Civil Rights Defense
The Civil Rights Defense Practice Group litigates claims of civil rights deprivation by employees and individuals based on all of the recognized suspect classifications under federal, state, and local law including but not limited to race, gender, age, pregnancy, disability, ethnicity, and religion, and also deprivations of civil rights protected by 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, 1985, and 1986, the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, and the Eighth Amendment, among others.
Unfortunately, a significant number of civil rights suits are filed in Florida, because there are many plaintiffs' attorneys in that district who advertise heavily. Many of the cases brought are completely frivolous, and we have been able to successfully have many of the cases that we have defended thrown out of court or for those few that have gone to trial the vast majority of the verdicts have been in favor of the defendants, primarily on the grounds that the plaintiff could not prove any deprivation of a civil right.
When determining which attorney to use in this area, you should ask the attorney you are contemplating using the following questions:
Have you ever had an employment discrimination case dismissed?
Have you ever had a court grant summary judgment in your client' favor in an employment discrimination case?
Have you ever litigated against the attorney suing me, and if so, what is your record against him?
Do you have any suits pending in which the plaintiff suing me is the defense lawyer in a case brought by you on behalf of one of your plaintiff clients?
Have you ever tried an employment discrimination case?
What is your record in trials involving employment discrimination cases?
Have you ever successfully defended an appeal of an employment discrimination case in which you won?
Have you ever litigated in the Supreme Court of the United States, and are you licensed to practice there?
Have you ever sought sanctions against a plaintiff lawyer for bringing a frivolous civil rights case, and were you successful in having your client' attorneys' fees refunded?
List of Representative Clients: Broward Sheriff's Office, Broward County, School Board of Broward County, Key College, and individuals employed by the Broward Sheriff's Office, Broward County, and the School Board of Broward County have utilized the services of our firm to represent them against claims of discrimination and/or retaliation.
List of Representative Cases: Our firm enjoys the pleasure of having many legal victories either by dispositive motion throwing the case out of court (e.g., motion to dismiss, motion for summary judgment, motion for involuntary dismissal) or via jury verdict. A sampling of those cases is set forth below.
Published Cases by Westlaw in Which the Court Threw the Case Out of Court Via Dispositive Motion
Brown v. Jenne, 122 So. 3d 881 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012)
The firm represented one of approximately ten (10) Defendants (Lt. Kenneth Swan) in a civil rights case brought under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 for wrongful death. The basic facts of the case were that the decedent neglected to take his anti-seizure medication, had a seizure while driving, and crashed, which resulted in a roll-over of the SUV. The police and fire rescue arrived at the scene to assist the decedent, and have became violent, and refused all attempts to communicate his medical condition. The decedent was restrained, not for any law enforcement purpose, but to render medical aid. The decedent was placed in an ambulance for transport to an area hospital. Shortly after the decedent arrived at the hospital, he passed. The decedent sued all of the police and fire rescue personnel who were at the scene. Lt. Swan, our client, was the highest ranking officer at the scene of the accident, but he did not ride in the ambulance with the decedent to the hospital, as other Defendants did that.
Lt. Swan moved for dismissal on the ground that he was entitled to absolute immunity from suit under Florida Statutes § 768.28(9)(a) - this firm had previously obtained an order from a court holding that employees of governmental entities (such as cities and counties) are absolutely immune from such suits. Brooks v. Jenne, 2005 WL 5488060 (S.D. Fla. 2005). The circuit court granted the dismissal. The Plaintiffs appealed, and the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed, holding that § 768.28(9)(a) does not render employees of governmental entities absolutely immune from suit. Brown v. Jenne, 941 So. 2d 447 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006). Lt. Swan sought review in the Supreme Court of Florida, which denied review.
The case went back down to the trial court, and after further discovery, the circuit court granted Lt. Swan' motion for summary judgment on the ground of qualified immunity. Brown v. Jenne, 2009 WL 3253820 (Fla. Cir. Ct. 2009). The Plaintiffs appealed, but the Plaintiffs lost that appeal, because the Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed the grant of summary judgment originally issuing the opinion as, Brown v. Jenne, 2011 WL 5375045 (Fla. 4th DCA, Nov. 9, 2011). The court held that there was no Fourth Amendment search or seizure, because the decedent was not restrained for a law enforcement purpose, but rather was restrained for fire rescue personnel to administer first aid. On rehearing, the court issued the opinion cited in the title of this section, leaving intact the grant of summary judgment that the trial court awarded to the firm's client Lt. Swan, and the other Broward County Fire Rescue workers.
Portales v. Another Beautiful Corporation, 121 So. 3d 562 (Fla. 3d DCA 2012)
The firm represented Defendant, Another Beautiful Corporation, in a case alleging pregnancy discrimination and whistleblower retaliation (for allegedly being fired after complaining about the employer wrongly recording telephone calls between sales associates and potential customers, pursuant to the Florida Civil Rights Act, Florida Statutes § 760.01 et seq., and Florida's Whistleblower Act, Florida Statutes § 448.101 et seq. The Defendant runs a successful modeling school and agency. The Plaintiff sued for compensatory damages, punitive damages, back pay, front pay, attorney's fees, and costs.
The firm defended the charge of discrimination filed with the EEOC, and obtained a "no-cause" determination (that is, a legal ruling from the administrative agency that there was no discrimination that occurred) from the agency investigating the plaintiff' allegations. This served to bar the plaintiff from litigating her pregnancy discrimination claim in court. Discovery revealed that while represented by counsel, the plaintiff told the EEOC that the sole reason for her termination was the fact that she was pregnant, and that she never even filed a charge of discrimination with the Florida Commission on Human Relations which is a prerequisite to bringing a claim under FCRA.
Discovery also revealed that there was nothing unlawful about the recording of the telephone calls (they contained the admonition that "this telephone call may be recorded... "), and the plaintiff did not even complain about any telephone calls being recorded until February, 2009, but she learned that she was going to be replaced in November, 2008.
The court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant for all of the reasons listed and others. See Portales v. Another Beautiful Corporation, 2011 WL 1043663 (Fla. Cir. Ct. 2011) (Miami-Dade). The defendant is deciding whether to seek attorneys' fees from plaintiff's counsel for the filing of a frivolous lawsuit. In any event, the Plaintiff appealed, and the Third District Court of Appeal on May 16, 2012, affirmed in the opinion cited above.
Malin v. Town of Davie, Florida, 22 So. 3d 88 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009)
The firm represented the Defendant (a municipality in Florida) in an action brought by two plaintiffs (former police officers) alleging discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in violation of Florida' Civil Rights Act, Florida Statutes § 760.01 et seq. Plaintiff Malin testified that he was referred to as a "f------ Jewish pig", and that his co-plaintiff was retaliated and discriminated against for maintaining a friendship with Plaintiff Malin. The Defendant' motion for summary judgment was granted. Malin v. Town of Davie, 2008 WL 2752707 (Fla. Cir. Ct. 2008) (Broward County). Following the court's decision, the plaintiff appealed to the Fourth District Court of Appeal which affirmed the decision below.
Brown v. Jenne, 941 So. 2d 447 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006)
The firm represented one of approximately ten (10) Defendants (Lt. Kenneth Swan) in a civil rights case brought under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985 for wrongful death. Swan moved for dismissal on the ground that he was entitled to absolute immunity from suit under Florida Statutes § 768.28(9)(a)--this firm had previously obtained an order from a court holding that employees of governmental entities (such as cities and counties) are absolutely immune from such suits. Brooks v. Jenne , 2005 WL 5488060 (S.D. Fla. 2005). The circuit court granted the dismissal. The plaintiffs appealed, and the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed, holding that § 768.28(9)(a) does not render employees of governmental entities absolutely immune from suit. Lt. Swan sought review in the Supreme Court of Florida, which denied review.
The case went back down to the trial court, and after further discovery, the circuit court granted Lt. Swan' motion for summary judgment on the ground of qualified immunity. Brown v. Jenne, 2009 WL 3253820 (Fla. Cir. Ct. 2009). The Plaintiffs appealed, and that appeal is currently pending.
Arugu v. Division of Administrative Hearings , 1 So. 3d 187 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009)
The firm represented the Broward County Sheriff' Office in a discrimination and civil rights proceeding brought by a former employee Kenneth Arugu, who had filed a charge of discrimination alleging various violations of the Florida Civil Rights Act, Florida Statutes §§ 760.01 et seq. After review of BSO's position statement contesting the allegations in the plaintiff' charge of discrimination, which, among other things, set forth the percentage of minorities employed by BSO, the administrative agency issued a "no-cause" determination, meaning it found that plaintiff Arugu was not discriminated against. Because of this finding, Arugu could not file suit in court, but was limited to administrative remedies (a hearing before DOAH), which he pursued. At the DOAH hearing, DOAH found in favor of BSO. Arugu appealed and the Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed the decision of BSO.
Brooks v. Jenne, 2005 WL 5432453 (S.D. Fla. 2005)
The firm represented the Defendant (the Broward Sheriff' Office and two employees) in an action brought by the plaintiff (a former police officer) pursuant to (42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, and 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Title VII), and pursuant to the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. (See Amended Complaint ¶ 5). The court had previously dismissed the claims brought against defendant Dansky under Title VII because such claims can only be brought against the employer. Brooks v. Jenne, 2005 WL 5488060 (S.D. Fla. 2005). The Plaintiff sued Sheriff Jenne in his official capacity as Sheriff of Broward County and he sued defendants Kohnke and Dansky in their individual capacities. Id. ¶¶ 2-3. Essentially, Plaintiff sought to hold Sheriff Jenne liable vicariously for the actions of Kohnke and Dansky under § 1981, 1983, and Title VII, as a result of their investigation into Plaintiff' alleged Personnel and Policy Manual violations, which allegedly cast Plaintiff in a bad light and contained unfair inaccuracies. Id. ¶ 42. Count I of the Complaint was against Sheriff Jenne and Count II was against Dansky. The court dismissed the complaint for numerous reasons, including qualified immunity, absolute immunity, and the failure to properly plead § 1983 claims. No appeal was filed in this case.
Decisions Not Published by Westlaw Which Involve the Firm Ending the Case Dispositively
Tropical Aviation v. Broward County, Case No. 04-60416-PCH (S.D. Fla. 2005)
The firm represented the defendant after the plaintiff (a company with a lease to operate an airplane hangar at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport) filed this action against Sheriff Jenne and BSO employee Robert Sierra in the Circuit Court in and for Broward County, Florida, pursuant to one federal statute (42 U.S.C. § 1983), the Florida Constitution, and the United States Constitution, arising out of an alleged illegal search and seizure. [D.E. 1]. The plaintiff sued Sheriff Jenne in his official capacity as Sheriff of Broward County and it sued Sierra in his individual capacity. Essentially, Plaintiff sought to hold Sheriff Jenne liable vicariously for the actions of Sierra under § 1983, as a result of an illegal search and seizure, because there were no allegations in the Amended Complaint concerning the sheriff doing anything unlawful or improper. This case was removed to federal court. Count I of the Amended Complaint was against Sheriff Jenne, and sought a permanent injunction against Sheriff Jenne from engaging in any illegal searches. Count II sought damages against Sheriff Jenne for the alleged illegal search and seizure. Count III sought damages against Sierra, and there was an allegation that Sierra had been enjoined from illegally searching the plaintiff' hangar in state court.
Discovery revealed that the plaintiff misrepresented that it obtained a restraining order against defendant Sierra, and the court, in part because of this fraud, dismissed the case. [D.E. 50]. The court gave the plaintiff the option of voluntarily dismissing the case, or the court would dismiss the case involuntarily and require the plaintiff to reimburse the defendant for all attorneys fees expended in the case. The plaintiff chose the former.
Bellamy v. Broward Sheriff's Office, Case No. 99-07435-DMM (S.D. Fla. 1999)
The firm represented the Defendant (the Broward Sheriff's Office) in a claim alleging race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Plaintiff was employed as a police officer. [D.E. 1]. The firm filed a motion for involuntary dismissal because the plaintiff engaged in discovery fraud. [D.E. 30]. The plaintiff, after discovery, could not establish that there was any race discrimination, and agreed to dismiss the case without receiving any compensation. [D.E. 44, 45].
Hite v. Hollywood Imports Ltd., Inc., d/b/a Hollywood Honda, Case No. 98-06894-WJZ (S.D. Fla.)
The firm represented one of the Defendants (the manager of a car dealership), in a claim alleging race discrimination brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Plaintiff was employed as a car salesman by the defendant. [D.E. 1]. The plaintiff failed to follow pretrial deadlines after his co-workers received an unfavorable jury verdict in Andrews v. Hollywood Imports Ltd., Inc., d/b/a Hollywood Honda, Case No. 97-07525-CIV-ZLOCH (S.D. Fla.). [D.E. 44]. Thereafter, the plaintiff agreed to dismiss his case, and the court accepted the dismissal. [D.E. 45, 46].
Pielech v. Independent Education Corp., d/b/a Key College, Case No. 04-10700(05) (Broward County)
The firm represented the Defendant, which is a college. Plaintiff filed a one-count Complaint against Ronald H. Dooley (the Dean of the college) on June 30, 2004 alleging that Plaintiff was terminated from his employment and was still owed $975.00 for his last week of work, plus 12 hours of unpaid wages. (Complaint ¶ 23). Plaintiff entitled this one count, "Claim for Unpaid Wages Against the Employer", and sought recovery under Florida Statutes § 448.08. Mr. Dooley moved to dismiss the Complaint, on July 13, 2004, for failing to state a cause of action in that a claim for unpaid wages should be brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act (the FLSA preempts the state wage claim) and § 448.08 does not allow for the recovery of unpaid wages (it pertains to the recovery of attorney' fees to the prevailing party in a successful action for unpaid wages).
The firm on behalf of Mr. Dooley set the hearing on the Motion to Dismiss for August 11, 2004. Plaintiff then, unilaterally and without conferral with undersigned counsel, filed a three-count First Amended Complaint against the college raising an entirely new claim, and simultaneously noticed four depositions. That filing rendered moot the legal sufficiency of the original complaint, because it was superceded via the filing of an amended complaint. Vanderberg v. Rios, 798 So. 2d 806 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001). The three-count First Amended Complaint contained allegations of breach of contract, quantum meruit, and a violation of the Florida Whistleblower Act against the college. The Whistleblower Act claim alleged that IEC 1) falsified student grades; 2) falsified student attendance records; 3) falsified course schedules; 4) falsified faculty lists; 5) engaged in fraud in connection with student loans; and 6) sexually harassed students. (See First Amended Complaint ¶ 15). The court dismissed the first, second, and third complaints, because the plaintiff could not state a cause of action under any of the alleged theories of recovery.
Dennis Brown v. School Bd. of Broward County, Case No. 01-012221(04) (Broward County)
The firm represented the Defendants Broward County School Board and Sylevester Davis (a Broward County School Board employee) in a claim alleging against the school board violations of Florida' Whistleblower Statute, Florida Statutes § 112.3187 (Count I) as to public employers, negligent supervision (Count II), and apparently pursuant to the common law tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count IV). Additionally, Plaintiff' wife asserted a derivative claim for loss of consortium (Count III). Count II (negligent supervision) was not asserted against Davis.
The Court dismissed Count I in the original motion to dismiss the initial complaint filed by defendants. In subsequent hearings and subsequent attempts by the plaintiff to amend the complaint to state a cause of action, the court eventually dismissed the remainder of the case against both defendants for failure to state a cause of action.
Favorable Jury Verdicts
Maranto v. Jenne, Case No. 00-15951 (09) (Broward Circuit Court) (Andrews, J.)
On April 24, 2006, in this Equal Pay Act case, the firm received a jury verdict in its client's (the Broward Sheriff's Office) favor. After a 4-day jury trial, the jury found that there was no Equal Pay Act violation and that the female plaintiff was not paid less than similarly situated male employees.
Andrews v. Hollywood Imports Ltd., Inc., d/b/a Hollywood Honda, Case No. 97-07525-CIV-ZLOCH (S.D. Fla.)
In this civil rights/employment discrimination case, four (4) plaintiffs brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 alleging that they were discriminated against in various ways on account of their race and ethnic characteristics. The case went to trial which lasted five (5) days. On February 3, 1999, the firm received a jury verdict in the defense client's favor (the sales manager) on all counts of the complaint. The plaintiffs sought millions of dollars and had television news cameramen outside the courthouse when the verdict was read.