As part of our occasional review of cases from other Supreme Courts around the world, we draw attention to an interesting case before the US Supreme Court this week.  ScotUSblog reports on the case of Perdue v. Kenny A heard this week before the US Supreme Court. The case related to foster care in the state of Georgia and the plaintiffs recovered – by consent – their legal costs from the defendant.  A federal judge awarded the lawyers an extra $4.5 million on top of the $6 million they were due under a formula. U.S. District Judge Marvin Shoob said their work was the best he’d seen in 27 years on the bench. Georgia appealed.   The issue in the case is whether the uplift was permissible. 

At the US Supreme Court, Chief Justice Roberts was sceptical of  the argument in favour of the uplift saying “The results obtained under our theory should be what the law requires, and not different results because you have different lawyers”.

The defendant is – perhaps understandably – saying that the uplift represents a double recovery since the quality of the work and the result if reflected in the very fact that a costs award was made.  

By Justice Breyer’s calculations, the $10.5 million award translates into roughly $350 an hour, or $700,000 a year for a lawyer who works 2,000 hours annually.

“You say to a taxpayer, ‘You are going to pay this’ and that’s more money than 99 percent of the taxpayers hope to see in their lives,” 

ScotUSblog has noted that while the case may be seen as one of a narrow point of statutory itnerpretation, it also “raises important questions about how civil rights should be enforced and what compensation lawyers should receive for enforcing them”.

In the first (and currently only) judgment of Supreme Court handed down, in the JFS case, our Supreme Court assisted in the remuneration of lawyers by both requiring the continuation of public funding for the claimant and also ruling out that there be no award of costs expressly so that the lawyers could benefit from the more generous inter partes costs regime, compared with the own client costs in such cases.

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