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Attorney Fees Award Reversed in Perdue v. Kenny A.

By FindLaw Staff on April 21, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Perdue v. Kenny A., No. 08-970, involved a civil rights action alleging deficiencies in the Georgia foster care system.  The Supreme Court reversed the district court's award of attorney's fees to plaintiffs' counsel, holding that the calculation of an attorney's fee based on a lodestar may be increased due to superior performance, but only in extraordinary circumstances.

As stated in the majority decision, delivered by Justice Alito: "This case presents the question whether the calculation of an attorney's fee, under federal fee-shifting statutes, based on the "lodestar," i.e., the number of hours worked multiplied by the prevailing hourly rates, may be increased due to superior performance and results.  We have stated in previous cases that such an increase is permitted in extraordinary circumstances, and we reaffirm that rule. But as we have also said in prior cases, there is a strong presumption that the lodestar is sufficient; factors subsumed in the lodestar calculation cannot be used as a ground for increasing an award above the lodestar; and a party seeking fees has the burden of identifying a factor that the lodestar does not adequately take into account and proving with specificity that an enhanced fee is justified. Because the District Court did not apply these standards, we reverse the decision below and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

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