Supreme Court to Clarify Rules for Multiplying Attorneys' Fees

By Gregory F. Jacob
December 08, 2009
More than twenty years ago, in Pennsylvania v. Delaware Valley Citizens’ Council for Clean Air (“Delaware Valley I”), the Supreme Court opined that the federal fee-shifting statutes “were not designed as a form of economic relief to improve the financial lot of attorneys.” In Kenny A. v. Perdue, the Court has the opportunity to revisit this earlier pronouncement by deciding when, if ever, a trial court is permitted to grant a successful plaintiff’s attorney a discretionary multiplier of the standard attorney’s fees award. Typically, a plaintiff’s attorney who wins a case that is subject to a federal fee-shifting statute receives a “lodestar” fee award, which is calculated by multiplying the attorney’s reasonable hourly rate by the number of hours the attorney reasonably expended on the case. The prevailing attorneys, of course, would like to receive more fees if they could, and every once in a while they succeed in talking a duly impressed or otherwise sympathetic court into increasing the fee award, usually by employing a “lodestar multiplier.” ...