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Martin v. Hadix

June 21, 1999

BILL MARTIN, DIRECTOR, MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ET AL., PETITIONERS
v.
EVERETT HADIX ET AL.



Court Below: 143 F. 3d 246

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Syllabus

OCTOBER TERM, 1998

MARTIN v. HADIX

NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued. The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

MARTIN, DIRECTOR, MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al. v. HADIX et al.

certiorari to united states court of appeals for the sixth circuit

No. 98-262.

Argued March 30, 1999

Decided June 21, 1999

Respondent prisoners filed two federal class actions in 1977 and 1980 against petitioner prison officials challenging the conditions of confinement in the Michigan prison system under 42 U. S. C. §1983. By 1987, the plaintiffs had prevailed in both suits, the District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan had ruled them entitled to attorney's fees under §1988 for postjudgment monitoring of the defendants' compliance with remedial decrees, systems were established for awarding those fees on a semi-annual basis, and the District Court had established specific market rates for awarding fees. By April 26, 1996, the effective date of the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PLRA), the prevailing market rate in both cases was $150 per hour. However, §803(d)(3) of the PLRA limits the size of fees that may be awarded to attorneys who litigate prisoner lawsuits. In the Eastern District, those fees are capped at a maximum hourly rate of $112.50. When first presented with the issue, the District Court concluded that the PLRA cap did not limit attorney's fees for services performed in these cases prior to, but that were still unpaid by, the PLRA's effective date, and the Sixth Circuit affirmed. Fee requests next were filed in both cases for services performed between January 1, 1996, and June 30, 1996, a period encompassing work performed both before and after the PLRA's effective date. In nearly identical orders, the District Court reiterated its earlier Conclusion that the PLRA does not limit fees for work performed before April 26, 1996, but concluded that the PLRA cap does limit fees for services performed after that date. The Sixth Circuit consolidated the appeals from these orders, and, as relevant here, affirmed in part and reversed in part. It held that the PLRA's fee limitation does not apply to cases pending on the enactment date. If it did, the court held, it would have an impermissible retroactive effect, regardless of when the work was performed.

Held: Section 803(d)(3) limits attorney's fees for postjudgment monitoring services performed after the PLRA's effective date, but does not limit fees for monitoring performed before that date. Pp. 7-17.

(a) Whether the PLRA applies to cases pending when it was enacted depends on whether Congress has expressly prescribed the statute's temporal reach. Landgraf v. USI Film Products, 511 U. S. 244, 280. If not, the Court determines whether the statute's application to the conduct at issue would result in a retroactive effect. If so, the Court presumes that the statute does not apply to that conduct. E.g., ibid. P. 7.

(b) Congress has not expressly mandated §803(d)(3)'s temporal reach. The fundamental problem with petitioners' arguments that the language of §803(d)(1) -- which provides for attorney's fees "[i]n any action brought by a prisoner who is confined" (emphasis added) -- and of §803(d)(3) --which relates to fee "award[s]" -- clearly expresses a congressional intent that §803(d) apply to pending cases is that §803(d) is better read as setting substantive limits on the award of attorney's fees, and as making no attempt to define the temporal reach of these substantive limitations. Had Congress intended §803(d)(3) to apply to all fee orders entered after the effective date, it could have used language that unambiguously addresses the section's temporal reach, such as the language suggested in Landgraf: "[T]he [PLRA] shall apply to all proceedings pending on or commenced after the date of enactment." 511 U. S., at 260 (internal quotation marks omitted). Pp. 7-9.

(c) The Court also rejects respondents' contention that the PLRA's fee provisions reveal a congressional intent that they apply prospectively only to cases filed after the effective date. According to respondents, a comparison of §802 -- which, in addressing "appropriate remedies" in prison litigation, explicitly provides that it applies to pending cases, §802(b)(1) -- with §803 -- which is silent on the subject -- supports the negative inference that §803 does not apply to pending cases. This argument is based on an analogy to Lindh v. Murphy, The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice O'Connor *

Opinion of the Court

MARTIN v. HADIX

____ U. S. ____ (1999)

on writ of Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Sixth Circuit

* For the reasons stated in his separate opinion, Justice Scalia joins Parts I, II-A, and II-C of this opinion. For the reasons stated in Justice Ginsburg's separate opinion, she and Justice Stevens join Parts I, II-A-1, and II-B-1 of this opinion.

Section 803(d)(3) of the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PLRA or Act), 110 Stat. 1321-66, 42 U. S. C. §1997e(d)(3) (1994 ed., Supp. II), places limits on the fees that may be awarded to attorneys who litigate prisoner lawsuits. We are asked to decide how this section applies to cases that were pending when the PLRA became effective on April 26, 1996. We conclude that §803(d)(3) limits attorney's fees with respect to postjudgment monitoring services performed after the PLRA's effective date but it does not so limit fees for postjudgment monitoring performed before the effective date.

I.

The fee disputes before us arose out of two class action lawsuits challenging the conditions of confinement in the Michigan prison system. The first case, which we will call Glover, began in 1977 when a now-certified class of female prisoners filed suit under Rev. Stat. §1979, 42 U. S. C. §1983 (1994 ed., Supp. II), in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The Glover plaintiffs alleged that the defendant prison officials had violated their rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by denying them access to vocational and educational opportunities that were available to male prisoners. They also claimed that the defendants had denied them their right of access to the courts. After a bench trial, the District Court found "[s]ignificant discrimination against the female prison population" in violation of the Equal Protection Clause, Glover v. Johnson, 478 F. Supp. 1075, 1083 (1979), and concluded that the defendants' policies had denied the Glover plaintiffs their right of meaningful access to the courts, id., at 1096-1097. In 1981, the District Court entered a "Final Order" detailing the specific actions to be undertaken by the defendants to remedy the constitutional violations. Glover v. Johnson, 510 F. Supp. 1019 (ED Mich.). One year later, the court found that the plaintiffs were "prevailing parties" and thus entitled to attorney's fees under 42 U. S. C. §1988 (1994 ed. and Supp. II). Glover v. Johnson, Civ. Action No. 77-71229 (ED Mich., Feb. 2, 1982), App. 103a.

In 1985, the parties agreed to, and the District Court entered, an order providing that the plaintiffs were entitled to attorney's fees for postjudgment monitoring of the defendants' compliance with the court's remedial decrees. Glover v. Johnson, No. 77-71229 (ED Mich., Nov. 12, 1985), App. 125a (Order Granting Plaintiffs' Motion for System for Submission of Attorney Fee). This order also established the system for awarding monitoring fees that was in place when the present dispute arose. Under this system, the plaintiffs submit their fee requests on a semiannual basis, and the defendants then have 28 days to submit any objections to the requested award. The District Court resolves any disputes. Ibid. In an appeal from a subsequent dispute over the meaning of this order, the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed that the plaintiffs were entitled to attorney's fees, at the prevailing market rate, for postjudgment monitoring. Glover v. Johnson, 934 F. 2d 703, 715-716 (1991). The prevailing market rate has been adjusted over the years, but it is currently set at $150 per hour. See Hadix v. Johnson, 143 F. 3d 246, 248 (CA6 1998) (describing facts of Glover).

The second case at issue here, Hadix, began in 1980. At that time, male prisoners at the State Prison of Southern Michigan, Central Complex (SPSM-CC), filed suit under 42 U. S. C. §1983 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan claiming that the conditions of their confinement at SPSM-CC violated the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. Five years later, the Hadix plaintiffs and the defendant prison officials entered into a consent decree to " `assure the constitutionality' " of the conditions of confinement at SPSM-CC. Hadix v. Johnson, 144 F. 3d 925, 930 (CA6 1998) (quoting consent decree). The consent decree, which was approved by the District Court, addressed a variety of issues at SPSM-CC, ranging from sanitation and safety to food service, mail, and access to the courts.

In November 1987, the District Court entered an order awarding attorney's fees to the Hadix plaintiffs for postjudgment monitoring of the defendants' compliance with the consent decree. Hadix v. Johnson, No. 80-CV-73581 (ED Mich., Nov. 19, 1987), App. 79a. Subsequently, the Hadix plaintiffs were awarded attorney's fees through a procedure similar to the procedure that had been established for the Glover plaintiffs: The plaintiffs submitted semiannual fee requests, the defendants filed timely objections to these requests, and the District Court resolved any disputes. The District Court set, and periodically adjusted, a specific market rate for the fee awards; by 1995, that rate was set at $150 per hour for lead counsel. See Hadix v. Johnson, 65 F. 3d 532, 536 (CA6 1995).

Thus, by 1987, Glover and Hadix were on parallel paths. In both cases, the District Court had concluded that the plaintiffs were entitled to postjudgment monitoring fees under 42 U. S. C. §1988, and the parties had established a system for awarding those fees on a semiannual basis. Moreover, in both cases, the District Court had established specific market rates for awarding fees. By the time the PLRA was enacted, the prevailing market rate in both cases had been set at $150 per hour.

The fee landscape changed with the passage of the PLRA on April 26, 1996. The PLRA, as its name suggests, contains numerous provisions governing the course of prison litigation in the federal courts. It provides, for example, limits on the availability of certain types of relief in such suits, see 18 U. S. C. §3626(a)(2) (1994 ed., Supp. III), and for the termination of prospective relief orders after a limited time, §3626(b). The section of the PLRA at issue here, §803(d)(3), places a cap on the size of attorney's fees that may be awarded in prison litigation suits:

"(d) Attorney's fees"

"(1) In any action brought by a prisoner who is confined to any jail, prison, or other correctional facility, in which attorney's fees are authorized under [42 U. S. C. §1988], such fees shall not be awarded, except to the extent [authorized here]."

"(3) No award of attorney's fees in an action described in paragraph (1) shall be based on an hourly rate greater than 150 percent of the hourly rate established under [18 U. S. C. §3006A (1994 ed. and Supp. III)], for payment of court-appointed counsel." §803(d), 42 U. S. C. §1997e(d) (1994 ed., Supp. II).

Court-appointed attorneys in the Eastern District of Michigan are compensated at a maximum rate of $75 per hour, and thus, under ยง803(d)(3), the PLRA fee cap for attorneys working on prison litigation ...


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