U.S. Supreme Court to hear attorneys' fee dispute

Chris Rizo Apr. 7, 2009, 10:49am

U.S. Supreme Court building

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-The U.S. Supreme Court says it will hear a case involving a dispute over $10.5 million awarded to plaintiffs' attorneys who litigated a class action over foster care deficiencies.

At the center of the Georgia case is a $4.5 million enhancement that Senior U.S. District Judge Marvin Shoob awarded in 2002 to a group of trial lawyers who sued over alleged foster care violations in DeKalb and Fulton counties.

On top of the enhancement, Shoob awarded lawyers $6 million to cover attorneys' fees and expenses. Shoob said an enhancement was warranted for the lawyers' fine legal work.

The plaintiffs in the foster care case were represented by New York-based Children's Rights Inc. The organization said that the judge was correct to reward their team, noting that civil rights case work is largely bankrolled through such awards of attorneys' fees.

The plaintiffs' lawyers included the current president of the State Bar of Georgia, Jeffrey Bramlett of Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, and Marcia Robinson Lowry of Children's Rights.

The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the fees in a July 2008 ruling.

The class action lawsuit against the state was settled in 2005, and prompted the state to reduce worker case loads and overcrowding in foster homes.

Attorney General Thurbert Baker's office said Monday it was pleased the court has agreed to hear the case.

"The enhancement granted by Judge Shoob represented an inappropriate windfall," spokesman Russ Willard was quoted by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as saying.

The case is Perdue v Kenny A., 08-970.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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