Fifth Circuit Smacks Down Disgruntled-Cheerleader-Mom Lawsuit

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I like opinions (and briefs) in which you get both a summary of the dispute and the writer’s conclusion in the first paragraph. Like this one:

Reduced to its essentials, this is nothing more than a dispute, fueled by a disgruntled cheerleader mom, over whether her daughter should have made the squad. It is a petty squabble, masquerading as a civil rights matter, that has no place in federal court or any other court. We find no error and affirm.

The court was affirming the dismissal of Sanches v. Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District, in which the high-school plaintiff (fueled by her disgruntled mom) alleged that she had been sexually harassed by other girls and that the district had not taken any action. I’ll spare you the laundry list of actions that the plaintiff (or, her mom) claimed constituted “sexual harassment,” because this one seems representative: “According to [the mom], J.H. publicly humiliated Sanches and her family by wearing a chef’s hat similar to the ones in her inappropriate Facebook photos.”

Basically, the court held, the allegations were all “more properly described as teasing or bullying than as sexual harassment,” and even if that weren’t true the conduct was not remotely severe and pervasive enough to be actionable. It was “the sort of unpleasant conflict that takes place every day in high school, and it is not the proper stuff of a federal harassment claim.”

Just to confirm their complete lack of judgment, the plaintiff and her attorneys had moved to vacate the magistrate judge’s decision against them, a motion that the Fifth Circuit held was unjustified and unprofessional. Although, to be fair, it may just have seemed disrespectful because it was so badly written. (“Because a magistrate is not an Article III judge, his incompetence in applying general principals of law are extraordinary.” Huh?) Either way, the court was pissed:

Usually we do not comment on technical and grammatical errors, … but here the miscues are so egregious and obvious that an average fourth grader would have avoided most of them. For example, the word “principals” should have been “principles.” The word “vacatur” is misspelled. The subject and verb are not in agreement in one of the sentences, which has a singular subject (“incompetence”) and a plural verb (“are”). Magistrate Judge Stickney is referred to as “it” instead of “he” and is called a “magistrate” instead of a “magistrate judge.” And finally, the sentence containing the word “incompetence” makes no sense, … so it is not reasonably possible to understand the thought, if any, that is being conveyed. It is ironic that the term “incompetence” is used here, because the only thing that is incompetent is the passage itself.

No “Billy Madison” quote as in the “Order Denying Motion for Incomprehensibility,” but still a good footnote.

As you may recall, Texas was also the home of Wanda Holloway, who did jail time in 1997 for trying to hire a hit man to kill the mother of a cheerleader who was competing with Holloway’s daughter. (Holloway was recorded saying the goal was to upset the girl sufficiently that she would drop out of the competition.) Two TV movies were based on that incident, which, together with this latest episode, suggests that people in Texas need to lighten the #*&@ up about cheerleading.