June 2, 2008
Supreme Court Ruling in Paralegal Fees Case Marks Victory For Those Who Challenge Government
Statement of Brian Wolfman, Director, Public Citizen Litigation Group*
In ruling 9-0 today in Richlin Security Service Co. v. Chertoff that paralegal services must be reimbursed as “attorney fees” at market rates, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decisive victory for those who make the most use of the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) – the attorney fee-shifting statute that applies to cases brought against the federal government. Over the years, EAJA has been the means for awarding fees to victorious Social Security claimants, disabled veterans, small businesses and others who oppose improper government conduct in agency proceedings and in court.
Congress realized that these litigants need incentives to challenge unreasonable government conduct, and all of them rely on paralegals to help conduct their litigation. Had the court adopted the government’s position that paralegal services may not be reimbursed at market rates for those services, the cost of litigating these important cases would rise – exactly the opposite of what Congress sought to achieve when it enacted the EAJA. Congress wanted to bring down the cost of litigation for the most vulnerable litigants, and today’s decision forcefully underscores that basic policy.
Brian Wolfman argued Richlin Security Service Co. v. Chertoff before the U.S. Supreme Court on March 19. For more information about the case, visit https://www.citizen.org/our-work/litigation/cases/richlin-security-service-co-v-chertoff-secretary-homeland-security.