Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act

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The Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act of 1976 added Section 1988 to Title 42 of the United States Code, and mandated that the prevailing party in a claim under Section 1983 to vindicate civil rights may obtain, in the discretion of the court, reimbursement of his attorneys fees.

This rule was then expanded to all Section 1983 claims, including those based on violation of any federal statute, by a divided U.S. Supreme Court in Maine v. Thiboutot (1980).

Note that this doctrine is contrary to the standard American Rule that requires each party to bear his own attorneys' fees in litigation. Now there are more than 100 federal statutes that authorize courts to award reasonable attorneys' fees to prevailing parties, contrary to the traditional American Rule.

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