A federal judge Friday ordered a West Toledo family that has been in a lengthy legal dispute with Toledo Public Schools to pay the district’s attorney fees.
U.S. District Court Judge James Carr ordered Glenn Horen to pay the district $32,792 to bring an end to a series of what Judge Carr called “fruitless” and “meritless” lawsuits against the district. Mr. Horen and his wife, Joanne, have sued TPS and others several times since 2006 over the care of their disabled daughter.
Judge Carr wrote that he had warned them about the potential for sanctions and had previously imposed some, but still they persisted.
“Plaintiff deserves the sanctions I impose, just as the taxpayers deserve recompense for the waste of their money he has caused,” Judge Carr wrote. “Nothing else can give the taxpayers, the Board, or this court assurance that the future will not bring yet more futile, unnecessary, and unjustified litigation – and expense.”
The litigation and administrative complaints center around the couple’s daughter, who suffers from a rare disability called Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome. It leaves her unable to walk or speak and often causes her to have severe seizures. The Horens pulled their daughter out of TPS in 2006 and disputed how the district worked with them on an individual education plan.
They allege that their daughter was not receiving the care and education to which she's entitled under federal law.
The Horens have lost repeatedly in their legal battle, and the litigation has cost TPS a significant amount in legal fees. District Chief of Staff Brian Murphy did not know Friday how much TPS has spent on the multiple cases, but said the sanctions ordered on Friday only covered the cost of one case.
Mr. Murphy applauded the court’s decision, and said he hoped the litigation would now end.
“The district is very happy with the outcome of the case,” he said. “These were taxpayer dollars that were spent on a case really that did not have a lot of merit, and to be able to get some of that money back is a win not just for the district but for the community as well.”
The Horens had argued they could not pay the amount TPS says it was owed. But Judge Carr wrote that “the parents have repeatedly found the wherewithal to pay filing fees in the court and for their appeals.”
“I find as a matter of fact that the only potentially effective way to deter future utterly meritless litigation is to make plaintiff legally responsible for reimbursing the Board in full for the expenditures that it reasonably incurred in this case,” the judge wrote.
Mr. Horen said Friday that he wanted to read the decision before commenting. The Horens have long criticized TPS for not settling the legal dispute and in general, including through comments on The Blade’s Web site.