Libertarian Party of Colorado and Gordon Butt v. Wayne William, in his official capacity as Colorado Secretary of State, et al.
Opinion Date: January 14, 2016
Practice Area: Constitutional Law/Elections/Civil Rights
Outcome: Colorado Court of Appeals agreed with our Clients that the trial court prematurely dismissed the case prior to determining the right to attorneys’ fees under 42 U.S. § 1988.
Cite: 2016COA5; — P.3d —; 2016 WL 241406
Description: Matt Ferguson represented the Libertarian Party of Colorado and two recall election candidates, Richard Anglund and Gordon Roy Butt in a lawsuit against the Colorado Secretary of State, the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder, and the Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder. The lawsuit alleged that the statutory deadline for filing candidate petitions conflicted with the Colorado Constitution, and that the statutory deadline violated our clients’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The lawsuit also sought an award of attorneys’ fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. The trial court agreed with our clients and granted them relief on the state election law claim. However, the trial court declined to rule on the Constitutional claims and dismissed the remaining claims as moot prior to determining whether our Clients were entitled to an award of attorneys’ fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988.
Matt, with the assistance of Michelle Schindler, appealed the trial court’s dismissal of the Constitutional claims and sought an award of attorneys’ fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. The Court of Appeals agreed with our clients’ position and reversed the trial court’s dismissal of the attorneys’ fees claim. In a published decision, the Court of Appeals held “[i]f a plaintiff joins a state law claim with a claim under [42 U.S.C.] § 1983 and prevails on the state law claim, the plaintiff may be entitled to an award of attorneys’ fees under [42 U.S.C.] § 1988 even if the § 1983 [Constitutional] claim is never adjudicated.” The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings on our clients’ attorneys’ fees.
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