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Second Circuit Interprets Prison Litigation Reform Act to Cap Attorney's Fee Award at $1.40

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed a district court decision ruling that the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(d)(2), capped the maximum award of attorney's fees at 150 percent of plaintiff's $1.00 monetary judgment in a case where a New York State prisoner sued New York Department of Corrections officials alleging that they infringed his rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and sought $99,485.25 in attorney's fees.

The Second Circuit Ruled:

(1) Because the only relief prisoner Shepherd secured on his Free Exercise Clause claim against the defendant prison officials was a monetary judgment, his request for attorney's fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b) was limited by the PLRA, specifically § 1997e(d)(2), which plainly caps the attorney's fees that must be paid by a losing defendant at 150 percent of the monetary damages.

(2) Shepherd having been awarded a monetary judgment of $1.00, the district court correctly construed § 1997e(d)(2) to cap the fees that could be awarded against defendants at $1.50, against which it had to apply some amount not to exceed 25 percent--in this case, 10 percent, or $0.10--of the monetary judgment, for a total fee award of $1.40.

The case is Shepherd v. Goord, No. 10-4821-pr, slip op. (2d Cir.)

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.