On Appeal From the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, (No. 07-CV-251), District Judge: Honorable Juan R. Sanchez, Magistrate Judge: Honorable Lynne A. Sitarski.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chagares, Circuit Judge
Submitted Under Third Circuit LAR 34.1(a) May 28, 2009
Before: FISHER, CHAGARES, and COWEN, Circuit Judges.
The Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e, imposes quantitative limits on the amount of attorney's fees a court may award a plaintiff who prevails in a civil rights action that he filed while incarcerated. See § 1997e(d)(2)-(3) ("PLRA fee caps" or "fee caps"). The PLRA does not, however, impose similar limits on the amount of attorney's fees a court may award such a plaintiff who filed suit while not incarcerated. This case requires us to determine whether the PLRA fee caps unconstitutionally deny prisoners equal protection of the law, and, if they do not, to review the District Court's application of the fee caps.
The District Court held that the PLRA fee caps are constitutional. We will affirm the District Court's judgment, including its application of the fee caps.
While Glenndol Parker was a prisoner in the Pennsylvania correctional facility at which Joseph Conway was a guard, Parker filed a lawsuit against Conway, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Conway assaulted him in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The District Court appointed counsel to represent Parker. The case proceeded to trial,*fn1 and a jury found for Parker, awarding him $17,500 in total damages. Parker then filed a motion for attorney's fees, seeking a total of $64,089.
Parker recognized that his motion implicated the PLRA, which provides, in relevant part:
(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 [by virtue of the plaintiff's having prevailed in a § 1983 action], such fees shall not be awarded, except to the extent that --
(A) the fee was directly and reasonably incurred in proving an actual violation of the plaintiff's rights protected by a statute pursuant to ...