Evans v. Jeff D.

475 U.S. 717 (1986)


A plaintiff class of emotionally and mentally handicapped children sued Idaho to improve institutional conditions. They sought injunctive relief under 42 USC 1983. Johnson, the class's attorney, was employed by the Idaho Legal Aid Society, and the class representation agreement contained no attorney fee provisions. Just before trial, Idaho gave the class all it asked for so long as it agreed to a waiver of fees and costs that could be claimed under 42 USC 1988(b). Johnson was morally forced to accept the settlement on behalf of his clients. The issue before the court is whether the District Court had a duty to reject the proposed settlement because it included a waiver of statutorily authorized attorney fees. The District Court approved a settlement granting the injunctive relief sought conditional on respondents' waiver of any claim for attorney's fees. The Court of Appeals invalidated the fee waiver, left standing the remainder of the settlement, and remanded to the District Court to determine what attorney's fees were reasonable, holding that the historical background of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(e), which gives a district court power to approve settlements of class actions, and of the Fees Act, compelled the conclusion that a stipulated waiver of attorney's fees obtained solely as a condition for obtaining relief for the class should not be accepted by the court.