Gonzalez v. City of Maywood

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Attorney Fees
  • Date Filed: 09-09-2013
  • Case #: 11-56594
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge N.R. Smith for the Court; Circuit Judge Gould and District Judge Gleason
  • Full Text Opinion

In a civil rights case it is not unreasonable for the prevailing party to receive attorney’s fees greater than the amount awarded to the client, and when making a reduction in attorney’s fees awards, courts must use the prevailing market rate and provide a clear explanation for any reduction greater than 10% in the amount awarded compared to what was claimed.

This action over the amount of attorney’s fees to be awarded stems out of a settlement between the City of Maywood, the Maywood Police Department, and local Maywood government officials over numerous civil right lawsuits brought by a collection of plaintiffs. Included in this settlement was a stipulation that any attorney’s fee award would be limited to $1,000,000 for actual work on the merits of the case and $25,000 for work on the attorney’s fee application. After correcting a few errors, the plaintiffs untimely computed their attorney’s fees lodestar to be $2,059,451.50, however, given the stipulation, requested only $1,025,000 in fees. In a hearing on the awarding of fees, the district court found the plaintiff’s request “offensive on its face,” and only awarded $473,138.24 in attorney’s fees, resulting in the plaintiff’s bringing this appeal. The Ninth Circuit held that it is not unreasonable in civil rights cases for the prevailing party’s attorney to receive attorney’s fees in an amount which is greater than the monetary award granted to client. Further, when considering any reduction in what was requested for attorney’s fees, a court must determine the fee to be awarded by using an hourly rate established on the prevailing market rates of that jurisdiction, and should a court decide to reduce the number of hours worked, as claimed by the attorney, or the lodestar by a percentage greater than ten percent, the court is required to provide a “clear and concise explanation” for its actions. VACATED and REMANDED.

Advanced Search