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COA: Award fees for litigation costs

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The Indiana Court of Appeals instructed a trial court today to follow its guidance on remand to determine the amount of money to award to a man who wants to recover fees for litigation at the trial and appellate levels. The court hopes to avoid another appeal of the case.

In Christopher Scott Barker v. City of West Lafayette and Officer Adam S. Ferguson,  No. 79A02-0804-CV-384, Christopher Barker appealed the denial of fees related to his litigation to recover fees. After being acquitted of resisting law enforcement and battery upon a law enforcement officer charges, Barker sued the city of West Lafayette on federal claims of false arrest, excessive force, and malicious prosecution. The jury found in favor of Barker on his false arrest and malicious prosecution claims. He filed a petition to recover attorney fees and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1988. The trial court awarded him nearly $50,000, relying on Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, 488 F.2d 714 (5th Cir. 1974).

Barker appealed, and on remand the trial court recalculated his fees based on the lodestar method and awarded him $92,906. The trial court didn't believe he should receive compensation for the federal claim he lost or the fact the trial court originally relied on Johnson to calculate the fees.

Barker then filed a motion to correct error, which the trial court granted without a hearing or receiving a response from the city. The trial court set aside its previous decision in its entirety, recalculated Barker's attorney fees at a higher hourly rate, but stated it didn't compensate him for the lost claim or its previous use of Johnson. The new order included fees related to his excessive force claim but denied him nearly $57,000 in fees for litigation of the fee issue in the trial court, on appeal, and on remand.

The city filed a motion to correct error, arguing they weren't allowed sufficient time to respond to Barker's motion to correct error; the trial court re-affirmed its order.

In the instant case, the Court of Appeals ruled Barker was entitled the nearly $57,000 in fees for litigation that the trial court had denied because he was the prevailing party. The city's argument that Barker led the trial court to use Johnson to calculate his original fee award was unpersuasive, wrote Judge Terry Crone.

The appellate court affirmed the award of fees related to the excessive force claim, the hourly rate used by the trial court to calculate Barker's attorney fees award, and the award of paralegal fees. It found there was no reversible error committed by the trial court when it re-affirmed and re-entered its prior order, wrote the judge.

Judge Crone wrote in a footnote at the end of the opinion that the trial court should consider the Court of Appeals' guidance when determining on remand the amount of fees Barker is entitled to in order to avoid another appeal of the case and further expenditure of public funds.

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  • Legal services required!
    please do your firm handles cases on breach of contract? please advise...

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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