Balla v. State of Idaho

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Attorney Fees
  • Date Filed: 04-17-2012
  • Case #: 10-35413
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Kleinfeld for the Court; Circuit Judges Silverman and Wardlaw
  • Full Text Opinion

Under the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act, fees can be awarded to an attorney for his efforts in monitoring relief after a party has won a judgment, as long as “the fee was directly and reasonably incurred in enforcing the relief ordered for the violation”.

Idado state prisoners at the Idaho State Correctional Institution (ISCI) brought a class action regarding pain and suffering due to inadequate care and facilities in 1984. The court ordered an injunction against the over-crowding in the prison. In 2007 when the state tired to terminate the injunction, the court re-appointed Stoel Rives LLP, a law firm in Portland, who had represented the prisoners in 1984. Although the State withdrew the termination of injunction, it violated the injunctions provisions by brining back Idaho prisoners who had been housed in Texas in late 2008. This resulted in overcrowding of the Idaho prisons. Stoel Rives tried to get the State to comply with the original injunction and filed a motion to hold the State in contempt. The motion was denied because the State eventually complied with the injunction and Stoel Roves moved for attorneys fees for monitoring the case from 2007 to 2009. The lower court awarded attorney fees holding that the Stoel Rives “played a key role in monitoring and working the IDOC to resolve the overcrowding issue. The State appealed the award. The Ninth Circuit held that precedent states that attorney’ fees can be awarded for monitoring a case, even if a motion filed was denied. The court reasoned that lawyers play an important role in ensuring that injunctions work effectively and monitoring injunctions helps deter violations. Under the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act, once a violation as been proved attorney fees can be awarded for monitoring if it is “directly and reasonably incurred in enforcing the relief ordered”. The Ninth Circuit further held that fees could be awarded even when the attorney’s work was for a motion that was denied. Stoel Rives was able to obtain compliance and was working in the best interest of the client. AFFIRMED.

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