In Perdue v. Kenny A., the Court will decide whether reasonable attorneys’ fees may be enhanced under the Civil Rights Attorney’s Fees Awards Act. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the award of reasonable attorneys’ fees and an enhancement for superior results and superior performance to attorneys representing foster children. While not an employment case, the matter will impact the fees awarded to attorneys representing clients with respect to employment-related claims, such as 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, and 1985 claims. The Solicitor General filed an amicus brief arguing that reasonable hourly rates already reflect an attorney’s performance and abilities and, therefore, enhancements should not be permitted.
Stolt-Nielsen SA v. AnimalFeeds Int’l Corp. focuses on the question of whether individuals in a class may pursue in court claims that are covered by an arbitration agreement when the agreement is silent on the issue of class actions. An arbitration panel determined that despite the fact that the agreement did not explicitly discuss class arbitration, the provisions permitted class arbitration. Plaintiffs sought judicial review of the panel’s decision and the district court found that the panel was bound to look at industry custom, finding that customarily these maritime claims were not subject to class arbitration. The Second Circuit reversed, focusing on the deference owed to arbitration decisions and stating that the issue of whether an agreement allows class arbitration is one for the arbitrator, not the court. The high court’s decision in this case will likely be an example of the Court’s efforts to protect arbitrators from judicial review.