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Muhammad v. Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P.
United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
732 F.3d 104 (2013)
Abidan Muhammad (plaintiff) did not have an attorney prepare his discrimination complaint against his former employer, Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P. (defendant). Instead, he used the pro se form the court supplied. On the form, Muhammad checked the boxes indicating he intended to sue under Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The next question asked which basis of discrimination Muhammad claimed, and he checked only disability, not race, color, or sex. In the narrative portion, Muhammad described actions Wal-Mart took related to his disability but did not mention race or gender discrimination. After discovery, Wal-Mart moved for summary judgment. Attorney Christina Agola prepared and filed a response opposing the motion that falsely stated Muhammad had clearly pled gender discrimination, which Wal-Mart should have foreseen based on Muhammad’s deposition answers. After ruling on the motion, the court on its own initiative ordered Agola to show cause why the court should not sanction her for the misrepresentation. Agola filed a response but sent an associate to attend the hearing. The court applied an objective reasonableness test referencing what “any competent attorney” would have done under the same circumstances, discussed Agola’s incompetent practice in other areas extensively, and sanctioned Agola $7,500. Agola appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam.)
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