D. Mass. Reviews Split Re Whether PLRA Limits Attorneys' Fees to Rate Paid or Rate Set by the Judicial Conference

Per Hudson v. Dennehy, 568 F. Supp. 2d 125 (D. Mass. Jul 25, 2008):

Defendant's second objection relates to the cap on fees imposed by the PLRA. The PLRA limits the hourly rate to no "greater than 150 percent of the hourly rate established under [the CJA] for payment of court-appointed counsel." 42 U.S.C. ยง 1997e(d)(3).

. . . .

But the statute is not written in terms of what was actually paid. Rather, the PLRA caps fees at 150 percent of the hourly rate established for payment of court-appointed counsel. Hourly rates for CJA cases are set by the Judicial Conference.

. . . .

Accordingly, the amounts actually paid to court-appointed counsel are not the rates "established" by the Judicial Conference; rather, they reflect a lack of adequate funding by Congress.

. . . .

The issue is one of statutory construction that the First Circuit has yet to address.

. . . .

The few Circuits to have squarely addressed the issue are divided. Joining the Sixth Circuit is the Ninth Circuit, see Webb v. Ada County, 285 F.3d 829, 838-839 (9th Cir.2002). The Third Circuit stands alone in adopting the defendant's approach. See Hernandez v. Kalinowski, 146 F.3d 196, 201 (3d Cir.1998) (PLRA limits attorneys' fees to the hourly rate actually paid, not the rate set by the Judicial Conference)


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