Civil Procedure Keyed to Marcus
Venegas v. Mitchell
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The current dispute arises out of an action under 42 U.S. C. Section: 1983 brought by Petitioner alleging that police officers of Long Beach, California falsely arrested Petitioner and conspired to deny him a fair trial through the presentation of perjured testimony. The district court dismissed Petitioner’s complaint as time barred by statute of limitations, which was subsequently reversed by the court of appeals. During this appeal, Petitioner retained Respondent as his attorney. Petitioner and Respondent signed a contingency contract for a fee of 40% of the gross amount of any recovery. The contract prohibited Petitioner from waiving Respondent’s right to court-awarded attorney’s fees. Petitioner obtained a judgment of $2.08 million. Respondent moved for attorney’s fees and the District Court entered an order awarding Petitioner $117,000 in attorney’s fees, of which $75,000 was attributable to work performed by Respondent. The award was calculated by multiplying a reasonable hourly rate by the number of hours the respondent expended on the case, and then doubling this lodestar figure to reflect respondent’s competent performance. Petitioner and Respondent had a disagreement about representation on appeal and Petitioner obtained different counsel for appeal. Respondent then asserted a $406,000 attorney’s lien against the judgment proceeds, his half of the 40% fee. Petitioner objected because the fee was excessive and should be limited to the $75,000 found to be reasonable on the Motion for Attorney’s Fees. The District Court refused to disallow or reduce the fee and the Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s decision.
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