US Supreme Court Limits Fee Enhancements to "Exceptional Cases"

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In a much anticipated legal fee decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on April 21, 2010, that trial courts may award fee enhancements above the “lodestar” amount to lawyers for superior performance, but only in rare and well-documented circumstances.

The case of Perdue v. Kenny A. was one which had been carefully watched by civil rights and public interest groups, many of which rely on fee-shifting statutes when they prevail in litigation.

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 majority rejected the fee enhancement request of $6 million by plaintiffs’ lawyers in a successful class-action suit on behalf of 3,000 children in Georgia, which the court recognized had helped reform the Georgia foster care system.

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