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Kimbrough v. State

July 31, 2008

CLARK ALLEN KIMBROUGH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STATE OF CALIFORNIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Plaintiff is a state prisoner proceeding through counsel with a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter is before the court on plaintiff's motion for an award of attorney's fees. Plaintiff seeks payment of attorney's fees for 54.8 hours of attorney time and 441.7 hours of law student time and expenses in the amount of $2428.58.

Defendants contend that (1) plaintiff is not entitled to recover attorney's fees because he was a pro se litigant when he obtained preliminary injunctive relief in this action; and (2) plaintiff was not a prevailing party after the preliminary injunction expired because the remainder of the relief he obtained was voluntary and plaintiff never received a judgment on the merits of his underlying claim. Defendants also contend generally that the amount of fees requested is "grossly excessive" and they request an opportunity to brief the reasonableness of the claimed fees if the court determines plaintiff is entitled to an award of fees. Defendants' Opposition to Plaintiff's Request for Attorney's Fees, filed February 7, 2008, at 10.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, proceeding prose, filed this lawsuit in March 1998. In his original complaint, plaintiff claimed in relevant part that his right to freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment was violated by enforcement against him of grooming regulations promulgated and implemented by the California Department of Corrections*fn1 in 1997.*fn2 On December 23, 1999, the district court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment on the First Amendment claim and judgment was entered.

On January 6, 2000, plaintiff filed a notice of appeal from the district court's decision. On July 5, 2000, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit enjoined defendants from enforcing the grooming policy against plaintiff and ordered defendants to repeal all penalties imposed on plaintiff for failure to comply with the grooming standards during the pendency of the appeal. During the pendency of plaintiff's appeal, Congress passed the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 ("RLUIPA"). See 42 U.S.C. § 2000 et seq. On January 30, 2001, the court of appeals issued an order affirming the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's First Amendment claim but remanding the matter for reconsideration of plaintiff's free exercise claim under RLUIPA. The court of appeals extended the July 5, 2000 injunction for a period of sixty days from issuance of the mandate to permit the parties to seek injunctive relief in this court.

On February 26, 2001, plaintiff filed a motion for injunctive relief, seeking to continue the injunction imposed by the court of appeals. On September 18, 2001, that motion was granted by the district court and defendants were enjoined from enforcing the grooming regulations against plaintiff until further order of court. Thereafter, the injunction was continued several times on motion of plaintiff granted by the district court.

On September 18, 2003, the district court denied plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and referred the matter to this court for an evidentiary hearing on plaintiff's request for permanent injunctive relief. On November 6, 2003, plaintiff filed his fifth pro se motion to extend the preliminary injunction. By order filed November 13, 2003, the University of California, King Hall Civil Rights Clinic was appointed as counsel for plaintiff. On December 10, 2003, this court issued findings and recommendations recommending that plaintiff's November 6, 2003 motion be granted. By order filed January 7, 2004, the district court adopted in full the December 10, 2003 findings and recommendations and extended the preliminary injunction for another period of ninety days.

On February 17, 2004, this court held an evidentiary hearing on plaintiff's motion for permanent injunctive relief. On April 16, 2004, plaintiff filed a motion for restoration of thirty days of good time credits lost in prison disciplinary proceedings arising from a rules violation report issued on June 25, 1998. By order filed April 30, 2004, plaintiff's motion was denied without prejudice to its renewal on a proper showing.

On June 10, 2004, plaintiff filed a notice of change of address to a noncorrectional facility address. On June 30, 2004, plaintiff was ordered to show cause in writing why this action should not be dismissed as moot. On July 19, 2004, plaintiff filed a response to the order to show cause in which he contended that his request for restoration of the thirty days of lost good time credits prevented this action from being moot. On September 20, 2005, this court issued findings and recommendations finding that the grooming regulations were no longer applicable to plaintiff because he had been release from prison, and that "under California law good time credits apply only to a term of imprisonment and not to any parole term." Findings and Recommendations, filed September 20, 2005, at 2. This court therefore recommended dismissal of the action as moot.*fn3 Plaintiff filed objections to the findings and recommendations. On March 3, 2006, the district court adopted the findings and recommendations in full and dismissed the action as moot.

On April 3, 2006, plaintiff filed a notice of appeal from the judgment. At some point during the pendency of the appeal, defendants filed a motion to remand the matter to the district court. By order filed in this court on November 27, 2006, defendants' motion, which was unopposed, was granted and the matter was remanded to this court for further consideration of plaintiff's claim for injunctive relief.

By order filed December 1, 2006, the matter was set for a status conference and the parties were directed to file a joint status report. By order filed January 17, 2007, the parties were granted until March 12, 2007 to file, as appropriate, final settlement documents. Absent achievement of a final settlement by March 12, 2007, the parties were directed to file proposed findings of facts and conclusions of law by March 19, 2007. The parties did not reach a settlement and instead filed proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law.

On October 4, 2007, this court issued findings and recommendations. Therein, the court found that the grooming related disciplinary conviction at issue had been expunged on or about February 28, 2007, and that the thirty days of lost good time credits had been applied to plaintiff's parole date and his controlling discharge date (CDD) changed from October 3, 2007 to September 3, 2007. On that basis, the court again recommended dismissal of this action as moot. The court declined to make the finding proposed by defendants that plaintiff was not entitled to attorney's fees and, instead, recommended that plaintiff be given a period of thirty days in which to file a motion for attorney's fees. Neither party filed objections to the findings and recommendations, which were adopted in full by the district court by order filed October 25, 2007. Judgment was entered on the same day. The instant motion was filed on November 26, 2007.

ANALYSIS

Section 1997e(d) of Title 42 of the United States Code provides ...


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