What Fees Can Public Entities Recover From Successful Litigation

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In federal civil rights litigation, a successful plaintiff suing a public entity may ordinarily recover his or her attorneys fees. But when the public entity defendant prevails, it may also recover its attorneys fees from the unsuccessful plaintiff. This article examines exactly which fees the public entity may recover in cases where the losing plaintiff has joined both frivolous and non-frivolous claims in the same lawsuit.

The federal civil rights statute generally provides the court with discretion to allow the "prevailing party" a reasonable attorney's fee as part of its costs. However, there are two exceptions: the United States cannot recover its attorneys fees under this statute, and "judicial officers" cannot be held liable for the prevailing plaintiff's legal fees unless they take action that is "clearly in excess" of their jurisdiction.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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