of litigation is rarely predictable. Decisive facts may not emerge until discovery or trial. The law may change or clarify in the midst of litigation. Even when the law or the facts appear questionable or unfavorable at the outset, a party may have an entirely reasonable ground for bringing suit."
In order for this Court to objectively apply the foregoing standard after a case such as this has been voluntarily dismissed in part and involuntarily dismissed in part and when the evidence upon which the case was based appears so flimsy, this Court feels it must view the available evidence and the applicable law in a manner most favorable to Plaintiff. Such an approach appears to inhere in the Supreme Court's caveat concerning post hoc reasoning. Furthermore, as required by the Supreme Court standard, this Court must view the available evidence and applicable law as it existed at the time of the institution of the suit and as it developed as the case proceeded. With the foregoing standards of analysis in mind, the Court now proceeds to apply those standards to the instant case.
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