MISSOURI v. JENKINS

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
88-64
Petitioner 
Missouri
Respondent 
Kalima Jenkins et al.
Advocates
(Assistant Attorney General of Missouri, argued the cause for the petitioners)
(argued the cause for the respondents)
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Facts of the Case 

The Kansas City Missouri School District hired lawyers to argue a major desegregation case against the state of Missouri in federal district court. When the lawyers won the case after years of litigation, they sought compensation from Missouri under the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act of 1976. The district court calculated the amount owed using current market rates for attorney's fees. Missouri objected to paying the lawyers at current rates for work they performed in the past when rates were lower. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled against Missouri. Missouri alleged that the federal courts violated its Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity privileges by forcing it to pay higher rates.

Question 

Under the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act of 1976, does the Eleventh Amendment prohibit a federal court from requiring a state to pay lawyers at current market rates for past litigation? Can legal assistants be charged at current market rates rather than at their cost to the lawyers at the time of litigation?

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for Jenkins, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards

No and Yes. Justice William J. Brennan Jr. delivered the opinion for a 7-1 court. The Court referred to its decision in Hutto v. Finney to establish that the Eleventh Amendment does not apply "to an award of attorney's fees against a State." Therefore "it follows that the same is true for the calculation of the amount of the fee." Charging current rates for lawyers compensated for the delay in payment to them. Further, charging current rates for legal assistants rather than their cost to attorneys during litigation took account of the entire service the lawyers provided. This constituted "a reasonable attorney's fee" under the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act of 1976.

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MISSOURI v. JENKINS. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 19 June 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1988/1988_88_64>.
MISSOURI v. JENKINS, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1988/1988_88_64 (last visited June 19, 2014).
"MISSOURI v. JENKINS," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed June 19, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1980-1989/1988/1988_88_64.