Arthur Blanchard (plaintiff) sued James Bergeron and the St. Martin Parish Sheriff’s Department (defendants) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Blanchard had been beaten by Bergeron, a sheriff’s deputy. The jury awarded Blanchard $5,000 in compensatory damages and $5,000 in punitive damages. Blanchard then sought to recover attorney’s fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. The trial court awarded $7,500 to Blanchard for attorney’s fees. Bergeron appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which held that the attorney’s fees were capped by the contingency-fee agreement between Blanchard and his attorney. The agreement had provided for a contingency fee of 40 percent. The Fifth Circuit accordingly modified the award to 40 percent of $10,000, or $4,000. Blanchard petitioned the United States Supreme Court for review.