Fox v. Vice
United States Supreme Court
131 S. Ct. 2205 (2011)
Ricky Fox (plaintiff) ran against incumbent Billy Ray Vice (defendant) for the office of chief of police in the Town of Vinton (Vinton) (defendant) in Louisiana. Vice engaged in various dirty tricks to force Fox out of the race, including sending an anonymous letter threatening to publish charges against Fox, as well as arranging for a third party to accuse Fox of using racial slurs and file a groundless criminal complaint against Fox. Fox nevertheless won the election, and Vice was convicted of criminal extortion for his election misconduct. Fox brought suit against Vice and Vinton in Louisiana state court for state-law claims and federal civil-rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Vice removed the federal claims to federal court and moved for summary judgment. Fox conceded that the federal claims were not valid, and the federal district court dismissed the claims with prejudice. The district court also declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state-law claims and remanded those claims to state court. Vice asked the federal district court for an award of attorneys’ fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988 because the federal claims were meritless. In support, Vice submitted attorney-billing records for the whole suit, without differentiating between the work defending the federal claims and the work defending the state claims, which were not found frivolous. The district court granted Vice’s motion for attorneys’ fees without requiring Vice to separate out the work for federal and state claims. Fox appealed, arguing that attorneys’ fees under § 1988 could only be awarded if all the claims in the suit were frivolous. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Kagan, J.)
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