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Arbor Hill et. al. v. County of Albany et al. (Regarding the awarding of attorneys’ fees in civil rights cases)

The issue in this case is whether or not attorney fee awards can be reduced in certain civil rights cases if the law firm is working pro bono, seeking reputational benefits or attempting to achieve societal goals. In August 2003, the Concerned Citizens Neighborhood Association filed a complaint in District Court seeking an injunction on an upcoming Albany election. The law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher aided the plaintiffs in this litigation, then sought fees for their services. The firm attempted to charge its clients a higher rate than the Northern District of New York would normally allow. The District Court ruled that the plaintiffs’ attorney fees above the maximum amount allowed in the Northern District of New York. The plaintiffs appealed to the United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit. A panel division of the Second Circuit affirmed the District Court’s decision on April 24, 2007.

In response to the panel’s decision, the ACLU and NYCLU, along with numerous civil rights and pro bono law firms, filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the defendants. The brief did not discuss whether or not the attorneys’ fees were too high in this case. However, the brief argued that the language in the lower court’s decision would allow for more clients to challenge attorney fees in courts and would give defendants an incentive to litigate rather than settle. Given these potential negative repercussions, the brief asked the Second Circuit to reject that language in the decision. The brief was filed on May 22, 2007. In response to the amicus brief, the Second Circuit modified its decision to say that it did not intend to change the method by which civil rights attorneys’ fees are calculated. 

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, Index No. 06-0086-cv (amicus) 

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