Klein v. City of Laguna Beach, No. 13-56973 (9th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff was awarded nominal damages on three of his four as-applied claims in a 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit to invalidate aspects of Laguna Beach's ordinances prohibiting the use of sound-amplification devices on public sidewalks. Plaintiff then moved for attorneys' fees. The district court concluded that plaintiff was a prevailing party under 42 U.S.C. 1983, but denied attorneys' fees pursuant to Farrar v. Hobby. Farrar held that a prevailing party who seeks a large compensatory award but receives only nominal damages may not be entitled to fees. The court affirmed the district court’s order denying fees under California law. However, under federal law, the court held that because plaintiff's lawsuit achieved its future-oriented goals and plaintiff never attempted to secure compensatory damages under section 1983, the Farrar exception does not apply. Consequently, the district court erred by not considering plaintiff's entitlement to fees under the standard framework. The court vacated and remanded for further proceedings.