On April 12, 2007, Prison Legal News, a non-profit organization that published materials of interest to inmates, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff claimed that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) engaged in unlawful censorship policies and practices in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendment. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the CDCR prohibited the delivery of the plaintiff's monthly newsletter and other publications to certain inmates because of arbitrary censorship regulations.
The plaintiff and the CDCR reached a private settlement of the case prior to the filing of the lawsuit. The settlement specified that the plaintiff's attorneys reserved their right to pursue claims for fees and costs for work related to the agreement. The settlement was filed in U.S. District Court, which retained jurisdiction to enforce the terms of the agreement and to determine reasonable fees and costs.
According to the Settlement Agreement, the CDCR agreed to change its policies regarding incoming and outgoing mail and to notify publishers when it excluded any publications from its prisons. The CDCR also agreed to carry subscriptions to the plaintiff's monthly newsletter in all of the 157 prison libraries in the CDCR for 5 years. CDCR agreed to pay the sum of $65,100 to cover the cost of the 5 year subscription, with the remainder constituting monetary damages. CDCR also agreed to pay reasonable costs and attorney's fees to the plaintiff. At that time, the parties stipulated that the plaintiff was entitled to $320,000 in attorneys' fees. On September 5, 2007, the District Court (Judge Claudia Wilken) issued an order confirming the agreed upon $320,000 for attorneys' fees accrued by the plaintiff through December 11, 2006.
However, CDCR opposed the plaintiff's request for attorneys' fees and costs for work performed after the agreement was executed. The plaintiff subsequently moved for $137,672.79 in fees and costs for work performed after the settlement was signed, including compliance monitoring from December 12, 2006, through August 31, 2007. On April 10, 2008, the Court ordered CDCR to pay the plaintiff $137, 672.79 in attorneys' fees and closed the case. However, the plaintiff filed a second motion for attorneys' fees and costs in October 2008. On December 5, 2008, the Court ordered CDCR to pay the plaintiff $137,502.46 in attorneys' fees accrued from September 1, 2007, through October 15, 2008. CDCR appealed and the Ninth Circuit upheld the fee award on June 9, 2010.
The Ninth Circuit held that under the terms of the agreement, the plaintiff could properly seek fees for monitoring compliance with the settlement, including "reviewing and responding to letters from inmates in CDCR institutions complaining about access to published materials." Prison Legal News v. Schwarzenegger, 608 F.3d 446, 453 (9th Cir. 2010). The Court of Appeals upheld the full award of $137,502.46 in attorneys' fees and costs.
The plaintiff subsequently moved for additional fees and costs several times, all of which have been granted by the Court.Dan Dalton - 04/16/2007
Jessica Kincaid - 11/04/2013