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$1.1 Million Fee Award in California Prison Segregation Lawsuit

A California federal district court has awarded $1,090,141.70 in attorney fees and costs in a class-action suit that challenged the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) policies regarding gang validation and the use and management of segregated housing. That amount includes $16,502.40 for work on de novo motions.

As previously reported in PLN, prisoners at the Pelican Bay State Prison sued CDCR officials to change how the prison system managed suspected gang members. A settlement established new criteria for placing prisoners in Secure Housing Units, administrative segregation and step-down programs. It also modified parameters for reviewing and transferring prisoners in SHU and Restrictive Custody General Population Housing Units, and placed a limit on the number of years a prisoner could be held in Pelican Bay’s SHU. In 2016, the court awarded $4.55 million in attorney fees and costs to the prisoners’ counsel. [See: PLN, Nov. 2018, p.28; Oct. 2015, p.28].

On June 25, 2018, the district court awarded class counsel an additional $1,032,419.52 in attorney fees and $41,219.78 in costs. Counsel moved for rehearing to correct a mathematical mistake in the fee award, and for reconsideration of the denial of costs related to time spent communicating with clients and conferring with the CDCR about the litigation, as well as case-related travel time.

The court conceded in an August 2018 order that it made a math error concerning the calculation of de novo enforcement motions that amounted to $16,502.40. However, it rejected arguments that it had improperly reduced hours or failed to award the other fees. The court noted that class counsel failed, in many aspects, to support its requests for additional fees with a “coherent record.” 

The district court granted the motion for rehearing in part and denied it in part. On January 25, 2019, the court granted the plaintiffs’ motion to extend the settlement agreement in the case for one more year. Both parties have since filed appeals with the Ninth Circuit, which remain pending. See: Ashker v. Governor of California, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Cal.), Case No. 4:09-cv-05796-CW-MEJ; 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 134731. 

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Ashker v. Governor of California


 

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