Venegas v. Mitchell

495 U.S. 82 (1990)


Venegas (P) alleged that Police officers of Long Beach falsely arrested him and then conspired to deny him a fair trial through the knowing presentation of perjured testimony in violation of section 1983. After the case was dismissed but reinstated, P hired Mitchell (D) as his attorney. The agreement was a contingent fee agreement of 40% of the gross amount of any recovery. The contract also allowed D to file for and collect any attorney fee award made by the court and that any fee awarded by the court would be applied dollar for dollar to offset the contingent fee. P got a judgment for $2.08 million, and D moved for attorney fees under section 1988. P was awarded attorney fees of $117,000 of which $75,000 was attributable to work done by D. Negotiations for D representing P on appeal broke down, and D signed a stipulation withdrawing as counsel of record. P obtained different counsel for the appeal. D and P parted company on the appeal and D asserted a $406,000 lien against judgment proceeds. P objected and argued that D should be held to the $75,000 awarded by the court. The lower courts found for D. The Supreme Court granted certiorari of the fee dispute.