Blog Post Accusing Town Officials of Sexism Helps Discrimination Claim Survive

An opinion from a federal court in New York has cited blogged accusations of sexism as part of a set of allegations sufficent to uphold a constitutional equal-protection gender discrimination claim brought by a real estate developer against government officials. The complaint stems from rejected requests for zoning changes.

The case is Catcove Corp. v. Heaney, No. 08-CV-4156 (JS)(ETB), E.D.N.Y., Seybert, J., presiding. The opinion is at 685 F.Supp.2d 328. Here is the excerpt about the blog post:

Plaintiffs also allege an Equal Protection violation based upon sex discrimination. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that: (1) Mr. Heaney “possessed [ ] a clear bias against women,” and that “women were discriminated against” within Southampton; (2) in a local blog report, “several women” described “Heaney and his administration’s ‘Neanderthal’ Town Legal Staff-to be disrespectful, misogynistic and crude”; (3) Mr. Heaney “discriminate[d] against Ms. Gotthelf because she is female” and wanted “to force her to sell her properties” to his “male friends,”; (4) Mr. Murphee said that he liked Plaintiffs’ proposed project, but “wanted a real developer to develop it”; and (5) Messrs. Heaney and Murphree coerced Plaintiffs to sell a different property to one of “defendants’ ‘good old boys.’ ” (Amend. Compl. ¶¶ 32, 35, 41, 46, 51). Given these allegations, the Court will permit Plaintiffs’ sex discrimination claims against Mr. Heaney and Mr. Murphree to survive-for now. With respect to Mr. Heaney, Plaintiffs have pled enough factual allegations to suggest that Mr. Heaney possessed an animus towards women and favored male developers over Ms. Gotthelf. These allegations (and reasonable inferences drawn therefrom) suffice to set forth a “plausible” claim against Mr. Heaney, albeit barely.

Also interesting in the opinion: other parts of the lawsuit – ones not concerning blogs apparently – led the judge to impose Rule 11 sanctions on the plaintiff. Claims against certain defendants were, according to the court, “utterly lacking in support.”

It’s not every day you see Rule 11 used.

The court was merciful however, saying that “only mild sanctions” were warranted, leveling a $1,000 fine.

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