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SCOTUS Takes Up Prisoner Attorney Fee Case

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a summer orders list today, and it includes a grant of certiorari, which is unusual for a summer list.

The case is Murphy v. Smith, 16-1067.  It involves 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(d)(2).  Section 1997e applies to civil rights suits by prisoners.  Subdivision (d)(2) reads:

Whenever a monetary judgment is awarded in an action described in paragraph (1), a portion of the judgment (not to exceed 25 percent) shall be applied to satisfy the amount of attorney's fees awarded against the defendant. If the award of attorney's fees is not greater than 150 percent of the judgment, the excess shall be paid by the defendant.
The Question Presented, as framed by attorneys for the plaintiff prisoner, is:

Whether the parenthetical phrase "not to exceed 25 percent," as used in 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(d)(2), means any amount up to 25 percent (as four circuits hold), or whether it means exactly 25 percent (as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit holds).

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