Great Cast. Lousy Movie.

Sometimes I go to a movie because it features a great cast, and then it turns out to be a dud of a movie. It happens with court cases too. I recently recognized a couple of names in a lawsuit. Jay Brim! Rick Arnett!! I know these guys—what are they doing as defendants in a lawsuit?

It’s hard to figure. The suit was filed by Bennie Washington, an unhappy bus driver who used to work for Plano ISD. Ms. Washington was a member of the Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE). When she complained about the assignments she was given and assorted other things, such as “disrespect” “mistreatment” and being “cursed out” she tapped into her ATPE membership for legal assistance.

That’s where Rick Arnett and Jay Brim came in. For decades they have provided legal assistance to ATPE members. I know them well and can personally vouch for the fact that both gentlemen are experienced, competent and reputable attorneys, very knowledgeable of school law.

However, that’s not how Ms. Washington saw it. When the district turned down Ms. Washington’s $10 million dollar settlement demand (!) due to her pain and suffering, she took the matter to the EEOC and then to court. Besides the district and the guy who assigned bus routes, she also sued Mr. Brim, Mr. Arnett and the ATPE.

Proceeding without benefit of counsel, the plaintiff had a hard time putting her case together. Ultimately, the federal court tossed the whole thing out for failure to allege facts that would enable the plaintiff to prevail. As to the lawyers, the court pointed out that they were private practice attorneys, and therefore, not “state actors.” Thus there was no basis for liability under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Likewise, it was clear that neither Brim nor Arnett nor ATPE ever employed the plaintiff—thus there was no possible liability under Title VII.

Courts are patient with “pro se” litigants, but eventually, the plaintiff has to allege facts that would amount to a valid lawsuit. That just didn’t happen here. The case is Washington v. Plano ISD, decided by the federal court for the Northern District of Texas on March 27, 2018. We found it at 2018 WL 1477491.