Washington Law Review


Federal fee-shifting statutes generally allow trial courts to award "reasonable" attorney's fees to prevailing parties in order to promote private enforcement of Congressional statutory directives. The starting point for the computation of fee awards under the fee-shifting statutes is the "lodestar" amount. The "lodestar" amount is defined as the reasonable number of hours spent by the attorney on the case multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate. Trial courts, in their discretion, have then enhanced the lodestar amount based on a variety of factors, including the quality of representation, delay in receiving payment, and contingency. Contingency is defined as the risk at the outset of the litigation that the prevailing attorney will receive no fee. This Note discusses how lower courts can apply the opinions in Delaware Valley to allow contingency enhancements to lodestar fees consistent with Congress' intent in enacting fee-shifting statutes. Because lower courts may interpret Delaware Valley II as effectively eliminating contingency enhancements in all but exceptional cases, this Note suggests that Congress should amend the fee-shifting statutes to allow such enhancements.

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