Easiley v. Norris

Citation107 F.Supp.2d 1332
Decision Date09 August 2000
Docket NumberNo. 99-CV-196-K.,99-CV-196-K.
PartiesReverend Melvin EASILEY, et al., Plaintiffs, v. NORRIS, a Dover Resources Company, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Oklahoma

Page 1332

107 F.Supp.2d 1332
Reverend Melvin EASILEY, et al., Plaintiffs,
NORRIS, a Dover Resources Company, Defendant.
No. 99-CV-196-K.
United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma.
August 9, 2000.

Page 1333

Marilyn D. Barringer, Oklahoma City, OK, Grover G. Hankins, Houston, TX, David C. Phillips, III, DC Phillips & Assoc, Tulsa, OK, for plaintiffs.

William Kirk Turner, Kyle L. Buchanan, Daniel R. Ketchum, II, Newton O' Connor Turner & Auer, Tulsa, OK, for defendant.


KERN, Chief Judge.

On July 24, 2000, Magistrate Judge Joyner filed his Report and Recommendation, in which he recommended that defendant's application for attorney's fees be denied. No objection has been filed and the time for doing so under Rule 72(b) F.R.Cv.P. has elapsed. Further, the Court has independently reviewed the Report and Recommendation and sees no reason to depart from it.

It is the Order of the Court that the Report and Recommendation (# 163) is hereby adopted and affirmed. The application of the defendant for attorney's fees (# 147) is DENIED.


JOYNER, United States Magistrate Judge.

Now before the Court is "Defendant's Application for Attorney's Fees and Costs." [Doc. No. 147]. Defendant's motion has been referred to the undersigned for disposition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Fed.R.Civ.P. 72. Pursuant to Fed. R.Civ.P. 54(d)(2)(D), Defendant's motion for attorney fees is to be treated, for purposes of a referral to a magistrate judge, as a dispositive motion under Rule 72(b). Accordingly, the undersigned issues this Report and Recommendation, as opposed to an Order. Having reviewed the entire record, and for the reasons discussed below, the undersigned recommends that Defendant's motion for attorney fees be DENIED.


With its motion, Defendant seeks to recover the costs and the attorney fees it spent to defend this lawsuit. The cost issue has already been resolved pursuant to the procedure established by N.D. LR 54.1. Defendant submitted a Bill of Costs on May 8, 2000, and Plaintiffs filed objections to Defendant's Bill of Costs. See Doc. No. 150. Pursuant to local rule 54.1, Defendant's Bill of Costs and Plaintiffs' objections were set for hearing before the Court Clerk. The Clerk heard argument and ultimately taxed costs in Defendant's favor in the amount of $8,192.11. See Doc. No. 154.

Pursuant to local rule 54.1(E) and Fed. R.Civ.P. 54(d)(1), a party may seek judicial review of the Clerk's cost determination by filing a motion for review within five days of the date costs were taxed by the Clerk. The Clerk taxed costs on June 6, 2000. Consequently, a motion for review was due on or before June 19, 2000. No motion for review has been filed by any party. The Clerk's determination of the cost issue, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1920, 1924 and Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d)(1), is therefore final. The undersigned will not revisit the cost issue in this Report and Recommendation. The undersigned will only address whether Defendants are also entitled to recover their attorney fees as the prevailing party in this litigation.


Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(d)(2) governs awards of attorney fees in federal courts. Rule 54(d)(2)(A) requires that claims for attorney fees be made by motion "unless the substantive law governing the action provides for the recovery of such fees as an

Page 1334

element of damages to be proved at trial." Defendant was not seeking damages at trial. Consequently, Defendant could not have been required to prove its attorney fees as an element of damages. Defendant has, therefore, properly sought its attorney fees with a timely1 motion.

Rule 54(d)(2)(B) requires that "a motion for attorney fees specify the statute, rule, or other grounds entitling the moving party to the award [of fees]." Defendant alleges that it is entitled to fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1988(b) and 2000e-5(k). Defendant also alleges that the Court possesses inherent authority to award fees under the facts of this case.


The Court must examine each claim that was being asserted by Plaintiffs to determine whether Defendant is a prevailing party entitled to its attorney fees on each claim. The undersigned will, therefore, summarize the complaints filed in this case.

Plaintiffs filed their original Complaint in this case on March 12, 1999. [Doc. No. 1]. The Complaint invoked the jurisdiction of the Court under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Complaint alleged that Reverend Melvin Easiley, one of the plaintiffs in this case, is a long-time employment activist for the NAACP, and that he initiated and organized an effort by a number of Defendant's employees to file discrimination charges with the EEOC and to file a class action Title VII discrimination case against Defendant. The Compliant also alleges that Defendant, in retaliation against Rev. Easiley for his activities with Defendant's employees, filed a lawsuit against Rev. Easiley in Tulsa County, Oklahoma. A copy of Defendant's state court Petition is attached to the original Complaint as Exhibit "A."

In its state court Petition against Rev. Easiley, Defendant alleged that it had a collective bargaining agreement between itself and the United Steel-Workers of America, an affiliate of the AFL — CIO-CLC ("the Union"). Defendant alleged that, pursuant to this collective bargaining agreement, it recognized the Union as the exclusive bargaining agent for its hourly employees. Defendant further alleged that, by claiming to represent Defendant's employees, Rev. Easiley was interfering with Defendant's collective bargaining agreement with the Union. In particular, Defendant alleged that Rev. Easiley was interfering with its right to deal exclusively with the Union concerning complaints made by employees about terms and conditions of employment with Defendant. Defendant also alleged that Rev. Easiley injured its business and reputation by recklessly making false statements and accusations to third parties (i.e., former employees, vendors, suppliers and various governmental agencies) about Defendant's business and employment practices. Based on these allegations, Defendant asserted the following claims against Rev. Easiley in the state court action: (1) Defendant alleged that Rev. Easily was liable for tortiously interfering with the contractual and business relationship Defendant had with the Union, one or more of its vendors, and one or more of the governmental agencies which regulates Defendant's business; and (2) Defendant alleged that Rev. Easily was liable to Defendant for slander per se due to the allegedly false and misleading statements Rev. Easily had made to various third parties.

In their original Complaint filed in this case, Plaintiffs alleged that Defendant's

Page 1335

filing of the state court action was an unlawful retaliation against Rev. Easiley and the other Plaintiffs — employees of Defendant who Rev. Easiley assisted in filing various claims against Defendant. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant's filing of the state court action against Rev. Easiley was an unlawful infringement on the exercise of their rights under Title VII. Plaintiffs alleged further that Defendant was engaged in harassing discovery in the state court case which was also infringing on Plaintiffs' statutory and constitutional rights. The only relief sought by Plaintiffs in the original Complaint was an injunction prohibiting Defendant from continuing with its state court action against Rev. Easiley. On March 17, 1999, the Court entered its order denying Plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief and declining to enjoin Defendant's prosecution of the state court action against Rev. Easiley. See Doc. No. 7.

Having denied Plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief, the Court found that if Plaintiffs intended to assert claims for affirmative relief, they would be required to file an amended complaint. [Doc. No. 17]. Plaintiffs filed their First Amended Complaint on July 7, 1999. [Doc. No. 18]. This amended complaint contains allegations which are virtually identical to the original complaint. In addition to Title VII and the Fourteenth Amendment, the amended complaint also invokes the jurisdiction of the Court under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The amended complaint also asserts the following two claims for affirmative relief against Defendant: (1) Plaintiffs allege that Defendant's state court action infringes on their First Amendment rights;2 and (2) Plaintiffs allege that because Defendant's state court action was motivated by retaliatory intent, it infringes on their rights under Title VII.

Despite the vague nature of their various claims, it appears that Plaintiffs were attempting to state a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and claims for violation of their First Amendment rights under the United States Constitution. Pursuant to the American Rule, absent a statute or enforceable contract, a prevailing litigant is ordinarily not entitled to recover attorney fees from the loser. Alyeska Pipeline Serv. Co. v. Wilderness Soc'y, 421 U.S. 240, 247, 95 S.Ct. 1612, 44 L.Ed.2d 141 (1975). There is no evidence of a contract in this case governing the payment of attorney fees. The Court must, therefore, determine whether there is a statute that authorizes Defendant to recover attorney fees for the types of claims asserted by Plaintiffs.


With Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Congress authorized parties

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who are aggrieved by an unlawful employment practice, as defined in 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2 and 2000e-3, to bring federal civil actions against those parties responsible for the unlawful employment practice. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1). Congress also provided for the recovery of attorney...

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  • Bratton v. City of Albuquerque, CIV. 04-74 JBRLP.
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    • December 1, 2004
    ...with prejudice. See Dean v. Riser, 240 F.3d 505 (5th Cir.2001); Marquart v. Lodge 837, 26 F.3d 842 (8th Cir.1994); Easiley v. Norris, 107 F.Supp.2d 1332 (N.D.Okla.2000); Hughes v. Unified School Dist. # 330, 872 F.Supp. 882 (D.Kan.1994). In Marquart v. Lodge 837, the United States Circuit C......

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