499 U.S. 83 (1991), 89-994, West Virginia University Hospitals, Inc. v. Casey

Docket Nº:No. 89-994
Citation:499 U.S. 83, 111 S.Ct. 1138, 113 L.Ed.2d 68, 59 U.S.L.W. 4180
Party Name:West Virginia University Hospitals, Inc. v. Casey
Case Date:March 19, 1991
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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499 U.S. 83 (1991)

111 S.Ct. 1138, 113 L.Ed.2d 68, 59 U.S.L.W. 4180

West Virginia University Hospitals, Inc.

v.

Casey

No. 89-994

United States Supreme Court

March 19, 1991

Argued Oct. 9, 1990

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT

Syllabus

After petitioner West Virginia University Hospitals, Inc. (WVUH), prevailed at trial in its suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against respondent Pennsylvania officials over medicaid reimbursement rates for services provided Pennsylvania residents, the District Court awarded fees pursuant to § 1988, which, inter alia, gives the court in certain civil rights suits discretion to allow the prevailing party "a reasonable attorney's fee as part of the costs." WVUH's award included fees attributable to an accounting firm and three doctors specializing in hospital finance hired to assist in the preparation of the suit and to testify. The Court of Appeals affirmed as to the merits, but reversed as to the expert fees, disallowing them except to the extent that they fell within the $30-per-day fees for witnesses provided by 28 U.S.C. §§ 1920(3) and 1821(b).

Held: Fees for services rendered by experts in civil rights litigation may not be shifted to the losing party as part of "a reasonable attorney's fee" under § 1988. Pp. 86-102.

(

  1. Sections 1920 and 1821(b) define the full extent of a federal court's power to shift expert fees, whether testimonial or nontestimonial, absent "explicit statutory authority to the contrary." Crawford Fitting Co. v. J.T. Gibbons Inc., 482 U.S. 437, 439; see id. at 441. This Court will not lightly infer that Congress has repealed those sections through a provision like § 1988 that does not refer explicitly to witness fees. See id. at 445. Pp. 86-87

(b) Statutory usage before, during, and after 1976 (the date of § 1988's enactment) did not regard the phrase "attorney's fees" as embracing fees for experts' services. Pp. 88-92.

(c) At the time of § 1988's enactment, judicial usage did not regard the phrase "attorney's fees" as including experts' fees. Pp. 92-97.

(d) Where, as here, a statute contains a phrase that is unambiguous, this Court's sole function is to enforce it according to its terms. See, e.g., United States v. Ron Pair Enterprises, Inc., 489 U.S. 235, 241. Although chronology and the remarks of some sponsors of the bill that became § 1988 suggest that it was viewed as a response to Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. v. Wilderness Society, 421 U.S. 240 (1975), the text of

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§ 1988 is both broader and narrower than the pre-Alyeska regime. The best evidence of congressional purpose is the statutory text, which cannot be expanded or contracted by the statements of individual legislators or committees during the enactment process. WVUH's argument that Congress would have included expert fees in § 1988 if it had thought about it, as it did in the EAJA, and that this Court has a duty to ask how Congress would have decided had it actually considered the question, profoundly mistakes the Court's role with respect to unambiguous statutory terms. See Iselin v. United States, 270 U.S. 245, 250-251. Pp. 97-101.

885 F.2d 11 (CA3 1989), affirmed.

SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and WHITE, O'CONNOR, KENNEDY, and SOUTER, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 102. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, post, p. 103.

SCALIA, J., lead opinion

[111 S.Ct. 1140] Justice SCALIA delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents the question whether fees for services rendered by experts in civil rights litigation may be shifted to the losing party pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988, which permits the award of "a reasonable attorney's fee."

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I

Petitioner West Virginia University Hospitals, Inc. (WVUH), operates a hospital in Morgantown, W.Va., near the Pennsylvania border. The hospital is often used by medicaid recipients living in southwestern Pennsylvania. In January, 1986, Pennsylvania's Department of Public Welfare notified WVUH of new medicaid reimbursement schedules for services provided to Pennsylvania residents by the Morgantown hospital. In administrative proceedings, WVUH unsuccessfully objected to the new reimbursement rates on both federal statutory and federal constitutional grounds. After exhausting administrative remedies, WVUH filed suit in Federal District Court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Named as defendants (respondents here) were Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey and various other Pennsylvania officials.

Counsel for WVUH employed Coopers & Lybrand, a national accounting firm, and three doctors specializing in hospital finance to assist in the preparation of the lawsuit and to testify at trial. WVUH prevailed at trial in May, 1988. The District Court subsequently awarded fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988,{ 1} including over $100,000 in fees attributable to expert services. The District Court found these services to have been "essential" to presentation of the case -- a finding not disputed by respondents.

Respondents appealed both the judgment on the merits and the fee award. The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed as to the former, but reversed as to the expert fees, disallowing them except to the extent that they fell within the $30-per-day fees for witnesses prescribed by 28 U.S.C. § 1821. 885 F.2d 11 (CA3 1989). WVUH petitioned

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this Court for review of that disallowance; we granted certiorari, 494 U.S. 1003.

II

28 U.S.C. § 1920 provides:

A judge or clerk of any court of the United States may tax as costs the following:

(1) Fees of the clerk and marshal;

(2) Fees of the court reporter for all or any part of the stenographic transcript necessarily obtained for use in the case;

(3) Fees and disbursements for printing and witnesses;

(4) Fees for exemplification and copies of papers necessarily obtained for use in the case;

(5) Docket fees under section 1923 of this title;

(6) Compensation of court appointed experts, compensation of interpreters, and salaries, fees, expenses, and costs of special interpretation services under section 1828 of this title.

28 U.S.C. § 1821(b) limits the witness fees authorized by § 1920(3) as follows:

A witness shall be paid an attendance fee of $30 per day for each day's attendance. A witness shall also be paid the attendance fee for the time necessarily occupied in going to and returning from the place of attendance. . . .{ 2}

In Crawford Fitting Co. v. J.T. Gibbons Inc., 482 U.S. 437 (1987), [111 S.Ct. 1141] we held that these provisions define the full extent of a federal court's power to shift litigation costs absent express statutory authority to go further. "[W]hen," we said,

a prevailing party seeks reimbursement for fees paid to its own expert witnesses, a federal court is bound by the limits of § 1821(b), absent contract or explicit statutory authority to the contrary.

Id. at 439.

We will

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not lightly infer that Congress has repealed §§ 1920 and 1821, either through [Fed.Rule Civ.Proc.] 54(d) or any other provision not referring explicitly to witness fees.

Id. at 445.

As to the testimonial services of the hospital's experts, therefore, Crawford Fitting plainly requires, as prerequisite to reimbursement, the identification of "explicit statutory authority." WVUH argues, however, that some of the expert fees it incurred in this case were unrelated to expert testimony, and that, as to those fees, the § 1821(b) limits, which apply only to witnesses in attendance at trial, are of no consequence. We agree with that, but there remains applicable the limitation of § 1920. Crawford Fitting said that we would not lightly find an implied repeal of § 1821 or of § 1920, which it held to be an express limitation upon the types of costs which, absent other authority, may be shifted by federal courts. 482 U.S. at 441. None of the categories of expenses listed in § 1920 can reasonably be read to include fees for services rendered by an expert employed by a party in a nontestimonial advisory capacity. The question before us, then, is -- with regard to both testimonial and nontestimonial expert fees -- whether the term "attorney's fee" in § 1988 provides the "explicit statutory authority" required by Crawford Fitting.{ 3}

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III

The record of statutory usage demonstrates convincingly that attorney's fees and expert fees are regarded as separate elements of litigation cost. While some fee-shifting provisions, like § 1988, refer only to "attorney's fees," see, e.g., Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k), many others explicitly shift expert witness fees as well as attorney's fees. In 1976, just over a week prior to the enactment of § 1988, Congress passed those provisions of the Toxic Substances Control Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 2618(d), 2619(c)(2), which provide that a prevailing party may recover "the costs of suit and reasonable fees for attorneys and expert witnesses." (Emphasis added.) Also in 1976, Congress amended the Consumer Product Safety Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 2060(c), 2072(a), 2073, which as originally enacted in 1972 shifted to the losing party "cost[s] of suit, including a reasonable attorney's fee," see 86 Stat. 1226. In the 1976 amendment, Congress altered the fee shifting provisions to their present form by adding a phrase shifting expert witness fees in addition to attorney's fees. See Pub.L. 94-284, § 10, 90 Stat. 506, 507. Two other significant acts passed in 1976 contain similar phrasing: The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976, 42 U.S.C. § 6972(e) ("costs of litigation (including reasonable attorney and expert witness...

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