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Krause v. Rhodes

United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
640 F.2d 214 (1981)


Facts

On May 4, 1970, during protests at Kent State University against the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia, members of the Ohio National Guard fired into the crowd of protesters and killed four people, including Allison Krause. Nine injured people and the personal representatives of the four deceased people (plaintiffs) brought a consolidated lawsuit against Ohio Governor James Rhodes and other individuals (defendants). The lawsuit was settled between the State of Ohio (state) and the plaintiffs after lengthy litigation. The settlement was approved by a federal district court and provided for the state to pay the amount of $675,000, of which $600,000 would go directly to the plaintiffs, $50,000 to the contingent-fee attorneys, and $25,000 to cover out-of-pocket expenses. The state had conditioned its settlement offer on the plaintiffs personally receiving at least $600,000. In the course of the litigation, all of the plaintiffs and their counsel, including attorney Steven Sindell, had signed an agreement naming the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as lead counsel for appellate proceedings. Sindell also had a 33.5 percent contingency-fee agreement with the plaintiffs. Under the settlement terms, Sindell and his associated firms only received $33,740 of the $50,000 allocated for attorneys’ fees, while the ACLU lawyers received nothing. Sindell appealed, arguing that the limitation on attorneys’ fees under the settlement agreement was invalidated by the contingency-fee agreement.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Edwards, J.)

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