Hastings Law Journal


Julie Davies


Civil rights fee-shifting statutes were designed to enable plaintiffs to attract competent attorneys to litigate and ultimately vindicate violations of federal civil rights laws. In the years following the enactment of the Attorneys' Fees Awards Act of 1976, the Supreme Court has decided a number of cases that would seem to affect attorney compensation in civil rights cases. In a series of interviews with civil rights practitioners, Professor Julie Davies has explored the effects of some key decisions as well as other factors that influence the viability of civil rights practice. In her Article, she presents the results of her survey and identifies the ways in which the practices of the survey participants are affected by the doctrines she studied. She argues that the cases affecting fees, in conjunction with other factors, have undermined the incentives of attorneys in the study to represent certain types of plaintiffs or to litigate under particular civil rights statutes. She finds these results utterly inconsistent with the promise of fee-shifting legislation and urges serious consideration of the need for reforms to prevent further erosion of federal civil rights protection.

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