HANRAHAN V. HAMPTON, 446 U. S. 754 (1980)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Hanrahan v. Hampton, 446 U.S. 754 (1980)

Hanrahan v. Hampton

No. 79-912

Decided June 2, 1980*

446 U.S. 754


The Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act of 1976 (Act) permits the award of a reasonable attorney's fee to the "prevailing party" as part of the taxable costs in a suit brought under any of several specified civil rights statutes. Respondents brought suit under certain of those statutes, alleging that their constitutional rights had been violated by petitioners, and seeking damages. The District Court directed verdicts for petitioners, but the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial, and also awarded to respondents their costs on appeal, including attorney's fees which it believed to he authorized by the Act.

Held: Respondents were not "prevailing" parties in the sense intended by the Act. While Congress contemplated the award of fees pendente lite in some cases, it intended to permit such an interlocutory award only when a party has prevailed on the merits of at least some of his claims, either in the trial court or on appeal. Respondents have not prevailed on the merits of any of their claims, since the Court of Appeals held only that they were entitled to a trial of their cause. Nor may they fairly be said to have "prevailed" by reason of the Court of Appeals' other interlocutory dispositions that affected only the extent of discovery, since such determinations might affect the disposition on the merits, but were themselves not matters on which a party could "prevail" for purposes of shifting his counsel fees to the opposing party under the Act.

Certiorari granted in part; 60 F.2d 600, reversed in part.

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