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BROWN v. MARSH

November 21, 1994

JAMES E. BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN O. MARSH, JR., Secretary of the Army, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES R. RICHEY

 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 INTRODUCTION

 In 1991, Congress amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("The 1964 Act"), as amended in March, 1972. 42 U.S.C. § 2000 et seq. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 ("The 1991 Act") provides in Section 114 that:

 
The provisions of section 2000e-5(f) through (k) of this title, as applicable, shall govern civil actions brought hereunder, and the same interest to compensate for delay in payment shall be available as in cases involving nonpublic parties.

 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16(d) ("Section 114") (emphasis added). Section 114 entitles a prevailing party in a Title VII action to an award of interest on previously awarded attorney's fees and expenses.

 The question presented in this case is whether the above statute, which provides for interest on attorney's fees and expenses, applies to a case that was pending at the time the statute was enacted.

 Upon careful consideration of the pleadings, oral argument, and the applicable law, the Court holds that Section 114 applies to the case at bar, entitling the Plaintiff to interest on his attorney's fees and expenses. In addition, the Court holds that interest shall be calculated in accordance with the judgment rate of interest prescribed in 28 U.S.C. § 1961.

 FACTS

 On August 20, 1992, the Court awarded attorney's fees and expenses to the Plaintiff as a prevailing party in a Title VII action. However, the Court reserved the issue of whether interest on those fees is awardable pending resolution by the District of Columbia Circuit of the applicability of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 to pending cases.

 In late 1994, the Plaintiff filed an application for interest on his attorney's fees in light of this Circuit's decision in Gersman v. Group Health Ass'n, Inc., 298 U.S. App. D.C. 23, 975 F.2d 886, 898 (D.C. Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 128 L. Ed. 2d 363, 114 S. Ct. 1642 (1994), and the Supreme Court's decision in Landgraf v. USI Film Prods., 128 L. Ed. 2d 229, 114 S. Ct. 1483, 1501-02 (1994).

 In response, the Government agreed to pay the Plaintiff interest on his attorney's fees and expenses incurred after the enactment of Section 114 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. However, the Government contended that the Plaintiff is not entitled to any interest on fees prior to the enactment of Section 114. According to the Government, there is a presumption against the retroactive application of a statute whenever applying the statue would affect the parties' substantive rights. See e.g., Bowen v. Georgetown Univ. Hospital, 488 U.S. 204, 208, 102 L. Ed. 2d 493, 109 S. Ct. 468 (1988). The Government contends that the presumption against retroactivity applies in this case because awarding interest on attorney's fees is a compensatory damage award and, therefore, would affect their substantive rights. Nevertheless, even if the Plaintiff were entitled to interest, the Government argues, the appropriate rate of interest is the judgment rate of interest prescribed in 28 U.S.C. § 1961.

 The Plaintiff, in response, contends that the presumption against retroactive application of a statute does not arise when the application of a statute is merely collateral. In such cases, a court must apply the law that exists at the time that it renders its decision. See e.g., Bradley v. Richmond School Bd., 416 U.S. 696, 711, 40 L. Ed. 2d 476, 94 S. Ct. 2006 (1974). According to the Plaintiff, awarding interest on attorney's fees in a case that was pending when Section 114 was enacted is purely collateral and, therefore, does not affect the substantive rights of the parties. Consequently, the Plaintiff argues that he is entitled to interest on his attorney's fees and that the appropriate rate of interest is the prime rate.

 Upon review of the pleadings, oral argument, and applicable law, the Court finds that Section 114 of the Act allowing for interest on attorney's fees does not affect the parties' substantive rights. Therefore, the presumption against retroactive application of a statute does not apply. Instead, the Court must apply the law that exists at the time it renders its decision. Since Section 114 is currently effective, the Court finds that the Plaintiff is entitled to an award of interest on his attorney's fees and costs. In addition, in view of the substantial case law applying the judgment rate of interest ...


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