November 15, 2011
EON SHEPHERD, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
GLENN S. GOORD, COMMISSIONER, BENNETTE, SUPERINTENDENT, WENDERLICH, CAPTAIN, JOHN DOE, DEPUTY OF SECURITY, WEST, DEPUTY, GIRDICH, SUPERINTENDENT, ERICSON, SERGEANT, LESTER WRIGHT, MARIA VAN BUREN, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, N.A. SMITH, ADMINISTRATOR, N.P. PARMER, KIM PERRIA, NURSE, FAIRCHILD, NURSE, JANE DOE, NURSE, JOHN DOE, SERGEANT, JOHN DOE, NURSE, DR. CANFIELD, J. COLVIN, DEPUTY OF SECURITY, J. KREMER, SERGEANT, RILEY, NURSE, SULLIVAN, NURSE, DEFENDANTS, ALAN TWEDT, CORRECTIONS OFFICER, CHRISTOPHER POST, SERGEANT, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.*FN1
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reena Raggi, Circuit Judge:
(Submitted: October 4, 2011
Before: MINER, SACK, and RAGGI, Circuit Judges.
On appeal from an amended judgment of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York (David N. Hurd, Judge), plaintiff submits that the district court erred in concluding that the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(d)(2), capped the maximum award of attorney's fees in this case at 150 percent of plaintiff's $1.00 monetary judgment.
New York State prisoner Eon Shepherd, who practices Rastafarianism, sued New York Department of Corrections officials Alan Twedt and Christopher Post, among others, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging inter alia that these two defendants infringed his rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment by touching his dreadlocks without his consent. Following trial, a jury returned a verdict in favor of Shepherd but awarded him only $1.00 in actual damages.
Shepherd now appeals from that part of an amended judgment entered on October 26, 2010, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York (David N. 2
Hurd, Judge), awarding him $1.50 in attorney's fees and ordering defendants to pay $1.40 of the fee award.*fn2 Shepherd contends that the district court erred in concluding that the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(d)(2), capped the maximum possible fee award in this case at 150 percent of the $1.00 monetary judgment. Reviewing that legal determination de novo, we reach the same conclusion as the district court: Section 1997e(d)(2) limits the possible award of attorney's fees in this case to 150 percent of the monetary judgment. Accordingly, we affirm the amended judgment.
A. The Dreadlocks Incident
In his original complaint, Shepherd charged numerous prison officials and employees with various violations of his constitutional rights. The court or the jury resolved all but one of these claims in favor of defendants. Accordingly, we here discuss only the claim on which Shepherd prevailed, as it provides the sole basis for the challenged attorney's fee award.
On July 4, 2001, Shepherd was incarcerated in New York State's Elmira Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison, where he was serving an aggregate life sentence for robbery in the first degree, robbery in the second degree, and criminal possession of stolen property. See People v. Shepherd, 260 A.D.2d 649, 650, 687 N.Y.S.2d 269, 269 (2d Dep't 1999). That day, as Shepherd was leaving for evening recreation, defendants Twedt and Post searched Shepherd, including his hair, which was arranged in dreadlocks.*fn3 While one defendant held a metal detector over Shepherd's head, the other manually ...
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