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Perdue v. Kenny

United States Supreme Court
130 S. Ct. 1662 (2010)


Facts

Children in the Georgia foster-care system and their next friends (plaintiffs) filed a class-action suit against the governor of Georgia and other state officials (defendants) for deficiencies in the foster-care system that violated the plaintiffs’ federal and state constitutional and statutory rights. The parties entered into a consent decree, which was approved by the federal district court and resolved all issues other than the fees that the plaintiffs’ attorneys were to receive under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. The plaintiffs submitted a request for more than $14 million in attorneys’ fees, half of which was based on a traditional lodestar calculation that multiplied the hours worked by the standard hourly rates. The remaining half represented a fee enhancement for superior work and results. The district court awarded fees of approximately $10.5 million, based on the calculation of a lodestar sum of approximately $6 million and the enhancement of that sum by 75 percent. The district court justified the enhancement based on the lodestar sum’s failure to take into consideration the fact that the plaintiffs’ counsel (1) was required to advance case expenses of $1.7 million over a three-year period with no ongoing reimbursement, (2) was not paid on an ongoing basis for the case, and (3) was completely unable to recover a fee and reimbursement without a successful outcome. The court of appeals affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Alito, J.)

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