After the City of Chicago lost McDonald et al v. City of Chicago et al in the Supreme Court, they changed their gun ban ordinances. Because of this, they argued that the plaintiffs were not “prevailing parties” and thus weren’t entitled to attorneys’ fees. U.S. District Court Judge Milton Shadur agreed with them and denied Alan Gura and the attorneys for the National Rifle Association the attorneys’ fees that should have been due them.
Today, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision overturning Judge Shadur and ordering “reasonable attorneys’ fees under §1988.” This decision applied both to the McDonald case and the cases brought by the NRA against the City of Chicago and the Village of Oak Park, Illinois.
The Court of Appeals noted that Judge Shadur was correct in that the plaintiffs didn’t receive a favorable judgment from the District Court. However, they continued:
But they did better: They won in the Supreme Court, which entered a judgment in their favor. When the Supreme Court rendered its decision, the controversy was live.
The Court goes on to add noting that Chicago and Oak Park changed their ordinances in response to the Supreme Court’s McDonald decision:
Many a defendant gives up after a district court’s final decision and does not appeal; some other parties settle to avoid the risk of reversal. If a cessation of hostilities after a district court’s decision does not deprive the victor of prevailing party status, why should conceding defeat after a decision by the Supreme Court do so?
The attorneys for Chicago and Oak Park argued that the decision in McDonald only addressed a “preliminary legal issue” and didn’t resolve the plaintiff’s claims against the municipalities. Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook writing for the Court of Appeals didn’t think much of that argument.
After the Supreme Court held that the second amendment applies to the municipalities’ ordinances, defendants’ position was untenable; neither Chicago nor Oak Park contends that the ordinance in force in 2008 could have been sustained under Heller’s substantive standards. This litigation was over except for the entry of an injunction by the district court. Chicago and Oak Park capitulated, which made the exercise unnecessary. By the time defendants bowed to the inevitable, plaintiffs had in hand a judgment of the Supreme Court that gave them everything they needed. If a favorable decision of the Supreme Court does not count as “the necessary judicial imprimatur” on the plaintiffs’ position (Buckhannon, 532 U.S. at 605), what would?
According to his Twitter feed, Alan Gura just happened to be in Chicago today. He notes it is a beautiful day. Indeed it is and it is good to see that the City of Chicago is going to have to shell out the big bucks for their obstinacy as well they should.