Legal Memorandum: Award of Attorney's Fees in FCA Cases

Issue: Under federal law, is the district court required to make specific findings when reducing attorney’s fees claimed pursuant to the False Claims Act (FCA), or qui tam, claim?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Attorney's fees; False Claims Act (FCA); Reductions
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 892 F.2d 1177; 811 F.3d 793; 223 F.3d 190
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 09/01/2014

A district court’s failure to specify the time entries it disallowed or reduced complicates effective appellate review and leaves to the parties and appellate court to guess at which specific entries or hours the court actually disallowed, the amounts of the reductions, and even total disallowed amounts for whole categories of reduction.  Rode v. Dellarciprete, 892 F.2d 1177, 1187 (3rd Cir. 1990). 

The court’s failure to make an adequate record as to what hours would be reasonable to expend in preparing the trial brief and briefing the facial challenge to the PSP regulations and why those hours would be reasonable precludes our review.  Thus, we will remand to the district court for it to specify the reasonable number of hours and to explain its decision.


Id.; Public Interest Research Group v. Windall, 51 F.3d 1179, 1188 (3rd Cir. 1995).

“Where the opinion of the District Court ‘is so terse, vague, or conclusory that we have no basis to review it, [the appeals court] must vacate the fee-award order and remand for further proceedings.'”  Gunter v. Ridgewood Energy Corp., 223 F.3d 190, 196 (3d Cir. 2000).  At the Ninth Circuit has said,

[G]ut feelings are not enough; if the district court is going to make substantial cuts to a winning lawyer’s fee request, it needs to explain why with sufficient specificity that the lawyer can meaningfully object and we can meaningfully […]


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