First Amendment Prevailing Plaintiff Entitled to More Than $8,000, Although Jury Verdict Slight, But Not Requested $503,000 Given He Lost Several Claims.
John Ingold, in a June 8, 2012 post on denverpost.com, tells about a recent Tenth Circuit decision of interest in the fee award area.
In Zinna v. Congrove, No. 10-1482 (10th Cir. June 5, 2012) (published), the Tenth Circuit was reviewing a district judge’s award of $8,000 in attorney’s fees to First Amendment plaintiff Mike Zinna against Jefferson County commissioner Jim Congrove after Mr. Zinna won a civil rights verdict of $1,791 against Mr. Cosgrove (who we assume was indemnified by the County). The problem is that Mr. Zinna had requested fees of $503,000, although he certainly was entitled to some award under the civil rights fees shifting statute (42 U.S.C. §1988(b)).
Alastair Sim as Scrooge (1951).
Mr. Zinna’s appeal to the Tenth Circuit hit something of a receptive record, although the remand will determine how much of one.
The problem was that the district court was too skimpy in detailing its analysis of why such a small award was made under the Farrar factors. Also, it was improper for the district judge to “eyeball a fee request and cut it down by an arbitrary percentage,” as was apparently done here. However, the federal appeals court did drop a footnote indicating that $503,000 was certainly not the fee award number, given that Mr. Zinna was unsuccessful on several claims--work that had be apportioned out on remand, if we are reading correctly between the lines.
Occupy Fresno, Winning a Preliminary Injunction on Courthouse Park Free Speech/Assembly Issues, Settles and Garners $37,500 In Pro Per Fees.
Mike Rhodes, in a June 8, 2012 post on indybay.org/news, brings us an interesting fee recovery in a settlement reached in a dispute in co-contributor Mike’s home down of Fresno, CA.
Occupy Fresno and several of its members, a non-profit First Amendment oriented group, filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, challenging the constitutionality of certain Fresno County Ordinance Codes about circulation of flyers, carrying of signs, and holding small gatherings (aka vigils) in Fresno County Courthouse Park, especially after the arrests of several people affiliated or sympathetic to Occupy Fresno. The group successfully obtained a preliminary injunction from District Judge Breyer, sitting by designation, by which the constitutional challenges were acknowledged on a provisional basis.
Most recently, Occupy Fresno has reached a settlement with Fresno County. Early on in the litigation, it obtained a ruling that it was in forma pauperis, meaning it did not have the funds to even meet the court filing costs and was allowed to file suit with a waiver of same. The settlement defines the circumstances under which free speech/assembly events can be held in the Courthouse Plaza, and--for our interest--resulted in an agreement to award $37,500 in fees and costs to Plaintiff.
First Fresno County Courthouse built in 1867.