(CN) – Occupy Nashville protesters were awarded attorney fees this week by a federal judge for some of their claims against state officials.
Wealth inequality demonstrators were a constant presence on the Nashville War Memorial Auditorium for most of October 2011. Eventually, citing sanitation concerns involving sewage and trash, the city ordered the plaza closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. each night.
Police arrested a handful of protesters who did not leave the plaza after curfew on Oct. 28, 2011. After a judge refused to sign their arrest warrants, Occupy Nashville sued in Federal Court.
The protesters alleged violation of their rights to free speech and freedom of assembly as well as claims for unlawful seizure and unlawful arrest. The lawsuit also challenged the plaza curfew.
A federal judge in Nashville entered a temporary restraining order on Halloween of that year, stopping enforcement of the curfew. A few weeks later, on Nov. 17, 2011, the district court approved an agreed-upon preliminary injunction banning the curfew.
The parties were unable to reach a settlement over remaining claims in 2012. In June 2013, the district court found that demonstrators’ constitutional rights were violated. U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger also denied qualified immunity for two state commissioners, but the Sixth Circuit reversed last year, granting them immunity from claims related to the curfew.
On Monday, Trauger awarded the Occupy Nashville plaintiffs $35,000 for their official capacity claims against state defendants. She held that protesters prevailed on those claims, but limited attorney fees to work performed before the plaza curfew was banned.
“The court agrees with the defendants that the plaintiffs should not receive fees for work performed after November 17, 2011, the date on which the court entered the preliminary injunction. The plaintiffs have not shown – nor do the billing records reflect – that work performed after that date was specific to the terms of the preliminary injunction or the substance of the official capacity claims,” the judge wrote. “The court finds that the plaintiffs prevailed on their official capacity claims for purposes of [federal law] and that the plaintiffs are entitled to their reasonable fees and expenses through November 17, 2011, to the extent that those fees are reasonably attributable to the official capacity claims.”
The judge found that hourly rates requested by the protesters’ attorneys were reasonable, citing affidavits praising the attorneys’ reputations and skill.
Trauger denied a $190 reimbursement request for a court reporter, ruling that the charge is not related to Occupy Nashville’s official capacity claims.
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