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Idaho Population Caps Continue; Class Counsel & Representatives Reappointed

Idaho Population Caps Continue; Class Counsel & Representatives Reappointed

On December 18, 2007, a federal court in Idaho re-appointed Class Representatives and ordered attorney fees for Plaintiffs' counsel in a long-running Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC) overcrowding case.

In 1987, the federal court issued an injunction, imposing population caps at various units of IDOC prisons. See: Balla v. Idaho Bd. Of Corr., 656 F.Supp. 1108 (D. Id. 1987). On September 26, 2005 a federal court denied IDOC's motion to terminate the population cap and required repair of persistent plumbing problems. The court also granted Plaintiffs' request for attorney fees and costs in the amount of $155,858.68 because they had successfully defended the existing injunction.

Eighteen months later, IDOC moved again to terminate the population cap, but did not seek to terminate the injunctive orders prohibiting triple bunking and placing mattresses on the floor.

The district court re-appointed Stoel Rives, LLP, the law firm that represented Plaintiffs against Defendants' first attempt to terminate the injunctive order. The court also ordered monthly payments of Stoel Rives' attorneys’ fees.

On March 26, 2007, Defendants partially withdrew their motion to terminate prospective relief. Stoel Rives filed a Notice of Appearance on April 5, 2007 and sought re-appointment as class counsel.

During an April 6, 2007 status conference, Defense Counsel informed the court that Defendants would not pursue their motion to terminate, but may re-file in six to 18 months. They formally withdrew the motion on April 9, 2007.

On August 14, 2007, Defendants supplemented the withdrawal of their motion to terminate, claiming they would not seek termination in the foreseeable future.

On September 6, 2007, Plaintiffs' counsel moved to appoint prisoner class representatives. This was followed by an October 22, 2007 motion for $18,322.60 in attorney fees for representing the class through October 18, 2007.

Defendants argued that since they withdrew their motion to terminate, it was no longer necessary to appoint new class representatives. While Defendants conceded the reasonableness of the $4,341.05 attorney fee billing through the April 9, 2007 withdrawal of their motion, they argued that billing fees beyond that date was unreasonable and should be denied.

The district court held that the appointment of new class representatives is necessary, finding "it is… important for the class representatives to have access to counsel in order to report on alleged violations of the Balla III injunctive orders. If the class representatives are not in place to serve as the conduit for inmate complaints about the injunctive orders, the attorneys are bombarded by an overwhelming number of inmate complaints.” As such, the court determined that "it provides efficiency and constancy to reappoint class representatives, despite IDOC's decision not to attempt termination of the population cap in the foreseeable future."

The Court also held "that attorney fees were ‘directly and reasonably incurred in enforcing the relief ordered’ in the prior permanent injunction," given that they were put "in the position of defending against the termination of the prior injunctive relief orders."

The court disallowed $575.00 of the attorneys' fee for a lawsuit filed in state court on behalf of one of the class representatives because the "fees appear unrelated to representation of the… class." Therefore, the Court ordered "the IDOC Defendants to pay the attorney fees incurred by Stoel Rives in the amount of $17,747.60.” It also ordered IDOC to "pay the additional fees Plaintiffs incurred in filing a reply brief to the Motion For Attorney Fees and for [counsel's] appearance at the oral argument on the pending motions.”

Finally, the court awarded a class representative $486.06 in costs incurred in representing the class. See: Balla v. Idaho Board of Correction, 2007 US Dist LEXIS 92829 (D. ID. 2007).

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Related legal cases

Balla v. Idaho Board of Correction

Balla v. Idaho Board of Correction