United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
H. MCKINLEY JR., SENIOR JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendants James Phelps and
Lindsey Alley's Bill of Costs [DN 125], Motion for
Attorney Fees [DN 126], and Plaintiff's Motion to
Withdraw Document [DN 133]. Fully briefed, these matters are
ripe for decision. For the following reasons, the
Plaintiff's Objections to the Bill of Costs are OVERRULED
in part and SUSTAINED in part, Defendants' Motion for
Attorney Fees is DENIED, and Plaintiff's Motion to
Withdraw Document is GRANTED.
Ali Al Maqablh filed this lawsuit alleging multiple claims
against Jefferson County, Trimble County, and various
Kentucky state employees regarding the criminal proceedings
commenced against him and related to the contact that he had
with the mother of his child, Defendant Lindsay Jo Alley. The
majority of the claims in Plaintiff's Original Complaint
and his Amended Complaint were dismissed after initial
screening and motions to dismiss. The two remaining claims-a
federal claim of malicious prosecution under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 against Defendant Trooper James Phelps and a state claim
of malicious prosecution against Alley-were dismissed after
the parties filed cross motions for summary judgment and the
Court entered a Judgment [DN 124] in favor of Defendants and
fifteen days from the entry of Judgment, Defendants filed a
Bill of Costs [DN 125] and a Motion for Attorney Fees [DN
126]. Plaintiff offered a Response to Defendants' Motion
for Attorney Fees [DN 128] that also included Objections to
the Bill of Costs. Then, one week later, Plaintiff filed a
Motion to Withdraw his Response [DN 133], stating that an
incorrect draft of the Memorandum of Support was filed and
offering the corrected Memorandum of Support [DN 133-2] as an
attachment. Defendants do not object to Plaintiff's
Motion to Withdraw and therefore, the Court will use the
corrected Memorandum of Support to make its determination on
attorney fees and costs.
James Phelps asks the Court to award him attorney fees.
Plaintiff brought a claim against Phelps under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Congress enacted § 1983 to encourage the
private enforcement of civil rights. Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 429 (1983). For this reason,
Congress also provided for attorney fees for § 1983
actions, providing that, “the court, in its discretion,
may allow the prevailing party . . . . a reasonable
attorney's fee as part of the costs.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 1988(b). Typically, this statute is used to award
attorney fees to successful plaintiffs.
there are circumstances in which attorney fees may be awarded
to a defendant as the prevailing party.
[A] plaintiff should not be assessed his opponent's
attorney's fees unless a court finds that his claim was
frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless, or that the plaintiff
continued to litigate after it clearly became so. And,
needless to say, if a plaintiff is found to have brought or
continued such a claim in bad faith, there will be an even
stronger basis for charging him with the attorney's fees
incurred by the defense.
Christianburg Garment Co. v. EEOC, 434 U.S. 412, 422
(1978). The Sixth Circuit has observed, “An award of
attorney's fees against a losing plaintiff in a civil
rights action is an extreme sanction, and must be limited to
truly egregious cases of misconduct.” Jones v.
Continental Corp., 789 F.2d 1225, 1232 (6th Cir. 1986).
case, Defendants have not claimed that Plaintiff brought or
continued this lawsuit in bad faith. Furthermore, although
some of Plaintiff's claim were dismissed early in the
lawsuit, the Court cannot say that his lawsuit was frivolous,
unreasonable, or groundless. Ultimately, the Defendants'
success came down to an issue with a single element of
Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claims. For this
reason, the Court will not resort to the extreme sanction of
Lindsey Alley also asks for attorney fees. Because the claims
against her were under Kentucky common law, Kentucky rules of
attorney fees apply. In Kentucky, attorney fees are not
awarded to a prevailing party unless allowed by statute or
provided for by contract. However, Alley cites to Smith
v. Bear, Inc., 419 S.W.3d 49, 59 (Ky. App. 2013) for the
proposition that Kentucky courts may use equity to allow
attorney fee awards despite Kentucky's adherence to the
American Rule regarding attorney's fees. The Kentucky
Supreme Court, in Bell v. Commonwealth, 423 S.W.3d
742 (Ky. 2014), has made clear that “[i]f courts truly
had equitable or inherent powers as broad as those assumed by
the trial court, the American Rule regarding attorney's
fees as costs would be obliterated.” Id. at
750. The Court went on to state, “trial courts may not
award attorney's fees just because they think it is the
right thing to do in a given case. That is not what the law
of Kentucky allows.” Id.
Kentucky Supreme Court stated that, in the absence of a
contractual or statutory basis on which to award attorney
fees, “the only appropriate award of attorney's
fees” may be as a sanction under the rules.
Id. at 749. Awarding attorney's fees as a
sanction is appropriate only in those instances where the
very integrity of the court is ...