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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. All the lawyers involved in this don't add up to a hill of beans; mostly yes-men punching their tickets for future advancement. REMF types. Window dressing. Who in this mess was a real hero? the whistleblower that let the public know about the torture, whom the US sent to Jail. John Kyriakou. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/26/us/ex-officer-for-cia-is-sentenced-in-leak-case.html?_r=0 Now, considering that Torture is Illegal, considering that during Vietnam a soldier was court-martialed and imprisoned for waterboarding, why has the whistleblower gone to jail but none of the torturers have been held to account? It's amazing that Uncle Sam's sunk lower than Vietnam. But that's where we're at. An even more unjust and pointless war conducted in an even more bogus manner. this from npr: "On Jan. 21, 1968, The Washington Post ran a front-page photo of a U.S. soldier supervising the waterboarding of a captured North Vietnamese soldier. The caption said the technique induced "a flooding sense of suffocation and drowning, meant to make him talk." The picture led to an Army investigation and, two months later, the court martial of the soldier." Today, the US itself has become lawless.

  2. "Brain Damage" alright.... The lunatic is on the grass/ The lunatic is on the grass/ Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs/ Got to keep the loonies on the path.... The lunatic is in the hall/ The lunatics are in my hall/ The paper holds their folded faces to the floor/ And every day the paper boy brings more/ And if the dam breaks open many years too soon/ And if there is no room upon the hill/ And if your head explodes with dark forbodings too/ I'll see you on the dark side of the moon!!!

  3. It is amazing how selectively courts can read cases and how two very similar factpatterns can result in quite different renderings. I cited this very same argument in Brown v. Bowman, lost. I guess it is panel, panel, panel when one is on appeal. Sad thing is, I had Sykes. Same argument, she went the opposite. Her Rooker-Feldman jurisprudence is now decidedly unintelligible.

  4. November, 2014, I was charged with OWI/Endangering a person. I was not given a Breathalyzer test and the arresting officer did not believe that alcohol was in any way involved. I was self-overmedicated with prescription medications. I was taken to local hospital for blood draw to be sent to State Tox Lab. My attorney gave me a cookie-cutter plea which amounts to an ALCOHOL-related charge. Totally unacceptable!! HOW can I get my TOX report from the state lab???

  5. My mother got temporary guardianship of my children in 2012. my husband and I got divorced 2015 the judge ordered me to have full custody of all my children. Does this mean the temporary guardianship is over? I'm confused because my divorce papers say I have custody and he gets visits and i get to claim the kids every year on my taxes. So just wondered since I have in black and white that I have custody if I can go get my kids from my moms and not go to jail?

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