SIRIWAT SINGHAVIROJ v. TOWN OF FAIRFIELD BOARD OF EDUCATION et al., SC 18604

Judicial District of Fairfield at Bridgeport

 

Attorney's Fees; Civil Rights Action; Whether Trial Court Properly Applied 42 U.S.C. 1988 in Awarding Attorney's Fees to Prevailing Defendants. The plaintiff brought this action claiming that the defendants denied him due process and equal protection of the laws in violation of, among other things, 42 U.S.C. 1983 when they terminated his employment. After the trial court struck the complaint, the plaintiff filed four more amended complaints, which the court also struck. Following the granting of the defendants' motion for judgment on the last amended complaint, the defendants filed a motion for attorney's fees under 42 U.S.C. 1988, which provides that "the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party . . . a reasonable attorney's fee as part of the costs." They asserted that they were entitled, under federal case law, to such fees because the plaintiff's claims were frivolous, unreasonable and groundless, or, at the very least, because he continued to litigate the claims after it became clear that they were so. The court awarded the defendants $3,000 in attorney's fees. The plaintiff now challenges that award in this appeal, arguing that his claims were not groundless as alleged by the defendants. The plaintiff also argues that attorney's fees should be awarded to defendants to civil rights actions only in exceptional circumstances so as not to discourage plaintiffs from vigorously pursuing claims of civil rights violations.