Balla v. State of Idaho, et al., No. 10-35413 (9th Cir. 2012)Annotate this Case
This case stemmed from a class action that began more than a quarter century ago where Idaho state prisoners at the Idaho State Correctional Institution (ISCI) prevailed on their claims that, inter alia, because of deliberate indifference, without any connection to a legitimate penological purpose, the inmates were subjected to needless pain and suffering on account of inadequate medical and psychiatric care. The district court issued an injunction to remedy the constitutional violations and the injunctions remained in effect in 2008 and 2009 when the facts giving rise to this case occurred. The Portland law firm of Stoel Rives, LLP was appointed to represent the prisoner class. At issue on appeal was whether Stoel Rives was entitled to an attorneys' fee award in the class action under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), 42 U.S.C. 1997e. The court held that, in this case, the judge had discretion to consider whether Stoel Rives's work on a motion to compel conformity to the injunction was "directly and reasonably incurred in enforcing the relief." The district court acted within the bounds of its discretion in awarding fees in a reasonable amount for bringing about that conformity with the injunction. Here, Stoel Rives's work was what one would expect of a lawyer working for a client that could afford its efforts but that was not indifferent to the cost. The firm showed no evidence of milking the case, and the fees were "directly and reasonably incurred." Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment.