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Portrait of Senate Finance 
		Co-Chair, Senator Sean Parnell Portrait of Senate Finance Co-Chair, 
		Senator John Torgerson

Senator Sean Parnell
State Capitol, Room 518
Juneau, AK 99801-1182
Phone: (907) 465-2995
Fax: (907) 465-6592
Send E-Mail

Senator John Torgerson
State Capitol, Room 516
Juneau, AK 99801-1182
Phone: (907) 465-2828
Fax: (907) 465-4779
Send E-Mail

Bill Modifying Attorney's Fees Awards for Public Interest Litigants Passes the Senate

For Immediate Release: March 1, 2000
Contact: Mark Morones, Senate Majority Communications Director, at (907) 465-4993.

Juneau -- Tuesday, the Alaska Senate passed Senate Bill 123 which would include Public Interest Litigants into the state's existing statutory attorney's fee schedule. The bill would also change how the courts can award enhanced attorney's fees.

"The Public Interest Litigant doctrine (PIL) was created by Alaska Supreme Court case law, not by statute or court rule," said Senator John Torgerson, (R-Kasilof), Co-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. "This gives the court a lot of leeway when awarding PIL attorney's fees, often at considerable cost to the state."

This is because a PIL recovers full attorney's fees if he/she prevails but pays none of the opponent's legal fees if the PIL loses. Under the state's statutory attorney's fee schedule, a prevailing civil litigant recovers only a percentage of his/her attorney's fees but pays a percentage of his/her opponent's attorney's fees if the litigant loses.

"SB123 puts civil and public interest litigants on a level playing field," said Senator Sean Parnell, (R-Anchorage), Co-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. "Now, for example, the domestic violence victim who wants to sue to protect her children in a civil proceeding is entitled to the same treatment in court, with respect to attorney's fees, as the environmental group that wants to save trees or animals."

"This bill also amends Alaska Rule of Civil Procedure 82 to provide for a more fair allocation of attorney's fees when those fees are enhanced by the court, " said Torgerson. ARCP 82 allows the court to increase the size of an attorney's fee award in exceptional circumstances (i.e., many attorneys are involved, the trial is exceptionally long, etc.).

"The problem with enhancing attorney's fees is that if a litigant loses on one issue, he or she pays enhanced fees on all issues brought by the plaintiff, no matter how small," says Torgerson. "This bill would still allow the court to enhance attorney's fees but only for the prevailing issue in the litigation and not for all issues that are raised."

SB 123 passed the Senate and is going to the House for consideration.

# # #

Attachment: Sponsor Statement

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