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Decision on Attorney's Fees

Decision on Attorney's Fees

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Published by Steve Terrell
Judge Jim Hall's decision on attorneys' fees for redistricting
Judge Jim Hall's decision on attorneys' fees for redistricting

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Published by: Steve Terrell on Jul 30, 2012
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07/30/2012

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STATEOFNEWMEXICOCOUNTYOFSANTAFEFIRSTJUDICIALDISTRICTCOURT
BRIANF.EGOLF,JR.,HAKIMBELLAMY,MELHOLGUIN,MAURILIOCASTRO,andROXANNESPRUCEBLY
))
)
)
)
DIANNAJ.DURAN,inherofficial)capacityasNewMexicoSecretaryofState,)SUSANAMARTINEZ,inherofficialcapacityasNew)MexicoGovernor,JOHNA.SANCHEZ,inhisofficial)capacityasNewMexicoLieutenantGovernorand)presidingofficeroftheNewMexicoSenate,TIMOTHYZ.JENNINGS,inhisofficialcapacityas)PresidentPro-TemporeoftheNewMexicoSenate,and)BENLUJAN,SR.,
in
hisofficialcapacityasSpeaker)oftheNewMexicoHouseofRepresentatives,)
)
)
Plaintiffs,
v
Defendants.
NO.D-IOI-CV-2011-02942
CONSOLIDATEDWITHD-101-CV-2011-02944D-101-CV-2011-02945D010J-CV-2011-03016D-I01-CV-2011-03099D-101-CV-2011-03J07D-202-CV-2011-09600D-506-CV-2011-00913
DECISIONONATTORNEY'SFEESFollowingthe2010Census,theNewMexicoLegislatureandtheGovernorofNewMexicofailedtoenactintolawnewredistrictingplansfortheNewMexicoHouseofRepresentatives,StateSenate,PublicRegulationCommissionandtheUnitedStatesCongress.Insteadofresolvingtheissuesthroughnegotiationandpoliticalcompromise,NewMexico'selectedofficialschosethepathoflitigationtoredistricttheState.Thecosttothetaxpayersofthischoicehasbeensubstantial.Thecostincludesthespecialsessionthatdidnotproduceredistrictingplansenactedintolaw.ItalsoincludesthecostofmultipleattorneysretainedtorepresentGovernorSusanaMartinez,SecretaryofStateDiannaDuran,Lt.GovernorJohnSanchez,SpeakeroftheHouseBenLujanandPresidentPro-TemporeoftheSenateTimothyJennings,allofwhomaredefendantsin
1
 
thislitigation.
It
evenincludesthecostofthisCourt,asitwasnecessarytodesignatea
judgeprotempore
tohearthismatterduetotheoverburdenedandunderfundedstateoftheNewMexicojudiciary.InthepresentapplicationsbeforetheCourt,multiplePlaintiffs(includingsixmembersoftheNewMexicoLegislature)requestthattheCourtorderthetaxpayersofNewMexicotopaytheirattorney'sfees.Attorney'sFeesundertheCivilRightsActandtheVotingRightsActBoththeCivilRightsAct(42
U.S.c.
§§1983
and
1988)andtheVotingRightsActof1965(4
U.S.c.
§1973)providethataprevailingpartymaybeawardedattorney'sfees.Theattorney'sfeeprovisionoftheCivilRightsActreadsinrelevantpartasfollows:Inanyactionorproceedingtoenforceaprovisionofsections...1983...ofthistitle,thecourt,initsdiscretion,mayallowtheprevailingparty,otherthantheUnitedStates,areasonableattorney'sfeeaspartofthecosts...
42U.S.c.§1988(b).
Theattorney'sfeeprovisionoftheVotingRightsActprovides:Attorney'sfees.Inanyactionorproceedingtoenforcethevotingguaranteesofthefourteenthorfifteenthamendments,theCourtinitsdiscretionmayallowtheprevailingparty,otherthantheUnitedStates,areasonableattorney'sfeeaspartofthecosts.
42U.S.c.§19731(e).
BothfeeprovisionsestablishapresumptionthataprevailingpartyinlitigationbroughtundereithertheCivilRightsActortheVotingRightsActisentitledtorecoverattorney'sfees.Thegeneralruleisthataprevailingpartyshouldordinarilyrecoverattorney'sfeesunlessspecialcircumstancesrenderanawardunjust.
Chavezv.Curry
Cnty.,
130N.M.753,766(2001)
(citing
42
U'SiC.§1988(b)
and
Hensleyv.Eckerhart,
461U.S.424,429(1983».Themainconsiderationsforthecourtinawarding
2
 
attorney'sfeesare1)whoisaprevailingpartyunder
§1988(b)
and
§19731(e);
2)whetherspecialcircumstancesrenderanawardunjust;and3)adeterminationofthereasonablenessofthefeesandcostsrequested.Under§1988,aprevailingpartyisonethatsucceeds"onanysignificantissueinlitigationwhichachievessomeofthebenefitthepartiessoughtinbringingsuit."
Hensleyv.Eckerhart,
461U.S.at433(1983).Ifaplaintiffhassucceededonanysignificantissueinthelitigationwhichachievedsomeofthebenefitorrelieftheplaintiffsoughtinbringingsuit,theplaintiffisaprevailingpartyandhascrossedthethresholdtoafeeaward.
Id.
Theplaintiff"neednotprevailonallofthemajorissuesinthelitigation.Rather,theplaintiffneedonly'succeedonanysignificantclaim'andobtain'someofthereliefsought."
Boganv.SandovalCty.PlanningandZoningComm'n,
119N.M.334,345(Ct.App.1994)(quoting
TexasStateTeachersAss'nv.GarlandIndep.
Sch,
Dist.,
489U.S.782,791(1989».Forredistrictinglitigation,themajorityofcourtshaverecognizedthatsuccessonthethresholdquestionofunconstitutionalmalapportionmentgenerallysufficestoconferprevailingpartystatus.
Perrinv.Kitzhaber,
191Or.App.439,83P.3d368,376(Ore.App.2003);
InreKansasCongress.Dist.ReapportionmentCases,
745F.2d610,612(10thCir.1984);
Ramosv.Koebig,
638F.2d838,845(5
th
Cir.1981).Underthesecases,aplaintiffprevailsevenwhenthepartiesagreethatexistingdistrictsareunconstitutionalandthemainissueinlitigationiswhichplanaffordsthebestremedyfortheviolation.Onceitisdeterminedthatapartyisaprevailingparty,thecourtmustnextconsiderthereasonablenessoffeesandcostsrequestedbasedonthedegreeofalitigant'ssuccess.Under
TexasStateTeachersAss'n,
the"degreeofplaintiffssuccessinrelation
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