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Marek v. Chesny

United States Supreme Court
473 U.S. 1 (1985)


Three police officers, including Marek (defendant), shot and killed Steven Chesny while responding to a domestic disturbance. Alfred Chesny, Steven’s father and administrator of his estate, (plaintiff) filed suit against the officers, alleging a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state tort law. Before trial, the officers put forward a settlement offer for $100,000, including costs and attorneys’ fees. Chesny rejected the offer and proceeded to trial, where he was awarded $60,000 total in damages. Post-trial, Chesny filed a request for $171,692.47 in costs and attorneys’ fees. The officers opposed the request, arguing that the pretrial offer of $100,000 exceeded the trial award of $60,000 and therefore under F.R.Civ.Pro. 68, Chesny was not entitled to attorneys’ fees. The trial court agreed with the officers, and Chesny appealed. The court of appeals reversed, finding that imposing Rule 68 in instances where attorneys’ fees might normally be awarded pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988 would be contrary to the civil rights spirit of § 1983 and § 1988. The officers appealed, and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Burger, C.J.)

Concurrence (Rehnquist, J.)

Concurrence (Powell, J.)

Dissent (Brennan, J.)

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