ILNews

School-fee case comes to a close - again

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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Parents who successfully challenged the constitutionality of Evansville school fees have won another victory in Indiana appellate courts, this time relating to attorney fees.

The Indiana Court of Appeals issued a 21-page decision today in Frank Nagy, et al. v. Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation, No 82A05-0609-CV-488, which involves a new issue stemming from an Indiana Supreme Court ruling last year. The case arose after the local district began charging every student a $20 student-services fee in fall 2002 as a way to make up for a $ 2.3 million deficient that year and a $ 5.3 million shortfall in 2003. The fees were ultimately declared unconstitutional in March 2006.

But on remand, the trial court denied the parents' requests for attorney fees on the issue of whether they're considered the "prevailing party." Parents appealed, arguing they are the prevailing party for purposes of the U.S. Constitution that provides for awarding attorney fees to parties who prevailed in actions brought to enforce federal constitutional rights.

"Turning to the specifics of the case before us, we must reject the trial court's determination that the Parents were not the prevailing party under Section 1988," the court wrote. "This outright victory upon the merits of the state constitutional claim fits within the generous definition of 'prevail' adopted by the federal Supreme Court."

However, left to be determined at the trial court level is how the fees should be divvied up to each set of parents - the Nagys and Bracketts, as the Bracketts joined the original suit later and were the only ones to bring a federal claim relating to attorney fees.

"Although we have addressed certain issues with regard to attorney fees. The ultimate calculation of reasonable attorney fees is a task for the trial court upon remand," the court wrote.
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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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