Pennsylvania v. Delaware Valley Citizens' Council
Annotate this Case
478 U.S. 546 (1986)
U.S. Supreme Court
Pennsylvania v. Delaware Valley Citizens' Council, 478 U.S. 546 (1986)
Pennsylvania v. Delaware Valley Citizens' Council for Clean Air
Argued March 3, 1986
Decided July 2, 1986
478 U.S. 546
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) 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
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.
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. 478 U. S. 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. 478 U. S. 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. 478 U. S. 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. 478 U. S. 566-568.
762 F.2d 272, affirmed in part and reversed in part.
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. 478 U. S. 568.