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Interim Attorney Fees Awarded in Kentucky Good Time Lawsuit

by David M. Reutter

In December 2018, a Kentucky federal district court awarded interim attorney fees and costs totaling $228,445.08 in a class-action lawsuit alleging state prisoners were denied Educational Good Time (EGT) credit earned since July 15, 2011.

The suit was originally filed in Franklin County Circuit Court on September 11, 2012. After discovery and failed mediation efforts, that court certified the case as a class action in June 2015. It also found the Kentucky Department of Corrections’ (KDOC) EGT program was “arbitrary and capricious,” and granted declaratory and injunctive relief. The KDOC removed the case to federal court following that order.

The U.S. District Court ordered compliance with the circuit court’s order and required prison officials to hire an independent auditor to review prisoners’ EGT records. Class counsel then moved for an award of interim attorney fees, emphasizing the six-year duration of the case. The district court granted the motion, finding that “delaying a fee until conclusion of this matter would cause substantial hardship for the Plaintiffs and their attorneys, discouraging future similar civil rights actions.”

The prisoners are represented by attorneys Gregory A. Belzley and Camille A. Bathurst. The district court calculated the lodestar rate for 2018 and 2019 at $220.50 per hour. For his 685 hours of work on the case, Belzley was entitled to $151,042.50. Bathurst received $71,089.20 for the 322.4 hours she had worked. The court also awarded $6,313.38 in litigation costs.

The defendants appealed the fee award to the Sixth Circuit on January 10, 2019, and their appeal remains pending. See: Arriola v. Commonwealth, U.S.D.C. (E.D. KY), Case No. 3:17-cv-00100-GFVT; 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 210299. 

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Related legal case

Arriola v. Commonwealth