Amy Coney Barrett and Barbara Lagoa, and a couple of crazy lawsuits

UPDATE (Saturday, 9/26): The nominee is ACB!

We'll know for sure tomorrow evening when President Trump announces his pick, but word on the street is that the two front-runners for the Supreme Court seat held by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg are Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and Judge Barbara Lagoa of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

Don't know your circuits? Check our handy guide.

Both women are getting worked over in the media -- especially Judge Barrett, with worse to come if she is the nominee -- but the emphasis in the media is on their stands on social issues, who will be the most help to President Trump's reelection chances, and whether anyone should be nominated at all before the November 3 election.

You can get that kind of news anywhere, am I right? But where else but here at Employment & Labor Insider can you find out how the contenders have ruled on bizarro employment lawsuits filed by pro se plaintiffs?

(A pro se plaintiff is one who is representing himself or herself without an attorney.)

There are not a lot of employment law decisions from either judge because they were not appointed to U.S. appeals courts until relatively recently. (Judge Lagoa wasn't appointed until December 2019, although she had many years before that with the Florida Supreme Court.) And, of course, they have to hear cases on topics other than employment law. But here are two doozies. Our two candidates joined, but were not the authors of, the opinions discussed below.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett

Collins v. Barnes & Thornburg (April 2019). Mr. Collins was fired in 1978, when Jimmy Carter was President of the United States. In 1980 he (Mr. Collins, not Jimmy Carter) sued his employer. Apparently, he lost. Approximately 30 years later, he sued his former employer again, claiming that he was discriminated against and that the former employer stole money from him.

A federal judge in Indiana dismissed the lawsuit as "time-barred and frivolous." Mr. Collins appealed, and a three-judge panel that included Judge Barrett agreed with the lower-court judge. The panel also admonished Mr. Collins that he should not file any more lawsuits or he might be subject to sanctions and banned from the Seventh Circuit.

I can't disagree with Judge Barrett on this one.

Judge Barbara Lagoa

Williams v. Bank of America Corporation (August 2020). Mr. Williams sued under the Fair Labor Standards Act and 42 U.S.C. Section 1981 for pay discrimination. The defendants tried to take his deposition, and he rambled and was generally unresponsive. He also reportedly called a female attorney "little lady" and called a male attorney an "elitist" and an "idiot."

The attorneys had to get a magistrate judge involved, and everyone agreed that they would reconvene later to finish the deposition.

The defendants then scheduled the continuation of the deposition, but Mr. Williams said that he would show up for only one hour and would only answer questions related to his damages. 

Of course, this, too, wound up before the magistrate judge, who told Mr. Williams that he would have to be deposed for two and a half additional hours and would have to answer what the defendants asked him. 

The defendants tried to schedule the deposition again, and Mr. Williams responded by filing a motion to vacate the magistrate judge's order. This was not very smart, because his motion went before the district court judge, who affirmed the magistrate judge's order and told Mr. Williams to Show. Up. Or. Else.

The defendants tried again to schedule the deposition. Mr. Williams said he was not available on the date they chose but could be available two days later. The defendants agreed to that. But then Mr. Williams appealed the district court's order to the 11th Circuit.

Oh, yeah, and he also no-showed for the deposition.

The defendants had had it, and they filed a motion with the magistrate to dismiss the lawsuit as a sanction for Mr. Williams's bad behavior. The magistrate assessed a monetary sanction against Mr. Williams but did not dismiss the lawsuit. 

Here is where Mr. Williams messed up. (In addition to all the other places where he messed up.) He took it to the district court judge, who wasn't as patient and easy-going as the magistrate judge. The district judge threw out the lawsuit entirely as a sanction. "With prejudice," which means "forever."

Mr. Williams appealed to the 11th Circuit. (Of course he did!) Enter Judge Lagoa and her fellow judges.


I think I can live with either of these judges on the Supreme Court. 

Image Credits: Amy Coney Barrett from Wikimedia Commons, by Rachel Malehorn, direct link,; Barbara Lagoa official photo, Florida Supreme Court.

Robin Shea has 30 years' experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act). 
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