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Abstract

The traditional "American Rule" regarding attorney fees did not allow for prevailing parties to collect attorney's fees from the unsuccessful party. In response to the Supreme Court's decision in Alyeska v. Wilderness Society, which reaffirmed the American Rule and its limited exceptions, Congress passed the Civil Rights Attorneys Fees Award Act of 1976. In its wake, courts began awarding attorneys fees to prevailing parties. The Supreme Court's decision in Hensley v. Eckerhart, focused on the correlation between the degree of success of prevailing plaintiffs and the amount of the attorney's fees awarded. This Article discusses the effects on fee awards of the concepts of "reasonableness" in the circuits employing the elements set forth in Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc. and other criteria between the time of Alyeska Hensley. Next, it sets forth the special circumstances which may preclude the granting of awards, examines the Hensley decision, and considers some recent trends in fee awards resulting from Hensley. This Article concludes that Hensley fails to clarify the problem of attorney's fees for the partially prevailing plaintiff but is important as a reaffirmation of Alyeska and the American Rule.

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