Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Helps Reimburse Victims for their Attorney Fees

By Michael Fuller, Portland Trial Attorney

Gonzalez v. City of Maywood (9th Cir. Sept. 9, 2013)


Average Portland federal JUDGE salary: $174,000 per year
Average Portland ATTORNEY salary: $160,330 per year
Average Portland CONSUMER salary: $46,970 per year

In a 2010 settlement, the City of Maywood agreed to pay 22 alleged victims of police misconduct $500,000 damages, plus reimbursement for their reasonable attorney fees spent prosecuting their claims.

See also: Maywood Police Department Accused of Brutality and Abuse

The alleged victims applied for reimbursement of $1,025,000 in attorney fees and the City objected.

The district court judge felt the attorney fee reimbursement should not exceed the damages and reduced the award of fees to $473,138.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with the district judge and remanded the case back to re-determine the attorney fee award.

The Court stated three reasons for its decision.

First, the alleged victims were entitled to a fee reimbursement based on the market rates charged by other attorneys in their local community.

Second, the district court judge could not arbitrarily reduce the fee award without stating the reasons why.

Finally, the district court could not reduce the fee award for the sole reason that it exceeded the amount of the damages portion of the settlement.

Read the full opinion for complete analysis:
http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2013/09/09/11-56594.pdf

Commentary: This straightforward Judge Smith opinion will replace Judge Brunetti's 2008 Camacho v. Bridgeport Financial opinion as my go-to citation for Ninth Circuit fee authority.