AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Corrections Law for Jails, Prisons and Detention Facilities
Monthly Law Journal Article: Attorneys' Fees in Prisoners' Civil Rights Lawsuits, 2016 (1) AELE Mo. L. J. 301.
Massachusetts prisoner was awarded $28,578.69 in attorney's fees and costs as a
prevailing plaintiff under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1988 after he sued claiming that
prison officials violated his constitutional due process rights by holding him
in essentially solitary confinement in a special management unit (SMU) for ten
months, without a hearing, while waiting to transfer or reclassify him. That
resulted in a decision in Massachusetts “for the first time that
segregated confinement on awaiting action status for longer than ninety days
gives rise to a liberty interest entitling an inmate to notice and a
hearing,” and a written post-hearing decision. The highest court in
Massachusetts upheld the attorneys’ fee award although the plaintiff was
discharged from the SMU detention long before relief in his favor was granted,
as he qualified as a "prevailing party” because the declaratory
judgment granted was not moot when entered, as the deprivation of civil rights
was capable of repetition against him, and the inmate directly benefited from
the judgment when it was entered. LaChance v. Commissioner of Correction,
#SJC-12016, 475 Mass. 757, 2016 Mass. Lexis 767, 60 N.E.3d 1157.
Both federal and state courts hearing federal civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 have discretion to award a prevailing party (other than the federal government) reasonable attorneys' fees under 2 U.S.C. Sec. 1988. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, has restricted such awards to prevailing defendants only to cases in which the plaintiff's lawsuit was "frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation." The Idaho Supreme Court held that it was not bound by that interpretation of the law and made a Sec.1988 award of attorneys' fees to a prevailing defendant in a Sec. 1983 lawsuit without first deciding whether the plaintiff's claim was "frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation." The U.S. Supreme Court reversed. Sec. 1988 is a federal statute, so the Supreme Court's interpretation is final and binding on all courts, federal or state. James v. Boise, #15-493, 136 S. Ct. 685, 2016 U.S. Lexis 947.
In Wilkins v. Gaddy, #08-10914, 559 U.S. 34 (2010), the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the argument that a prisoner, to impose liability on a correctional officer for excessive use of force, must show more than a "de minimus" (minimal) injury. On remand, the prisoner was awarded $0.99 in damages by the jury, which was rounded up to $1. The trial court awarded attorneys' fees limited to $1.40, based on the limit of attorneys' fees in the Prison Litigation Reform Act of no more than 150% of the money damages awarded, rather than the over $92,000 in attorneys' fees requested. A federal appeals court has rejected an argument that this limitation on attorneys' fees was unconstitutional. The court applied rational basis scrutiny and that Congress could have believed that this limit would help deter frivolous, marginal and trivial claims. Wilkins v. Gaddy, #12-8148, 2013 U.S. App. Lexis 22389 (4th Cir.).
A prisoner was awarded $1,500 in compensatory and punitive damages against a prison employee in a lawsuit over alleged interference with his needed dental treatment. After the prisoner successfully defended the judgment on appeal, he moved for an award of $16,800 in attorneys' fees. The employee claimed that he only should have to pay, at most, attorneys' fees of up to 150% of the amount of damages awarded (or $2,250), because of a cap on attorneys' fees in the Prison Litigation Reform Act. A federal appeals court rejected this argument, holding that the cap only applies to fees awarded for obtaining the award in the trial court and did not limit the amount of fees that could be awarded after successfully defending such a judgment on appeal. Further proceedings will determine the exact amount of fees to be awarded, but the cap will not apply to the fees for work done on the appeal. Woods v. Carey, #09-16113, 2013 U.S. App. Lexis 14430 (9th Cir.).
The trial court awarded $505,671.40 in attorneys' fees and $24,549.94 in costs, ordering the plaintiff to pay $5,000 of the fee award. The court ordered that all four defendants bee jointly and severally liable for the remaining $500,671.40, to ensure that the attorneys' fees were paid. This action was taken, in part, because the county indicated that it might not indemnify the defendant against whom the largest award was made because he was in prison and thought to be judgment-proof. An appeal of the judgment on liability was affirmed, Jimenez v. Franklin, #07-56149, 333 Fed. Appx. 299, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 21564 (Unpub. 9th Cir.) but that appeal did not raise the issue of joint and several liability for the attorneys' fees. An additional $41,830.10 in fees were awarded for that appeal, bringing the fee award to $547,501.50, or 150% of the total damage award, the fee limit under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1997e(d)(2). The county did not pay $225,000 of the attorneys' fee award. A federal appeals court rejected an argument by the deputy found liable for $1 that he could not be held jointly and severally liable for the unpaid fees because of the statute's attorneys' fee cap of 150% of damages, as he had not raised the issue in the earlier appeal. Jimenez v. Franklin, #10-56199, 2012 U.S. App. Lexis 10260 (9th Cir.).
Prisoners in Idaho who sued over the issue of prison overcrowding 25 years ago obtained injunctive relief. Their attorneys went back to court recently to argue that the defendants should be held in contempt for failing to comply with the relief granted, but the problem was corrected in the meantime, so no contempt order was issued. Attorneys' fees were still awarded to the lawyers, however, as their motion was the "catalyst" for the state to remedy the violations. The appeals court upheld the award of $76,185.60 in attorneys' fees, $12,249.20 in costs, and $6.94 in postage and supplies as reasonable, and stated that the lawyers had not "milked" the case just to run up fees. Balla v. State of Idaho, #10-35413, 2012 U.S. App. Lexis 7644 (9th Cir.).
After a prisoner's negligence and emotional distress claims against an Idaho county were found to be frivolous, the defendants were awarded $13,172 in attorneys' fees and costs against the prisoner under state law. The prisoner tried to avoid this award by filing a Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition. A federal bankruptcy appellate panel ruled that the discharge granted in the bankruptcy proceeding did not relieve him from having to pay. The award constituted a debt arising out of a "fine, penalty, or forfeiture payable to and for the benefit of a governmental unit," which cannot be discharged through bankruptcy. Searcy v. ADA County Prosecuting Atty. Office (In re Searcy), #09-00248, 2012 Bankr. Lexis 204 (B.A.P. 9th Cir.).
A Rastafarian prisoner claimed that a corrections officer violated his religious rights by touching his dreadlock hair without permission. While the jury held in favor of the prisoner, they only awarded nominal damages of $1. Under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1997e(d)(2) of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), the court's award of attorney's fees to the prevailing plaintiff were limited to 150% of the damage award, or $1.50. The appeals court noted that Congress, in granting a statutory right for prevailing plaintiffs in federal civil rights lawsuits to be granted attorneys' fees, departed from the normal rule in U.S. courts that litigants all pay their own attorneys' fees. It was accordingly also free to put a cap on such fees in cases brought by prisoners. Shepherd v. Goord, #10-4821, 2011 U.S. App. Lexis 22928 (2nd Cir.).
Prisoners who prevailed in a settlement of a lawsuit over prison conditions, specifically dental care, were entitled to an award of attorneys' fees and paralegal fees under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1988, and they were limited by the Prison Litigation Reform Act to 150% of the hourly rate established for court appointed counsel under 18 U.S.C. Sec. 3006A. The court held that the same cap applicable to attorneys' fees applies to separately billed paralegal fees. It therefore upheld a trial court order requiring the defendants to pay the plaintiffs' paralegal expenses at a rate of $169.50 per hour, rather than the $82.50 per hour prison officials had argued they should pay. Perez v. Cate, #09-17185, 2011 U.S. App. Lexis 643 (9th Cir.).
After a Muslim prisoner was granted relief in his lawsuit seeking to have prison officials provide him with kosher meals, the trial court awarded him $73,360.20 in attorneys' fees and 271.20 in costs. A federal appeals court ruled that 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1988, regarding the award of attorneys' fees, did not preempt a Nebraska state statute requiring, for payment of such awards, submission to a state claims procedure, followed by submission to the state legislature for possible appropriation. The appeals court also found that the fee award failed to deduct time spent on unsuccessful claims in the lawsuit and that the plaintiff's attorney spent an "unreasonable" amount of time on the claims on which he did achieve success. As the requested attorneys' fee award was disproportionate to the relief obtained, further proceedings were required. El-Tabech v. Clarke, #09-1554, 2010 U.S. App. Lexis 16972 (8th Cir.).
A newspaper that reports on prison legal issues claimed that California prison officials violated its First Amendment rights by refusing to deliver its publications to some prisoners, and by refusing to deliver certain hardcover books that the publisher wished to send to prisoners. The parties reached a settlement agreement which included delivery of the publications to prisoners, and the payment of $65,100 in damages. Ultimately $458,000 in attorneys' fees and costs were also paid by the state. A federal appeals court has now upheld a trial court award of an additional $137,502.46 in attorneys' fees and costs for work done monitoring the state's compliance with the settlement agreement, including corresponding with inmates. Prison Legal News v. Schwarzenegger, #09-15006, 2010 U.S. App. Lexis 11690 (9th Cir.).
A California state prisoner claimed that prison grooming regulations violated his right to religious freedom. While the trial court initially issued a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of the regulations, ultimately it dismissed the prisoner's claims for lack of jurisdiction. It then nevertheless awarded the plaintiff prisoner attorneys' fees. A federal appeals court ruled that the attorneys' fee award was erroneous when the trial court never found an actual violation of the prisoner's rights. Kimbrough v. State of Cal.; #08-17231, 2010 U.S. App. Lexis 13039 (9th Cir.).
Current and former detainees in a county jail claimed that the county had an unconstitutional policy of stripsearching every detainee without reasonable suspicion and regardless of the offense they were charged with. A $2.5 million settlement was reached in their class action lawsuit, but the trial judge awarded the detainees counsel less than the requested amount of attorneys' fees from the settlement. A federal appeals court approved this result, finding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that use of counsel's normal hourly rates for their time adequately compensated them, rather than awarding a percentage of the settlement, or using a multiplier on the normal hourly rate. While $650,000 in attorneys' fees (26% of the settlement) was requested, the court approved attorneys' fees and costs of $460, 796.50 (of which $344,795 were fees). McDaniel v. County of Schenectady, #07-5580, 2010 U.S. App. Lexis 2922 (2nd Cir.).
A Nebraska prisoner attempted to send drawings of a marijuana leaf and a bare-breasted woman to his mother and to a communist group, the "Maoist Internationalist Movement." When prison officials prevented him from doing so, he sued, claiming a violation of his First Amendment rights. The trial court directed a verdict in the prisoner's favor, awarded him nominal damages of $1, and ordered two defendants to pay approximately $25,000 in attorneys' fees. The appeals court rejected the defendants' defenses of failure to exhaust available administrative remedies and mootness as not properly preserved for appeal. It also upheld a determination that the prisoner, since he was awarded nominal damages, was a prevailing plaintiff, entitled to an award of attorneys' fees. But the appeals court also held that 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1997e(d)(2) of the Prison Litigation Reform Act limited the award of attorneys fees to 150% of the damages awarded, or $1.50, since no injunctive or declaratory relief was awarded. Keup v. Hopkins, #09-1079, 2010 U.S. App. Lexis 4538 (8th Cir.).
Muslim inmates complained that they were only provided with Halal meat, produced in accordance with the requirements of their religion, twice a year, while Jewish prisoners received kosher meat four to five times a week. Prison officials agreed to provide Halal meat with the same frequency in exchange for the dismissal of the lawsuit, which the trial court approved. A federal appeals court ruled that the prisoners were prevailing parties, entitled to an award of attorneys' fees under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1988, since they accomplished a "material alteration" on the complained of issue, and that the caps on attorneys' fees in the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. 1997e(d), applied to the case despite the fact that some of the plaintiffs were released from prison after they filed the lawsuit, but before it was settled. Fees of $99,658.48 were awarded. On remand, the trial court was instructed to determine a reasonable attorneys' fee award for the time spent on the appeal. Perez v. Westchester Cty. Dep't of Corr., #08-4245, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 25396 (2nd Cir.).
After a jury awarded a prisoner $17,500 in damages on a federal civil rights claim against a prison guard, the trial court awarded him $26,250 in attorneys' fees. The appeals court upheld the attorneys' fee caps in the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1997e(d), rejecting an argument that they denied prisoners equal protection of the law as compared to non-incarcerated persons. Parker v. Conway, #08-2764, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 20723 (3rd Cir.).
Limitations on attorneys' fee awards contained in 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1997e of the Prison Litigation Reform Act are constitutional because they are based on legitimate governmental objectives, including achieving uniformity in such awards. Parker v. Conway, #08-2764, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 20723 (3rd Cir.).
A federal court jury awarded $1 to a plaintiff Muslim immigration detainee on claims that her rights to religious freedom were violated, as well as $100,000 on state law negligent hiring, training, supervision, and retention claims. A federal appeals court found that the trial court, in awarding $642,398.57 in attorneys' fees to the plaintiff, erroneously assumed that 33% to 50% of the state law damage award was intended as compensation for the plaintiff's federal religious freedom claim. A recalculation was ordered of the proper amount of attorneys' fees to be awarded. Jama v. Esmor Correctional Services, Inc., #08-2500, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 17950 (3rd Cir.).
After an 18-year-old female detainee at a Wisconsin prison for women managed to commit suicide despite being placed on 24-hour-a-day suicide watch, her estate and minor sisters sued a number of correctional employees for failure to prevent the death, seeking a total of $10 million in damages. After years of litigation, the plaintiffs accepted a settlement offer of $635,000, not including attorneys' fees. The plaintiffs then sought $328,740.42 in attorneys' fees. The trial judge reduced the request, awarding $100,000 in attorneys' fees, stating that he was doing so because the plaintiffs recovered only a "small fraction" of the damages they originally sought. The appeals court found that this was an improper approach, and stated that the fact that the plaintiffs initially requested an "absurd" amount of damages should not be held against them to reduce the attorneys' fee award, since they did obtain a "significant" recovery. Further proceedings were ordered on the right amount of attorneys' fees to award. Estate of Enoch v. Tienor, #08-4103, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 13920 (7th Cir.).
A former detainee awarded $1 against a corrections company and correctional officials on her claims for interference with her right to exercise her religion under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000bb, as well as $100,000 on related state law claims, was a prevailing plaintiff entitled to an award of attorneys' fees under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. A total of $642,398.57 in attorneys' fees and costs was awarded. The court found that the results the plaintiff had achieved caused both a change in the defendants' behavior, and benefits for the plaintiff. Jama v. Esmor Correctional Services, Inc., Civ. No. 97-3093, 2008 U.S. Dist. Lexis 32943 (D.N.J.).
Federal appeals court rules that statute restricting attorneys' fees awards in prisoner lawsuits to 150% of the damage award applies to lawsuits filed by prisoners over incidents that occurred before their incarceration. Plaintiff prisoner awarded $1 in nominal damages in excessive force case was therefore only entitled to $1.50 in attorneys' fees, rather than the $9,680 awarded by the trial judge. Court rejects the argument that this result, following the "plain language" of the statute, caused an "absurd" result. Robbins v. Chronister, No. 02-3115, 435 F.3d 1238 (10th Cir. 2006) [2006 JB Jun]
Federal trial court preliminarily approves $12 million settlement of class action lawsuit challenging D.C. Department of Corrections policy of conducting suspicionless strip searches of detainees who were ruled releasable after court appearances. Court also finds that attorneys' fee award of one-third of the settlement fund, or $4 million, was reasonable. Bynum v. D.C., No. CIV.A.02-956, 412 F. Supp. 2d 73 (D.D.C. 2006). [N/R]
Mother of youth murdered while in the custody of a contractors for the District of Columbia Youth Services Administration, was awarded $997,161 in compensatory and punitive damages on civil rights and negligence claims. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant's failure to monitor the youth's medication and whereabouts, to connect him with court ordered mental health and substance abuse services, or to properly care for him caused his death. Court rules that plaintiff was also entitled to an award of $398,490.75 in attorneys' fees and $22,528.30 in costs. Court rejected argument that it was unreasonable to spend 96 hours preparing opposition to the defendant's motion for summary judgment, but did rule that a 25% reduction in requested hourly rates was justified when the same evidence was presented on both the civil rights and negligence claims and the requested attorneys' fee award would otherwise have amounted to almost 54% of the damage award. Muldrow v. Re-Direct, Inc., No. CIV. A. 01-2537, 397 F. Supp. 2d 1 (D.D.C. 2005). [N/R]
Prisoner who was awarded $1 in nominal damages in federal civil rights lawsuit against off-duty police officer who allegedly violated his Fourth Amendment rights by using excessive force in smashing the window of his car with a baton during confrontation prior to his incarceration was properly also awarded $9,680 in attorneys' fees and $915.16 in expenses by trial court. Federal appeals court rules that provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act's which limits attorneys' fee awards in prisoner suits to 150% of the money judgment, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1997e(d), did not apply to civil rights claims that arose before the prisoner was incarcerated. Robbins v. Chronister, No. 02-3115, 402 F.3d 1047 (10th Cir. 2005). [N/R]
Federal appeals court rules that maximum allowable attorneys' fees, under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, should be based on 150% of the hourly rate authorized by the Judicial Conference of the United States, not on 150% of the lower hourly rate actually paid to court-appointed counsel under the Criminal Justice Act, which is based on the amount actually appropriated by Congress. Hadix v. Johnson, No. 03-1068 2005 U.S. App. Lexis 3275 (6th Cir.). [2005 JB Apr]
Prisoner who prevailed on his claim that his right of access to the courts was unconstitutionally interfered with by denial of physical access to the prison's law library (allowing him only to request particular materials be brought to him in his cell by providing their precise citation) was entitled to an award of $99,981.43 in attorneys' fees and costs. Amount of attorneys' fees award in case were not limited by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1997e(d)(1)(A) when a settlement agreement provided that fees would be awarded under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1988. LaPlante v. Pepe, #01-10186-NG, 307 F. Supp. 2d 219 (D. Mass. 2004). [N/R]
Plaintiff who obtained injunctive and declaratory relief in class action lawsuit claiming that correctional officials failed to adequately train and supervise its employees, thereby subjecting prisoners to a risk of assaults by other inmates, but who received no monetary relief was entitled to an award of $427,158.73 in attorneys' fees and expenses. The maximum hourly rate for the attorneys' in the case was limited, under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 1997e(d)(3) to 150% of the hourly fee for appointed lawyers paid in the federal circuit where the lawsuit was brought, rather than 150% of the rate established by the Judicial Conference. This resulted in a maximum hourly fee of $135 per hour, rather than $169.50 per hour, in this case. Court also rules that plaintiff's attorney was entitled to a fee multiplier in the case because of "excellent work" enabling case to be resolved through summary judgment and settlement, avoiding a costly trial and saving defendant officials higher attorneys' fees and costs. Skinner v. Uphoff, 324 F. Supp. 2d 1278 (D. Wyoming. 2004). [N/R]
While prisoner successfully proved that prison security director improperly put him in segregation in retaliation for filing "too many" complaints and grievances, in violation of his First Amendment rights, under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, he was not entitled to an award of compensatory damages in the absence of physical injury, but only $1 in nominal damages. Appeals court also upholds the decision not to award punitive damages, since the defendant acted out of "frustration," rather than with an "evil motive," and upholds application of PLRA section to limit attorneys' fee award in the case to $1.50. Royal v. Kautzky, No. 02-3446, 375 F.3d 720 (8th Cir. 2004). [2004 JB Oct]
Prison Litigation Reform Act's cap on attorneys' fees at 150% of damage award does not apply in cases where the parties privately settle the lawsuit, and subsequently enter a stipulation of dismissal of the claim in the trial court. Torres v. Walker, No. 03-102, 356 F.3d 238 (2nd Cir. 2004). [2004 JB Aug]
Prisoner awarded $1,000 against one of two defendant correctional officers on his claim for excessive use of force against him was also entitled to $1,500 in attorneys' fees as a prevailing party under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1997e(d) (2) limiting awards against defendants for attorneys' fees to 150% of award for damages. Farella v. Hockaday, 304 F. Supp. 2d 1076 (C.D. Ill. 2004). [N/R]
Prison visitor who sought $9 million in damages on multiple constitutional and state law claims over purported unlawful search and arrest, and excessive use of force against him by correctional officers was ultimately awarded only $2,501 in damages against one officer on a single claim of excessive use of force. Trial judge reduces requested attorneys' fee award and costs of over $140,000 to a total of $27,157.80, based on "unnecessary prolonging," by plaintiff's attorney, of the duration and cost of the case. Lynn v. State of Maryland, 295 F. Supp. 2d 594 (D. Md. 2003). [2004 JB Apr]
Prisoner who was awarded compensatory damages of $15,000 and punitive damages of $30,000 for alleged excessive force and inadequate medical care must use 25% of his damage award to pay his lawyer attorneys' fees, reducing the amount to be paid by the defendants from $40,654.75 to $29,404.75. Jackson v. Austin, 267 F. Supp. 2d 1059 (D. Kan. 2003). [2004 JB Jan]
Ohio prisoner had a clearly established right to marry his girlfriend, but it was not clearly established that he had the right to affirmative assistance from correctional officials in obtaining a marriage license. Correctional officials were therefore entitled to qualified immunity from liability for money damages for initially failing to provide such assistance. Couple, who married following settlement of their federal civil rights lawsuit, were not "prevailing parties" entitled to an award of attorneys' fees when they did not obtain a judgment on the merits of their claim or a court-ordered consent decree. Toms v. Taft, No. 01-4035, 338 F.3d 519 (6th Cir. 2003). [2003 JB Nov]
Federal appeals court, by 6-5 vote, upholds constitutionality of attorneys' fees limits in prisoner lawsuits imposed by the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Trial judge's finding of an equal protection violation overturned in case where prisoner was awarded damages for alleged deliberate indifference to his need to be evaluated for a liver transplant. Johnson v. Daley, #00-3981, 339 F.3d 582 (7th Cir. 2003).[2003 JB Oct]
Attorneys' fee restrictions imposed by the Prison Litigation Reform Act apply to all lawsuits filed by a prisoner, not just those that challenge prison conditions. Federal appeals court rules that they also apply to a civil rights lawsuit challenging the denial of parole or otherwise challenging the length of confinement. Court also rejects equal protection challenge to the statute, and rules that it allows for the awarding of attorneys' fees on work done litigating attorneys' fees issues (so-called "fees on fees"). Jackson v. State Board of Pardons and Paroles, No. 02-15545, 331 F.3d 790 (11th Cir. 2003). [2003 JB Sep]
Federal appeals court holds that limits on attorneys' fees awards established by the Prison Litigation Reform Act applied to prisoner's successful challenge to retroactive change in rules concerning the date of his eligibility for parole hearing. These limits apply to all lawsuits brought by prisoners, not just those concerning "prison conditions," but also those challenging the length of confinement. Jackson v. State Board of Pardons and Paroles, #02-15545, 2003 U.S. App. Lexis 9773 (11th Cir.). [2003 JB Jul]
Attorneys' fee award limitations contained in Prison Litigation Reform Act did not apply to a fee award to prevailing plaintiff prisoners under the attorneys' fee sections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act. Prevailing plaintiffs in disability discrimination lawsuit against California correctional officials were also entitled to fees for work their lawyers did in separate litigation defending a judgment on a similar issue from another federal appeals court on review before the U.S. Supreme Court. Armstrong v. Davis, #01-15779, 318 F.3d 965 (9th Cir. 2003). [2003 JB May]
Inmate was a "prevailing party" after he was awarded only $1 in nominal damages in his lawsuit accusing correctional officers of using excessive force against him, but an award of attorneys' fees was not warranted in view of his limited success, since a jury found in favor of one of the two officers, he had sought $790,000 in damages, the case did not involve "significant legal issues," and there was no injunctive relief granted. Ciaprazi v. County of Nassau, 195 F. Supp. 22d 398 (E.D.N.Y. 2002). [N/R]
A prisoner who was only awarded $1 in nominal damages in his excessive force lawsuit against a correctional officer was limited by the Prison Litigation Reform Act to a maximum award of attorneys' fees of $1.50; federal appeals court upholds statutory limit against equal protection argument. Foulk v. Charrier, #00-1132, 262 F.3d 687 (8th Cir. 2001). [2002 JB Apr]
Correctional defendants were not entitled to an award of attorneys' fees following summary judgment in their favor against estate of prisoner who died of pneumonia. Estate of Reynolds v. Greene County, No. C-3-99-115, 163 F. Supp. 2d 890 (S.D. Ohio 2001). [N/R]
State was entitled to an award of attorneys' fees against attorney for plaintiff prisoner for costs incurred in pursuing its defense of an appeal of the prisoner's second lawsuit over same personal injury claim. Second lawsuit was essentially the same as the first cause of action which was dismissed, so there was no factual basis to justify the appeal. Rodriguez v. Department of Correction, No. 26505, 29 P.3d 401 (Idaho 2001). [N/R]
296:115 U.S. Supreme Court rejects "catalyst theory" for the award of attorneys' fees in federal lawsuits; a plaintiff, in order to be entitled to an attorneys' fee award must receive a court judgment on the merits or a court- ordered consent decree; a voluntary change in the behavior of the defendant will not suffice. Buckhannon Board and Care Home, Inc. v. West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, No. 99-1848, 121 S. Ct. 1835 (2001).
294:87 Prisoner awarded a total of $83,250 in lawsuit asserting excessive use of force by correctional officer was not entitled to $30,550.90 in attorneys' fees; such fees must be recalculated, based on cap on hourly fees in Prison Litigation Reform Act after federal appeals court rejects trial court's ruling that the cap violated prisoner's right to equal protection. Wolff v. Moore, No. 00-3959, 00- 3995, 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 28054 (6th Cir.).
292:52 Prisoner who was awarded only $1 in nominal damages in his lawsuit over his loss of consciousness while in restraint was only entitled to $1.50 in attorneys' fees, not the $3,892.50 awarded by the trial court; cap on attorneys' fees in Prison Litigation Reform Act applies to awards of nominal damages and does not violate prisoner's rights. Voivin v. Black, No. 99-2085, 225 F.3d 36 (1st Cir. 2000).
290:19 Federal trial judge rules that attorneys' fees limits of Prison Litigation Reform Act violate equal protection; plaintiff who was awarded $40,000 in damages for inadequate medical care is awarded $88,578.81 in attorneys' fees and costs. Johnson v. Daley, 117 F. Supp. 2d 889 (W.D. Wis. 2000).
286:154 County was liable for attack by other prisoners on man arrested for traffic offenses; sheriff had a policy of confining all arrestees, including those with prior felony arrests and a history of violence, together in one large cell, which amounted to deliberate indifference to the risk of harm to prisoners such as the plaintiff; limits on attorneys' fees in the Prison Litigation Reform Act did not apply in a suit by a former prisoner. Janes v. Hernandez, Nos. 99- 50092 & 99-50141, 215 F.3d 541 (5th Cir. 2000).
287:163 Even if prisoners' lawsuit was the "catalyst" causing New Jersey to alter the application of a statute denying prisoners access to pornographic materials, they were not entitled to an award of attorneys' fees once an appeals court ruled that the statute did not violate their rights; court finds an attorneys' fee award on a "catalyst" theory would violate the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Waterman v. Farmer, 84 F. Supp. 2d 579 (D.N.J. 2000).
284:115 Prisoner awarded $15,000 in damages for correctional officers' use of excessive force against him was entitled to attorneys' fee award of $22,499, not the $137,395 he requested; trial court upholds constitutionality of Prison Litigation Reform Act's limitations on prisoner attorneys' fee awards. Morrison v. Davis, 88 F. Supp. 2d 799 (S.D. Ohio 2000).
284:120 Female prisoner and her husband, who was allowed to attend the birth of their child after filing a federal civil rights lawsuit, were prevailing parties entitled to $5,743.67 in attorneys' fees and costs; hourly fee limits of Prison Litigation Reform Act did not apply since the husband was not a prisoner; lawsuit claimed denial was based on prisoner giving newspaper interview regarding prison conditions. Turner v. Wilkinson, 92 F. Supp. 2d 697 (S.D. Ohio 1999).
279:37 UPDATE: Law firm that won $3.75 million award for male correctional officer sexually harassed by a female co-worker awarded $822,000 in attorneys' fees, including an enhancement based on an evaluation that it pursued a "difficult" case. Lockley v. New Jersey, L-03195- 94, New Jersey trial court, reported in The National Law Journal, p. A12 (September 27, 1999).
279:42 Prison rule prohibiting religious services in unauthorized areas did not provide Muslim prisoner with adequate notice that his conduct of silent, individual, demonstrative prayer in recreation yard would be a violation of the rule for which he could be disciplined; Attorneys' fee cap of Prison Litigation Reform Act applied despite the fact that the lawsuit was filed before the statute's enactment; $73,694.36 in fees and costs awarded. Chatin v. Coombe, Nos. 98-2484, 98-2556, 186 F.3d 82 (2nd Cir. 1999).
272:115 Attorneys' fee cap in Prison Litigation Reform Act applied to work done after law's effective date, even in cases which were pending prior to the law's enactment. Martin v. Hadix, #98-262, 119 S. Ct. 1998 (1999).
265:3 Prisoner who was awarded $17,500 in damages for correctional officer's failure to protect him from being stabbed by his cellmate was not only entitled to $10,131.64 in attorneys' fees, but also to attorneys' fees for the time his lawyer spent preparing a fee petition seeking the attorneys' fee award; Prison Litigation Reform Act did not bar an award of "fees on fees." Hernandez v. Kalinowski, #97-1734, 146 F.3d 196 (3rd Cir. 1998).
267:36 Federal appeals court rules that attorneys' fees limits in Prison Litigation Reform Act do not apply in cases pending prior to Act's passage; U.S. Supreme Court grants review. Hadix v. Johnson, # 96-2567, 143 F.3d 246 (6th Cir.), cert. granted, Johnson v. Hadix, No. 98-262, 119 S. Ct. 508 (1998).
269:67 Prisoner who was awarded $35,000 in compensatory damages against correctional sergeant, but nothing against eight other defendants he claimed also harassed him in retaliation for his grievance activities, to receive $91,212.30 in attorneys' fees and $3,525.86 in court costs; failure to prevail against eight of nine defendants did not require reduction of attorneys' fees award when claims against defendants were interrelated. Alnutt v. Cleary, 27 F.Supp.2d 395 (W.D.N.Y. 1998).
269:75 Jury awards almost $13 million to family of schizophrenic man who died of asphyxiation after being placed in restraints face down; trial judge also awards $343,953.70 in attorneys' fees, but rejects one plaintiff's attorney's request for fees of $1,000 per hour. Swans v. City of Lansing, 1998 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20043 (W.D. Mich. 1998).
270:87 State of Alabama found to have avoided any good faith attempt to comply with federal overcrowding lawsuit consent decree; while consent decree was properly dissolved at this point pursuant to provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act, attorneys' for plaintiff inmates and for county were entitled to attorneys' fees for attempting enforcement of decree while it was in effect. Chairs v. Burgess, 25 F.Supp.2d 1333 (N.D. Ala. 1998).
271:99 Prisoner awarded $35,000 in damages against correctional officer who allegedly retaliated against him for his activities as a prisoner representative on a grievance committee; prisoner awarded $91,212.30 in attorneys' fees and $3,525.86 in costs; fees were reduced to reflect dismissal of one of prisoner's four claims. Alnutt v. Cleary, 27 F.Supp.2d 395 (W.D.N.Y. 1998).
245:67 Federal appeals court overturns award of $163,000 in attorneys' fees to attorneys who normally charged paying clients up to $320/hour; correct standard for award of reasonable attorneys fees to prevailing parties in federal civil rights case was prevailing market rate for attorneys in similar litigation, so a lower fee might be appropriate if evidence that a lawyer might have been found to represent prevailing inmates at a lower rate was true. Cooper v. Casey, 97 F.3d 914 (7th Cir. 1996).
249:132 Federal appeals court upholds award of $6,005.40 in attorneys' fees and costs to plaintiff inmate awarded $1 by jury in civil rights lawsuit against correctional officials. Muhammad v. Lockhart, 104 F.3d 1069 (8th Cir. 1997).
254:23 Settlement in class action lawsuit brought by prisoners, claiming that prison officials failed to protect them from violence by other prisoners during prison riot, includes establishment of $4.1 million settlement fund; court awards $1.4 million in attorneys' fees and $258,613.41 in costs. Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, In re, 173 F.R.D. 205 (S.D. Ohio 1997).
256:52 Prisoner was entitled to attorneys' fees of $8,346.35 and $2,952.82 in expenses as prevailing party despite trial court's rejection of damage claims against individual correctional officials and rejection of claim for injunction against prison smoking; appeals court upholds finding that prisoner's lawsuit was a factor in adoption of no-smoking policy. Weaver v. Clarke, 120 F.3d 852 (8th Cir. 1997).
257:67 Jail inmate who received $5,000 damage award against sheriff for failure to provide medical attention, as well as injunctive relief against lack of fresh air in jail during hot weather, was prevailing party entitled to an award of attorneys' fees. Crusoe v. Nunley, 699 So.2d 941 (Miss. 1997).
[N/R] Prisoner awarded only $1 in nominal damages was still entitled to an award of attorneys' fees as a "prevailing party" when relief from further punishment without due process was "the most basic remedy" sought; jury found that correctional officer violated prisoner's rights by taunting him about his failure to obtain medication for anxiety disorder. O'Connor v. Huard, 117 F.3d 12 (1st Cir. 1997).
232:62 Corrections Department was not liable for fellow employees sexually harassing remarks about female employee's nipples when Department made a prompt and effective response to remedy the situation after she complained; injunction and award of attorneys' fees to female employee overturned by federal appeals court. Spicer v. Com. of Va., Dept. of Corrections, 66 F.3d 705 (4th Cir. 1995).
230:27 State of Louisiana and prison guard liable for $150,000 in damages to child of female inmate conceived as a result of guard raping her in prison; guard but not state also liable for $35,000 in attorney fees. Latullas v. State, 658 So.2d 800 (La. App. 1995).
232:57 Georgia prisoner had no constitutionally protected liberty interest in parole; Parole Board was not liable for departing from its own guidelines in denying parole to prisoner; federal appeals court overturns award of attorneys' fees to plaintiff prisoner. O'Kelley v. Snow, 53 F.3d 319 (11th Cir. 1995).
234:84 Update: Roman Catholic inmates who received no money damages and had summary judgment entered against them on claim they were entitled to unfettered/unsupervised use of religious sacramental articles were nevertheless entitled to $128,811.47 in attorneys' fees and costs, plus interest on that amount, because their suit caused prison officials to agree to expanded access to religious services and religious articles. Friend v. Kolodzieczak, 65 F.3d 1514 (9th Cir. 1995). [Cross- reference: Religion].
217:4 Plaintiff prisoner, awarded $1 in compensatory and $1 in punitive damages, was entitled to an award of attorneys' fees, federal appeals court rules, but reduces $25,000 award to $10,000 to reflect plaintiff's failure to prevail on some claims. Jones v. Lockhart, 29 F.3d 422 (8th Cir. 1994).
227:164 Court approves $1.4 million in attorneys' fees and court costs to inmates' lawyers in class action suit against Pennsylvania prisons following settlement of class action suit. Austin v. Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections, 876 F.Supp. 1437 (E.D. Pa. 1995).
227:164 Indiana prisoners in maximum control unit who achieved settlement in suit challenging conditions in unit awarded $301,229.83 in attorneys' fees and costs. Taifa v. Bayh, 868 F.Supp. 237 (N.D. Ind. 1994).
[N/R] Prisoner who prevailed in federal civil rights lawsuit while acting as his own attorney was entitled to an award of attorney's fees for services of "standby" counsel. Miller v. Commissioner of Correction, 629 N.E.2d 315 (Mass. App. 1994).
Prisoners were entitled to attorneys' fees as prevailing parties, despite failure to obtain money damages or injunctive relief when unacceptable conditions at jail were "drastically imprisoned" immediately following commencement of suit and no prior plans for such improvements existed. Pembroke v. Wood Co., Tex. 981 F.2d 225 (5th Cir. 1993).
Prisoner who sought $900,000 in damages against four defendants because he was attacked by a K-9 dog in jail, but who was awarded only $1 in damages against only one defendant, was entitled only to $2,118.50 in attorneys' fees rather than the requested $29,101.50. Dillenbeck v. Hayes, 830 F Supp. 673 (N.D.N.Y. 1993).
Plaintiff prisoners were entitled to $38,000 in attorneys' fees when their lawsuit challenging a state statute requiring prisoner "co-payment" for medical visits was a "substantial catalyst" in obtaining amendment of the statute, even though amended statute was upheld as constitutional. Collins v. Romer, 962 F.2d 1508 (10th Cir. 1992).
Federal appeals court orders reduction in amount of $6,627 million attorneys' fee award to prevailing prisoners in California class action suit; use of a doubling multiplier to enhance award because the case was taken on a contingency basis was not permissible. Gates v. Deukmejian, 977 F.2d 1300 (9th Cir. 1992).
Court remands, for reconsideration, case in which inmate plaintiffs who obtained only technical relief were awarded attorneys' fees. cert. granted sub nom. Kolodzieczak v. Friend, No. 113 S.Ct. 1038 (1993).
Civil rights plaintiff solely seeking monetary damages who was awarded only $1 in nominal damages was a "prevailing party," but was not entitled to attorneys' fee award of $280,000; Court states that, in such cases, "the only reasonable fee is usually no fee at all." Farrar v. Hobby, 113 S. Ct. 566 (1992).
Plaintiff awarded $150,000 for suicide of pretrial detainee, $152,284 for trial court attorneys' fees, and $48,576 for appeals attorneys' fees was also entitled to attorneys' fees expended in opposing defendant's two petitions seeking review by the U.S. Supreme Court, even though one of them was granted. Cabrales v. Co. of Los Angeles, 935 F.2d 1050 (9th Cir. 1991).
Prisoner who was awarded $1 by jury in suit over alleged beating by correctional officer was not a "prevailing plaintiff" entitled to an award of attorneys' fees; prison superintendent was entitled to an award of costs because of prisoner's earlier rejection of 5,000 settlement offer. Denny v. Hinton, 131 F.R.D. 659 (M.D.N.C. 1990).
Former pretrial detainee awarded $29,760 in attorneys' fees and costs for case in which he was awarded $10,000 for due process violations in disciplinary hearing. Williams v. City of New York, 728 F.Supp. 1067 (S.D.N.Y. 1990).
Inmate awarded $1 because jail employees opened three legal letters outside his presence was prevailing party entitled to $2,727 in attorney's fees; defendant sheriff awarded $1,810 in attorney's fees for defense against inmate's other, frivolous claims. Faulkner v. McLochlin, 732 F.Supp. 945 (N. D. Ind. 1990).
Court awards $1.48 million in attorneys' fees, costs and expenses to counsel for partially successful plaintiff inmates. Knop v. Johnson, 712 F.Supp. 571 (W.D. Mich. 1989).
Award of attorneys' fee may be increased because of delay in payment; payment for paralegal and law clerk work may be awarded. Missouri v. Jenkins, 109 S.Ct. 2463 (1989).
Attorney for successful plaintiff prisoner entitled to $100 per hour in fees, despite his normal rate being $80 per hour. Bailey v. Wood, 708 F.Supp. 249 (D. Minn. 1989).
Entry of declaratory judgment in party's favor does not automatically render party entitled to attorneys' fees. Rhodes v. Stewart, 109 S.Ct. 202 (1988).
Inmate who acted as her own lawyer not entitled to attorneys' fees. Coleman v. Turner, 838 F.2d 1004 (8th Cir. 1988).
U.S. Supreme Court denies award of attorney's fees to inmate who did not receive any relief on the merits of his claim. Hewitt v. Helms, 107 S.Ct. 2672 (1987).
Pretrial detainee awarded $400 in damages for forcible administration of thorazine, also granted $39,000 in attorneys' fees and costs. Bee v. Greaves, 669 F.Supp. 372 (D. Utah 1987).
Injured inmate awarded damages, although "equally negligent" in incident, entitled to award of costs even when he rejected a higher settlement offer. Kusniryk v. Arrowhead Regional Corrections Boarrd, 413 N.W.2d 182 (Minn. App. 1987).
Inmate who prevailed in civil rights suit over prison beating awarded $174,020.83 in attorneys' fees; amount awarded adjusted upward because of undesirability of case and contingent fee basis. Garmong v. Montgomery Co., 668 F.Supp. 1000 (S.D Texas, 1987).
Inmates who brought class action suit challenging prison conditions awarded $64,203 attorneys' fees. Toussaint v. McCarthy, 826 F.2d 901 (9th Cir. 1987).
Volunteer Amicus Curiae attorney's fee award in civil rights case overturned. Morales v. Turman, 820 F.2d 728 (5th Cir. 1987).
U.S. Supreme Court allows attorneys to waive fees in settlements. Evans v. Jeff D., 475 U.S. 717 (1986).
Court lacks authority to award attorney's fees for personnel proceedings. Neb. Dept. of Correctional Serv. v. Carroll, 383 N.W.2d 740 (Neb. 1986).
Rates charged for attorneys, legal assistants and law clerks were reasonable. Ramos v. Lamm, 632 F.Supp. 376 (D. Colo. 1986).
Lead counsel entitled to one-third fee enhancement for reaching settlement. MacLaird v. Werger, 633 F.Supp. 286 (D. Wyo. 1986).
Habeas corpus action fits under civil attorney fees statute. In re Head, 228 Cal.Rptr. 184 (App. 1986).
Attorneys get nearly $145,000 in fees for jail conditions case. Clayton v. Thurman, 775 F.2d 1096 (10th Cir. 1985).
Court fines inmates for filing frivolous suits. Dominguez v. Figel, 626 F.Supp. 368 (N.D. Ind. 1986).
Inmate fined for bringing lawsuit. Williams v. Duckworth, 617 F.Supp. 597 (D.C. Ind. 1985).
Over $600,000 awarded for successfully challenging medical care provisions. Lightfoot v. Walker, 619 F.Supp. 1481 (D.C. Ill. 1985).
Plaintiffs must pay defendants' attorney's fees after refusing settlement. Crossman v. Marcoccio, C.A. No. 84-0296, (D. R.I. 1985).
Paralegal entitled to fees for $35.00 an hour. Morgan v. Nevada Bd. of State Prison Com'rs, 615 F.Supp. 882 (D.C. Nev. 1985).
Work for prosecuting fee petition is compensable. Jonas v. Stack, 758 F.2d 567 (11th Cir. 1985).
Attorney fees to be paid by state for judgment in guard's individual capacity. Leggett v. Badger, 759 F.2d 1556 (11th Cir. 1985).
Attorney fees awarded even though no money for damages was obtained. Ganey v. Edwards, 759 F.2d 337 (4th Cir. 1985).
Clause in settlement agreement waiving right to attorney fees unconstitutional: Plaintiff is prevailing party despite low amount of damages obtained. Gillespie v. Brewer, 602 F.Supp. 218 (N.D. W. Va. 1985). State ordered to pay attorney fees even though judgment was against official in individual capacity. Glover v. Alabama Dept. of Corrections, 753 F.2d 1569 (11th Cir. 1985).
Court dismisses county's suit challenging payment of attorney's fees to court-appointed defenders. Pope Co. v. Street, 682 S.W.2d 749 (Ark. 1985).
Obtaining a consent decree regarding jail conditions entitles attorney to fees as prevailing party. Poston v. Fox, 577 F.Supp. 915 (D. N.J. 1984).
Plaintiffs entitled to attorney's fees even though they did not obtain full relief. Wabasha v. Solem, 580 F.Supp. 448 (D. S.D. 1984).
No attorney fees awarded since habeas corpus action was brought instead of civil rights action to challenge work programs. In re Head, 1st Dist. Ct. of Appeal, No. A027830.
Plaintiff's attorney fees to be determined by "extent" of success especially when many claims are litigated but few are proven. Hensley v. Eckerhart, U.S. 103 S.Ct. 1933 (1983).
Attorney's fees awarded to inmate's counsel for successfully obtaining exercise privileges. Daniels v. McKinney, 193 Cal.Rptr. 842 (App. 1983).
Although attorneys were entitled to fees for bringing inmate's civil action, they were not entitled to fees for having defended inmate against criminal charges as a prerequisite to bringing civil action. Greer v. Holt, 718 F.2d 206 (6th Cir. 1983).
Parents prevailing in civil rights claim for son's jail suicide entitled to attorney's fees despite claims were not strong, and not all defendants found liable. Lyons v. Cunningham, 583 F.Supp. 1147 (S.D. N.Y. 1983).
Attorney's fees awarded against county in jail conditions case. Inmates Allegheny co. Jail v. Pierce, 716 F.2d 177 (3rd Cir. 1983).
$140,000 in attorney fees awarded in consent decree between inmates and county officials regarding jail conditions in general. Standwood v. Green, 559 F.Supp. 196 (D. Ore. 1983).
No attorney fees to inmate even though he secured $5,000 judgment against county and sheriff for assault by fellow inmate. Verdugo v. Pima Co., 661 P.2d 665 (Ariz. App. 1983).
No attorney fees to inmate who represents self and wins case. Turman v. Tuttle, 711 F.2d 148 (10th Cir. 1983).
Attorney fees not awarded. Officials changed classification procedures prior to lawsuit. Dover v. Rose, 709 F.2d 436 (6th Cir. 1983).
$20,000 attorney fees for appeal litigation. State appealed court decision on improper lockdown and lost. Preston v. Thompson, 565 F.Supp. 310 (N.D. Ill. 1983).
Attorney fees including travel and food expenses awarded to inmate's out-of--state attorneys. Palmigiano v. Garrahy, 707 F.2d 636 (1st Cir. 1983).
Attorney fees awarded even though the suit alleging improper transfer was mooted by the inmate's parole. Fitzharris v. Wolff, 702 F.2d 836 (9th Cir. 1983).
Attorney fees awarded; female inmates won case on "exercise" rights. Daniels v. McKinney, 193 Cal.Rptr. 842 (App. 1983).
Employee suspensions were improper. Attorney fees awarded were excessive. Gabriele v. Southworth, 712 F.2d 1505 (1st Cir. 1983).
Substantial attorney fees awarded-sex discrimination claim by female correction guards. Coble v. Texas Dept. of Corrs., 568 F.Supp. 410 (S.D. Tex. 1983).
Inmate's suit successful. Almost $200,000 attorney fees awarded. Martino v. Carey, 568 F.Supp. 848 (D. Ore. 1983).
Attorney's Fees awarded ($110,000) when settlement agreement doesn't discuss; no implied waiver. Benitez v. Collazo, 571 F.Supp. 246 (D.P.R. 1983).
Tennessee Federal Court orders Department of Corrections to pay $9,084 in attorney's fees to successful civil rights litigant. Vaughn v. Trotter, 516 F.Supp. 902 (M.D. Tenn. 1981).
Federal appeals court holds that $44,985 attorney's fees award is excessive; rules that compensating inmate's counsel at uniform rate for all hours spent on case was not an abuse of discretion. Bonner v. Coughlin, 657 F.2d 931 (7th Cir. 1981).
$12,000 attorney fees in inmate's case on general jail conditions. Miller v. Carson, 628 F.2d 346 (5th Cir. 1980).
Fifth Circuit rules that interest on attorney's fees is recoverable for period between judgment and appeal. Gates v. Collier, 616 F.2d 1268 (5th Cir. 1980).
Violations of civil rights (Sec. 1983) can be based on federal statutory law as well as constitutional issues. Attorney fees (Sec. 1988) can be awarded even when Sec. 1983 action is brought in state court. Maine v. Thiboutot, 448 U.S. 1, 100 S.Ct. 2502 (1980).
Attorney's fees not to be awarded on percentage-of- judgment basis. Furtado v. Bishop, 604 F.2d 80 (1st Cir. 1979).
Federal judge delineates reasoning behind factors in granting attorney's fee awards. Imprisoned Citizens Union v. Shapp, 473 F.Supp. 1017 (E.D. Pa. 1979).