Nicholas Malfitano Mar. 29, 2016, 9:56am


PHILADELPHIA – Last Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed a District Court ruling allowing its clerk to enter judgment in a sexual harassment action against a Pennsylvania university and the state's education system.

Judge Jane R. Roth ruled on March 23 that the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania had jurisdiction to levy a judgment in favor of appellees Mansfield University of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and two unnamed defendants.

Appellant Patrick King brought suit against Mansfield, alleging federal and state law claims related to an alleged incident of sexual harassment that occurred while he was attending and employed at the university. The District Court granted summary judgment to Mansfield on the federal claims, believing they were not filed in a timely manner – a ruling King does not challenge. Further, the District Court chose not to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over King’s state law claims.

After the judgment was entered, Mansfield submitted to the district court clerk a bill of costs for $6,553.27, to which King objected and the clerk then overruled. King appealed the taxation of costs to the District Court, which denied the appeal and King’s subsequent motion for reconsideration.

King decided to appeal the clerk’s taxation of costs and the District Court’s upholding of said taxation of costs to the Third Circuit.

“Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d) provides for the award of costs to the prevailing party in federal litigation. King does not challenge Mansfield’s status as a prevailing party or the reasonableness of those costs,” Roth said.

“Instead, King argues that the District Court, in rejecting his federal claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the case and, consequently, the Clerk lacked jurisdiction to tax costs. King is incorrect,” Roth added.

Roth said both the United States Supreme Court and the Third Circuit have determined the statute of limitations in Title VII is not jurisdictional and its time limits are subject to equitable tolling, as are a number of other federal statutes.

“The ADA and the Rehabilitation Act each incorporates by reference Title VII’s powers, remedies, and procedures, making each statute’s time limits similarly non-jurisdictional and subject to equitable tolling,” Roth said. “Thus, the District Court’s grant of summary judgment to Mansfield was not, as King contends, a dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction but rather a decision on the merits.”

On this basis, Roth decided Rule 54(d)(1) applies in this matter and the clerk of the court did in fact possess jurisdiction to tax costs against King.

“It is not necessary for us to reach King’s other arguments, based as they are on the faulty premise that the Clerk of the Court lacked jurisdiction to tax costs,” Roth said. “For the foregoing reasons, we will affirm the order of the District Court, affirming the Clerk of the Court’s taxation of costs.”

The appellant is represented by Ralph B. Pinskey of Pinskey & Foster, in Harrisburg.

The appellees are represented by Keli M. Neary and Lindsey A. Bierzonski of Pennsylvania’s Office of the Attorney General.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit case 15-1814

U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania case 1:12-cv-01112

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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