In 1976, Congress declared that citizens who successfully enforce civil rights laws are entitled to the costs of prosecuting this litigation, including their attorney's fees. For the past thirty-five years, the Center has successfully enforced civil rights laws on behalf of persons with disabilities, and obtained attorney's fees awards for its clients. The federal statute and the resultant fee awards have allowed the Center to continue to undertake precedent-setting and often expensive litigation on behalf of other persons with disabilities.
Entitlement to Fees
Prevailing plaintiffs in civil rights cases may have the right to obtain their attorneys' fees from the defendants. 42 U.S.C. § 1988 provides that the prevailing party in cases brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 are entitled to fees. The ADA and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act have their own fee shifting provisions, as do many other federal and state laws. The Center has been successful in obtaining fees in numerous cases and has amassed pleadings and other documents that may be helpful to civil and disability rights advocates. Court decisions, motions, briefs and affidavits concerning various issues that often arise when pursuing attorneys’ fees are listed below.
Reasonably Expended Hours
The generally accepted method for calculating an appropriate fee – the lodestar approach – entails multiplying the time spent by the attorney's hourly rate. The Center routinely records all time spent on its civil rights cases through a computerized timekeeping program. This eliminates disputes about the accuracy of the time requested.
The Center always reviews its time records and exercises billing judgment, eliminating time that is excessive, redundant of work done by others, or spent on a discrete issue on which it did not prevail. Nevertheless, defendants routinely contend that the requested time includes time that is duplicative, excessive, or not compensable. Affidavits, briefs, and decisions on reasonable time are listed below.
Rosie D. v. Patrick Memorandum of Law (see section on reasonable hours)
Rolland v. Celluci
Reasonable Hourly Rates
The second part of the lodestar equation is the determination of reasonable hourly rates. In Blum v. Stenson, the Supreme Court held that reasonable hourly rates are the prevailing market rates in the relevant community for lawyers of comparable skill, experience and reputation. The Center routinely submits affidavits from local lawyers with comparable rates, including attorneys in large private firms. The Center has also succeeded in establishing rates for its attorneys by comparing them to its private firm co-counsel with similar experience. Fee affidavits, briefs and decisions on hourly rates are listed below.
Hutchinson v. Patrick Affidavit of Stephen Hanlon
Hutchinson v. Patrick Memorandum of Law (see section on reasonable rates) (district court)
Hutchinson v. Patrick Appellate Brief (see section on reasonable rates)
Fee shifting statutes generally provide for both attorneys’ fees and costs. However, exactly what expenses are recoverable as costs depends both on the specific fee shifting statute and the customary billing practice in the area. Generally, if the customary practice is to separately bill private clients for the expense, it is separately recoverable. If the expense is generally built into the attorneys’ hourly rate, it is not separately compensable. The one large exception is expert witness fees which are not available under 42 U.S.C. § 1988, although they are recoverable under the fee shifting provision of the ADA. Briefs and decisions on compensable costs are listed below.
Following the Supreme Court’s Buckhannon decision, there has been considerable uncertainty and much litigation concerning when plaintiffs who prevail through a settlement agreement are entitled to fees. The Center successfully litigated these issues following the settlement in its acquired brain injury case, Hutchinson v. Patrick. Following a favorable decision from the district court awarding fees, the defendants appealed contending that the settlement did not have sufficient judicial involvement to satisfy Buckhannon. The 1st Circuit affirmed the district court in a decision which closely tracked the arguments in the Center’s brief and an amici curiae brief.
Hutchinson v. Patrick Settlement Agreement
Hutchinson v. Patrick Memorandum of Law (district court)
Hutchinson v. Patrick Decision (district court)
Hutchinson v. Patrick Appellate Brief
Hutchinson v. Patrick Brief Amici Curiae
Hutchinson v. Patrick Decision (1st Cir.)
Fees for Post-Judgment Monitoring and Enforcement
System reform litigation routinely requires post-judgment monitoring and enforcement to ensure that the relief is implemented. Plaintiffs are generally entitled to fees for the time reasonably expended on such activities. The Center has been involved in numerous cases regarding fees for post-judgment work. It is the Center’s practice to periodically petition for fees during the course of the post-judgment monitoring and enforcement stage of a case. Selected decisions and briefs addressing these issues are listed below.
Brewster v. Dukakis
1st Cir. Decision (1986)
Jackson v. Los Lunas Center
The documents contained on this page and within this web site do not constitute legal advice. Anyone engaged in legal action should consult with an attorney. Attorneys should make their own independent judgments. Local laws vary and the law may have changed since these documents were written. Litigants should fully research any claims or defenses before making them.