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Civil Rights – Lawyer Fee Reduced for ‘Paltry’ Jury Award (access required)

McAfee v. Boczar The 4th Circuit reduces an attorney’s fee award of $322,340.50 to a flat fee of $100,000, in this suit in which the plaintiff won a jury award of $2,943.60 for her claim that defendant deputy sheriff violated her Fourth Amendment rights by arresting her without probable cause to believe the plaintiff had violated a Virginia statute requiring disclosure of the location of a dog who bit plaintiff.

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Civil Rights – Deputy Wins $1.1M for Free Speech Violation (access required)

Durham v. Jones The 4th Circuit upholds a $1.1 million jury award to a deputy sheriff who was fired in retaliation for reporting to state and local officials and the news media that superior officers threatened and then terminated the deputy for his refusal to change his internal reports about his use of pepper spray and physical force to subdue a fleeing motorcyclist, which his superiors feared might lead to a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office.

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Civil Rights – Constitutional — Fourth Amendment – Excessive Force – Police Shooting – Rifle at ‘Hunter’s Rest’ (access required)

Estate of Sipes v. Cooper In the light most favorable to plaintiff, the evidence shows that (1) the police went to plaintiff’s trailer in response to a non-violent noise complaint but found the trailer park quiet, (2) plaintiff and her decedent heard a loud knock on their front door late at night, (3) no one responded to their calls of “Who’s there?”, (4) the decedent held a rifle at “hunter’s rest” with his hand away from the trigger when he opened the door, (5) there was sufficient light for defendant Officer Cooper to see the decedent’s hands, (6) Officer Cooper moved behind the front door as the decedent opened it, and (7) Officer Cooper opened fire on the decedent when the decedent turned in Officer Cooper’s direction.

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Civil Rights – Fee Cap Upheld for Inmate Assault Suit (access required)

Wilkins v. Officer Gaddy The 4th Circuit rejects plaintiff prisoner’s constitutional challenge to a provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 that caps recovery of attorney’s fees for an inmate’s successful civil rights claims, and upholds a district court’s award of $1.40 of plaintiff’s asserted $92,306 in attorney’s fees for his recovery of $1.00 in nominal damages for winning his suit alleging injuries from a beating by a prison guard.

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