478 U.S. 546 (1986), 85-5, Pennsylvania v. Delaware Valley Citizens' Council for Clean Air

Docket Nº:No. 85-5
Citation:478 U.S. 546, 106 S.Ct. 3088, 92 L.Ed.2d 439, 54 U.S.L.W. 5017
Party Name:Pennsylvania v. Delaware Valley Citizens' Council for Clean Air
Case Date:July 02, 1986
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 546

478 U.S. 546 (1986)

106 S.Ct. 3088, 92 L.Ed.2d 439, 54 U.S.L.W. 5017

Pennsylvania

v.

Delaware Valley Citizens' Council for Clean Air

No. 85-5

United States Supreme Court

July 2, 1986

Argued March 3, 1986

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE THIRD CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Section 304(d) of the Clean Air Act provides that, "in any action" to enforce the Act, the court

may award costs of litigation (including reasonable attorney and expert witness fees) to any party, whenever the court determines such award is appropriate.

In 1977, respondent Delaware Valley Citizens' Council for Clean Air (hereafter respondent) and the United States each filed suit in Federal District Court to compel Pennsylvania to implement a vehicle emission inspection and maintenance program (I/M program) as required by the Act. Pursuant to a consent decree approved in 1978, the State agreed to establish an I/M program for certain counties. The decree required the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) [106 S.Ct. 3089] to seek legislation instituting a franchise I/M program, but, if such legislation was not approved, to promulgate regulations allowing the State to certify private garage facilities to perform the inspections. Implementation of the I/M program, however, did not proceed smoothly. The factual developments following entry of the consent decree divided into several phases, including Phase II in which respondent, after PennDOT had published proposed regulations, continued to monitor the State's performance under the consent decree and submitted comments on the proposed regulations; Phase V, in which the Pennsylvania Legislature enacted a statute prohibiting the expenditure of state funds for an I/M program, respondent successfully opposed the State's motion to stay the consent decree, the District Court held the State in contempt and ordered the United States Secretary of Transportation to refrain from approving any projects or award grants for highways in the area covered by the consent decree, with certain exceptions, and the Court of Appeals upheld the District Court; and Phase IX that involved work done by respondent in hearings before the Environmental Protection Agency, during which the State unsuccessfully sought that agency's approval of an I/M program covering a smaller geographic area than was called for in the consent decree. Respondent, pursuant to § 304(d), sought attorney's fees and costs for the work performed after issuance of the consent decree. The District Court awarded respondent attorney's fees that included time spent by counsel in Phases II and IX, holding, over the State's objection, that, because the proposed regulations would

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have affected respondent's rights under the consent decree, it had a unique interest in the state and federal administrative proceedings that made its counsel's work sufficiently related to the litigation to be compensable. As to Phase V, the District Court, based on the "superior quality" of counsel's performance in that phase, applied a multiplier of two to adjust the lodestar amount (the product of reasonable hours times a reasonable rate) of attorney's fees. The Court of Appeals affirmed the fee awards for Phases II, V, and IX.

Held:

1. Section 304(d) authorizes attorney's fees for time spent by counsel in Phases II and IX. The fact that the work done by counsel in those phases did not occur in the context of traditional judicial litigation does not preclude an award of reasonable attorney's fees under § 304(d) for that work. Participation in the administrative proceedings was crucial to the vindication of respondent's rights under the consent decree, and compensation for these activities was entirely proper and well within the "zone of discretion" afforded the District Court. Pp. 557-561.

2. The lower courts erred in increasing the attorney's fee award to respondent for Phase V based on the "superior quality" of counsel's performance. Pp. 561-568.

(a) The lodestar figure includes most, if not all, of the relevant factors constituting a "reasonable" attorney's fee, and it is unnecessary to enhance the fee for superior performance in order to serve the statutory purpose of enabling plaintiffs to receive legal assistance. Pp. 561-566.

(b) Here, the evidence submitted by respondent to support its petition for attorney's fees does not indicate why the lodestar figure did not provide a reasonable fee award reflecting the quality of representation provided during Phase V. Respondent presented no evidence as to what made the results it obtained during that phase so "outstanding," or why the lodestar figure was far below awards made in similar cases. Neither the District Court nor the Court of Appeals made findings as to why the lodestar amount was unreasonable. In the absence of such evidence and findings, there was no reason to increase the fee award in Phase V for the quality of representation. Pp. 566-568.

762 F.2d 272, affirmed in part and reversed in part.

[106 S.Ct. 3090] WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and POWELL, REHNQUIST, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined, and in Parts I and II of which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined. BLACKMUN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, and in Part II of which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 568.

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WHITE, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The questions presented in this case are first, whether the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. § 7401 et seq., authorizes attorney's fees awards for time spent by counsel participating in regulatory proceedings; second, whether a court may enhance an award to reflect superior quality of representation rendered by plaintiff's counsel; and third, whether enhancement

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of the fee is proper because of plaintiff's risk of not prevailing on the merits.

I

In 1977, the Delaware Valley Citizens' Council for Clean Air (Delaware Valley) and the United States each filed suit to compel the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to implement a vehicle emission inspection and maintenance program (I/M program) as required by the Clean Air Act. See 42 U.S.C. § 7410. Pursuant to a consent decree approved in 1978, the Commonwealth agreed to establish an I/M program for 10 counties in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas by August 1, 1980. The decree called for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to seek legislation instituting a franchise I/M system under which the Commonwealth would contract with garage owners for the establishment of inspection stations. If the legislature failed to approve such a system, then the decree required PennDOT to promulgate regulations allowing Pennsylvania to certify a number of private garage facilities to perform the inspections. In addition, the decree provided for Pennsylvania to pay Delaware Valley $30,000 for attorney's fees and costs incurred prior to the entry of the consent decree.

Entry of the consent decree marked only the beginning of this story, for implementation of the I/M program did not proceed smoothly. For simplicity's sake, we will summarize the relevant factual developments into nine phases, with each phase relating to a different aspect of the litigation. Not only is this the method used by the parties and followed by both lower courts, but it is a system for analyzing requests for attorney's fees and costs that appears to be useful in protracted litigation.

Phase I. After entry of the consent decree, the Pennsylvania Legislature refused to enact a franchise system. Under the decree, PennDOT then had until July 1, 1979, to publish the necessary regulations. When PennDOT failed to comply, Delaware Valley moved to have the Commonwealth

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held in contempt; PennDOT published the proposed regulations, however, before the scheduled hearing on the motion. The court thus refrained from finding the Commonwealth in contempt, but ordered the parties to establish a revised schedule for implementation of the I/M program approved by the consent decree.

Phase II. After PennDOT published the proposed I/M program regulations, Delaware Valley continued to monitor the Commonwealth's performance under the consent decree, and submitted comments on the regulations which were published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

Phase III. In late 1979, the Commonwealth requested a modification of the decree delaying implementation of the I/M program until May, 1981. With Delaware Valley's approval, the District Court approved [106 S.Ct. 3091] the extension in March, 1980.

Phase IV. By February, 1981, the Commonwealth still had not published final regulations covering the type of equipment which private garages needed to have in order to become certified inspection stations. The Commonwealth thus asked Delaware Valley to consent to a further postponement of the implementation date to January 1, 1983. The Commonwealth argued that the United States Environmental Protection Agency had recommended a type of emission analyzer different from the one required under the consent decree, but at that time no manufacturer had produced even a prototype of such machinery.

After extensive negotiations over this extension request, the parties failed to reach an agreement. The Commonwealth then filed a motion asking the District Court to grant the second extension and delay the starting date of the I/M program until January 1, 1983. In response, Delaware Valley sought to have the court declare the Commonwealth to be in violation of the consent decree, and requested numerous modifications to the consent decree. On May 20, 1981, the court issued an order finding the Commonwealth in...

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