Judge dismisses Lower Merion webcam suit at plaintiff's request

By Jon Campisi | Jan 13, 2012

The sister of Lower Merion School District student Blake Robbins, who secured a $175,000 settlement from the ritzy suburban Philadelphia school district last year over its so-called webcam spying scandal, has had her own lawsuit dismissed in federal court.

Paige Robbins had filed suit against the beleaguered school system, one of the wealthiest in the country, in early December, alleging a take-home laptop computer’s webcam snapped pictures of her indiscriminately, some while she was partially dressed.

The same claim had earlier been made by her brother and other Lower Merion students, resulting in various litigation.

A week after filing suit on Paige Robbins’ behalf, the plaintiff’s attorney, Mary Elizabeth Bogan, filed court papers asking a federal judge to dismiss her as counsel in the case.

In her petition to the court, Bogan cited irreconcilable conflicts with her client as the basis for her removal request.

A hearing on the removal request took place on Wednesday at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia in front of U.S. District Judge John R. Padova.

In an order dated that same day, Padova dismissed the lawsuit in its entirety. The judicial order states that the decision came after the plaintiff’s own oral motion to dismiss the action without prejudice, which she made at Wednesday’s hearing.

According to local media reports, Paige Robbins requested the suit’s dismissal after she and her legal counsel couldn’t come to an agreement as to the compensation related to the document’s filing.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Bogan claimed Robbins’ father expected her to work the case pro bono, while the lawyer expected an agreement to be honored that would have had her sharing in any potential damages recovered.

In addition to the $175,000 settlement for Blake Robbins in his webcam suit last year, that case netted about $400,000 in legal fees, according to the newspaper.

Blake Robbins is now a high school senior; Paige Robbins has since graduated.

The Inquirer quoted Bogan as saying that she warned the Robbins family of the potential for negative publicity surrounding the Paige Robbins case given the previous settlement that hit school district taxpayers.

The Robbinses admitted to having been bothered by the attention to the new civil action, the paper reported.

During what was supposed to be a court hearing on the motion to dismiss counsel ended up being an entirely different proceeding, according to the newspaper.

Paige Robbins ended up saying that she wanted to drop her case entirely, a request that was ultimately granted by the judge.

School district officials had blasted the Robbins family from the get-go, saying all along that the Paige Robbins claim was meritless.

Lower Merion spokesman Doug Young told the Pennsylvania Record in a prior interview that federal authorities had earlier determined that “no one ever saw a compromising image of Ms. Robbins.”

Young had accused Paige Robbins of filing her suit simply so that she could have a payday from Lower Merion Township taxpayers.

In a brief statement Thursday morning, Young reiterated his earlier claims.

"As we said weeks ago, this was a shameless, opportunistic suit that had absolutely no merit and should never have been filed," he wrote in an emailed message. "Clearly, it's time to move on."

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