The plaintiff, an inmate at the Delaware Correctional Center, brought suit in 1978, seeking damages under Section 1983 and alleging physical and psychological mistreatment by prison guards and officials. The plaintiff was subsequently certified as a class representative. The complaint was filed ...
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The plaintiff, an inmate at the Delaware Correctional Center, brought suit in 1978, seeking damages under Section 1983 and alleging physical and psychological mistreatment by prison guards and officials. The plaintiff was subsequently certified as a class representative. The complaint was filed pro se, but a Community Legal Aid Society, Inc. (CLASI) attorney took on the case and filed an amended class action complaint seeking injunctive relief against disciplinary procedures at the prison that allegedly violated the due process clause. In January 1980, the attorney left the legal services organization for private practice but continued his representation. In April 1980, the night before trial, plaintiff's damage claim was settled and the class claim for injunctive relief was provisionally settled.
In December 1980, the remaining matters in the case were referred to Magistrate Richard Powers. One of the issues remaining was the award of fees to the Plaintiff's attorney. Magistrate Powers determined that $52,714 was a reasonable attorney's fee. Defendants challenged the part of the calculation that increased a lodestar by both a contingency and a quality factor.
District Judge Stapleton first determined that a Magistrate's Order awarding statutory attorney's fees involves the disposition of a prisoners' petition and therefore subject to a de novo determination. West v. Redman, 530 F.Supp 546 (D. Del. 1982). Defendants first argued that plaintiff's attorney, who worked for a non-profit organization, should not be eligible for the contingency fee increase contending it should only be applied when a firm assumes a substantial financial risk by undertaking the case. The court held that the magistrate was not foreclosed from applying a contingency factor because, like for-profit firms, non-profits have to make decisions based on a cost benefit analysis and the availability of receiving contingency fees encourages them to take on ''harder'' cases they might otherwise turn down. Defendants next argued that plaintiff's attorney should not be eligible for the contingency fee for the time he was in private practice as plaintiff's chances of success were almost certain at that point. The court held that contingency of success is to be determined at the beginning of a case, and should not be modified at different stages. Finally with respect to the challenged quality factor, the court held that the adjustment was not justified as the record did not prove that plaintiff's attorney possessed an unusual degree of skill. The opinion does not state what the newly calculated attorney fee is, but it is presumably $52,714 less the quality factor of ten percent of the lodestar ($28,494) or $49,865.
A PACER docket begins in 1991 with a plaintiffs' request for permission to conduct limited discovery; a request that Magistrate Sue Robinson granted. There was apparently some kind of enforcement litigation that lasted the next two years; its outcome is unclear. Apparently she became a judge sometime in 1992, and the case was reassigned to her in that capacity. The docket ends with Judge Robinson's denial of defendants' motion for stay, denying defendants' motion for relief from judgment, but with no other indication of any substantive outcome; on the same date as those denials (June 30, 1993), the case is marked ""closed.""Sherrie Waldrup - 09/12/2005