Mecklenburg plaintiffs who lost school reopening lawsuit forced to pay NCAE attorney’s fees

Five plaintiffs who sued the Charlotte Mecklenburg Association of Educators (CMAE) in September 2020 over COVID-related school building closures have been ordered by a Mecklenburg County Superior Court judge to pay $11,620 in attorney’s fees incurred by CMAE/NCAE while defending the suit.

The lawsuit claimed that NCAE members’ advocacy for remote instruction during the pandemic constituted a violation of North Carolina state law prohibiting strikes, defined in law as “a cessation or deliberate slowing down of work.” It said “NCAE has coordinated a deliberate slowing down of work of CMS by way of denying and/or delaying Active Instruction to CMS Students.”

In the likely event that you didn’t follow that absurd logic, plaintiffs were arguing that educators speaking during public comments at a board meeting and then board members voting to open in Plan C amounted to an unlawful strike.

The suit was dismissed in March 2021, but North Carolina law also allows for the prevailing party to be awarded attorney’s fees in the event of “a complete absence of a justiciable issue of either law or fact raised by the losing party in any pleading.”

In other words, if you waste other people’s time and money by pursuing legal action that clearly has no chance of winning, you are financially responsible for that terrible decision.

Judge Karen Eady-Williams’ order, which you can read in its entirety below, notes that the law expressly permits NCAE and its members “to advocate for workplace safety in the manner alleged in the Complaint” and that the plaintiff’s allegation that NCAE had violated the state constitution was legally insufficient because nonprofit organizations are not state actors.

I’m grateful for the efforts of NCAE’s legal team in standing up for the rights of its members and successfully arguing for the dismissal of this frivolous suit.  There has never been a better time to join NCAE than right now.  For any North Carolina educators who are interested, please feel free to reach out to me for more information, or visit this link.  

Signed-Order-on-Fees

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