Attorney’s Fees Statue does not Cover Dry Cleaning says the Sixth Circuit

The Sixth Circuit issued an opinion on attorney’s fees in a class action suit brought against the State of Tennessee by a group of Medicaid recipients alleging that Tennessee’s Medicaid program “violated the requirements of the Medicaid Act and the Due Process Clause.”  The State challenged a district court ruling which concluded that several expenditures of plaintiffs’ counsel on litigation were reasonable. The district court further declared that plaintiffs were the “prevailing parties” under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 and awarded a twenty-percent reduction in the fee award. The original petition for fees in this case was for dry cleaning bills, mini blinds, and health insurance. Even though the fees were dropped after being challenged, this is a good example of attorneys’ duties under Model Rule 1.5, which requires attorneys to charge “reasonable fees.” The Sixth Circuit looked specifically at § 1988 to find that the fees claimed in this case were unreasonable. Congress and the Supreme Court have stated that “the aim of 42 U.S.C § 1988 is not for the purpose of aiding lawyers. The purpose of th[e] bill is to aid civil rights.”

To read the opinion for this case click here. Also, check out Legal Ethics Forum’s post on the opinion.

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