Perdue v. Kenny

130 S.Ct. 1662 (2010)


Kenny (P) are children in the Georgia foster-care system. Ps filed this class action on behalf of 3,000 children in foster care and named as defendants the Governor of Georgia, Perdue (D), and various state officials. Ps sought injunctive and declaratory relief, as well as attorney's fees and expenses. In mediation, the parties entered into a consent decree, which the District Court approved. The consent decree resolved all pending issues other than the fees that Ps' attorneys were entitled to receive under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. Ps submitted a request for more than $14 million in attorney's fees. Half of that amount was based on their calculation of the lodestar-roughly 30,000 hours multiplied by hourly rates of $200 to $495 for attorneys and $75 to $150 for non-attorneys. The other half of the amount represented fee enhancement for superior work and results. Affidavits submitted in support of this request claimed that the lodestar amount 'would be generally insufficient to induce lawyers of comparable skill, judgment, professional representation and experience' to litigate this case. Ds objected to the fee request, contending that some of the proposed hourly rates were too high, that the hours claimed were excessive, and that the enhancement would duplicate factors that were reflected in the lodestar amount. The District Court awarded fees of approximately $10.5 million. Approximately $6 million of this was lodestar. The court then enhanced this award by 75%, concluding that the lodestar calculation did not take into account '(1) the fact that class counsel were required to advance case expenses of $1.7 million over a three-year period with no on-going reimbursement, (2) the fact that class counsel were not paid on an on-going basis as the work was being performed, and (3) the fact that class counsel's ability to recover a fee and expense reimbursement were completely contingent on the outcome of the case.' The court stated that the attorneys had exhibited 'a higher degree of skill, commitment, dedication, and professionalism . . . than the Court has seen displayed by the attorneys in any other case during its 27 years on the bench.' The court also commented that the results obtained were '`extraordinary'' and added that 'after 58 years as a practicing attorney and federal judge, the Court is unaware of any other case in which a plaintiff class has achieved such a favorable result on such a comprehensive scale.' The enhancement resulted in an additional $4.5 million fee award. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed.