January 20, 2011
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide a long-running dispute over $10.5 million awarded to plaintiffs’ attorneys in a Georgia case alleging foster care violations.
At issue is a $4.5 million enhancement given lawyers by Senior U.S. District Judge Marvin Shoob, who presided over the 2002 suit that reformed foster care in Fulton and DeKalb counties.
The case prompted the state to cut caseloads of overwhelmed workers, beef up investigations into abuse, increase supervision and prevent overcrowding in foster homes.
Russ Willard, a spokesman for state Attorney General Thurbert Baker, expressed satisfaction the high court agreed to take up the fee issue.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers were rewarded handsomely for their work, Willard said. “The enhancement granted by Judge Shoob represented an inappropriate windfall.”
Marcia Lowry, executive director of New York-based Children’s Rights Inc., which represents the plaintiffs, said important civil rights lawsuits like the foster care case are financed largely through awards of attorneys’ fees.
“We do think the law is clear and we do think Judge Shoob got it right,” she said.
After deciding the plaintiffs’ lawyers should be paid $6 million for their fees and expenses, Shoob added the $4.5 million enhancement.
Shoob said the lawyers brought a higher degree of skill, commitment and professionalism than he had seen in his 27 years on the bench. The lawsuit’s success, Shoob added, “was truly exceptional.”
Judge Ed Carnes strongly urged the high court to take up the case.
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