Ex-staffer at CUNY wins $75K for legal fees despite nominal $1 victory

October 5, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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In a legal showdown over wrongful termination and due process, Rogelio Knights, Jr., a former substitute student athletics manager at the City University of New York (CUNY), has been awarded $75,000 in attorney’s fees. 

While losing his primary claim, Knights won nominal damages of $1 because the university failed to provide a name-clearing hearing amid allegations of sexual harassment. 

The court cited precedents that usually discourage awarding attorney’s fees for nominal damages unless a case serves societal benefit or establishes new legal principles. Knights’ case, the court admitted, met neither criterion but called for an exception due to unusual circumstances. 

Knights was placed on administrative leave during an investigation into sexual harassment allegations and subsequently terminated. Although CUNY later reinstated him with full back pay, the arbitration process was mooted, forcing Knights into expensive federal litigation to clear his name. 

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

In a 14-page opinion, federal court justice Frederic Block pointed to well-established case law, including Wisconsin v. Constantineau and Board of Regents v. Roth, noting the vital importance of name-clearing hearings in instances where reputations are at stake. It also criticized CUNY’s actions to moot the arbitration as an evasive tactic that compelled Knights into prolonged litigation.



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