RICHLIN SECURITY SERVICE v. CHERTOFF

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
Petitioner 
Richlin Security Service Company
Respondent 
Michael Chertoff, Secretary of Homeland Security
Advocates
(on behalf of the Respondent)
(on behalf of the Petitioner)
Term:
Facts of the Case 

Richlin Security Service contracted with the Immigration and Naturalization Service to provide guards at Los Angeles International Airport. After discovering that the guards had been misclassified by the federal government and subsequently underpaid for a period of years, Richlin brought a successful suit to recover the lost wages. In seeking reimbursement for fees associated with the proceedings, Richlin sought to recover fees for paralegal services at market rates. Under the Equal Access to Justice Act, 5 U.S.C. Section 504, Richlin was entitled to "fees and other expenses incurred in the proceedings." Based on this language, the Board of Review determined that paralegal fees should be billed as a calculable cost to the firm and, therefore, should not be recoverable at market rates.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed this decision, noting that the lack of a cap for paralegal fees could entice legal professionals to shift much of the work to them in order to maximize profits. Petitioners note, in urging the Court to grant certiorari, that a previous Court decision, Missouri v. Jenkins 491 U.S. 274 (1989), as well as several Eleventh Circuit decisions have reached the opposite result and have awarded paralegal fees at market rates.

Question 

Is a plaintiff who has successfully sued the federal government entitled to reimbursement of paralegal fees at market rates or as an expense compensable at cost to the firm under the Equal Access to Justice Act, which allows for recovery of "fees and other expenses" incurred in the proceedings?

Conclusion 
Decision: 9 votes for Richlin Security Service, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Equal Access to Justice

Yes. In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Samuel A. Alito, the Court held that such paralegal fees are recoverable at market rates. Justice Samuel A. Alito stated that because Richlin incurred fees for paralegal services in connection with its case, a straightforward reading of the statute demonstrates that Richlin was entitled to recover fees for the paralegal services it purchased at the market rate. The Court found the government's argument that only "reasonable costs" should be recovered unpersuasive.

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RICHLIN SECURITY SERVICE v. CHERTOFF. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 11 September 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2007/2007_06_1717>.
RICHLIN SECURITY SERVICE v. CHERTOFF, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2007/2007_06_1717 (last visited September 11, 2014).
"RICHLIN SECURITY SERVICE v. CHERTOFF," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 11, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2007/2007_06_1717.