Hutchinson v. Patrick
Public Justice joined an amici brief concerning the standard for when plaintiffs have prevailed for the purpose of fee-shifting statutes.
In an amici brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, Public Justice joined numerous other public interest groups in arguing that plaintiffs have prevailed, for the purpose of fee-shifting statutes, when a court’s order is the functional equivalent of a consent decree. The plaintiffs, a class of over 9,000 persons with acquired brain injuries, had obtained a groundbreaking settlement with the Massachusetts officials who had failed to provide them with the necessary care, and the district court granted their fee request. The defendants appealed that fee award and sought a radically limiting interpretation of the laws governing all statutory fee-shifting provisions. On appeal, amici argued that because most cases settle, it is vital to the public interest and the enforcement of civil rights laws that fees be available when the court approves settlements and retains enforcement jurisdiction over them. The brief was authored by Jeffrey S. Follett and Brian P. Bialas of Foley Hoag LLP.
On February 17, 2011, the First Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision, as amici had urged.