Supreme Court reaffirms that Plaintiff's Civil Rights Lawsuit must be Frivolous, Unreasonable or
The Idaho Supreme Court decided to go against the longstanding precedent set forth by the Supreme Court nearly 40 years ago. Under federal law, a court has discretion to "allow the prevailing party, other than the United States, a reasonable attorney’s fee” in a civil rights lawsuit filed under 42 U. S. C. §1983. 42 U. S. C. §1988. In Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U. S. 5 (1980) (per curiam), the Supreme Court interpreted §1988 to permit a prevailing defendant in such a suit to recoverfees only if “the plaintiff ’s action was frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation.” Id., at 14 (quoting Christiansburg Garment Co. v. EEOC, 434 U. S. 412, 421 (1978) (internal quotation marks omitted)).
Here, the Idaho Supreme Court awarded fees to a defendant without holding a hearing or making any sort of inquiry to determine that the Plaintiff's action was frivolous. In a two page decision, the Court, Per Curiam, reverses the Idaho Supreme Court holding that "[t]he Idaho Supreme Court, like any other state or federal court, is bound by this Court’s interpretation of federal law." Plaintiff's Civil Rights attorneys can now breath a sigh of releif - this decision could have negatively impacted civil rights litigants by dissuading attorney's fearful of an award of Defendant's attorneys fees in a case that, otherwise, may have been worth bringing.
The case is James v. City of Boise, 577 U.S. ___ (2016), http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/15pdf/15-493_5h26.pdf.