Washington Law Review


Stephen M. Todd


Following a successful appeal in litigation undertaken in the public interest, plaintiffs Wilderness Society and others requested an award of attorneys' fees. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit adopted the "private attorney general" exception to the American rule which bars fee shifting and authorized an award against codefendant Alyeska Pipeline Service Company of one-half of the reasonable value of the legal services utilized by plaintiffs. On certiorari, the Supreme Court reversed. Held: Absent congressional authorization, federal courts lack the equity power to award attorneys' fees to a private litigant for the vindication of a statutory right. Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. v. Wilderness Society, 421 U.S. 240 (1975).

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