Sixth Circuit Overturns Longstanding Cap on Civil Rights Attorneys’ Fees Awards

The Sixth Circuit today overturned a rule that for three decades had capped the number of compensable hours incurred in public interest attorneys’ fees litigation to three percent of the hours incurred in litigating the underlying case. The rule had operated to encourage government defendants to engage in protracted litigation to challenge attorneys’ fees awards and resulted in inadequate compensation to attorneys for important civil rights work.

At the urging of plaintiffs’ counsel, who also successfully defended the bulk of the federal district court’s attorneys’ fees award in the underlying Ohio voting rights cases, the Sixth Circuit held that a 1990 Supreme Court decision not previously considered by the 6th Circuit in its several cases reaffirming the 3% rule justified reconsideration of the rule, and that the legislative history of the federal civil rights statutes as well as policy considerations supported its abandonment.

Altshuler Berzon LLP along with Ohio counsel represented the plaintiffs in SEIU Local 1 v. Husted and The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless v. Husted.