Monday, April 15, 2013

Anti-Abortion Protester Denied Attorneys' Fees Award Despite Successful Lawsuit

As previously reported, the U.S. Supreme Court last November in  Lefemine v. Wideman held that a member of Columbia Christians for Life who obtained a permanent injunction but no monetary damages was a "prevailing party" and entitled to an award of attorneys' fees, unless on remand the lower courts find special circumstances that should preclude an award. The suit grew out of a 2005 anti-abortion demonstration at which police officers threatened to charge picketers with breach of the peace if they did not get rid of signs picturing aborted fetuses. Now in Lefemine v. Wideman, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51407 (D SC, April 9, 2013), a South Carolina federal district court held that "the special circumstances in this case render an award of attorney's fees to the Plaintiff unjust."  In reaching its conclusion, the court pointed to: "(1) the Defendants' qualified immunity, (2) the absence of a policy or custom of discrimination against abortion protesters by the Greenwood County Sheriff's Office, and (3) the limited nature of the injunctive relief."