U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court: Anti-Abortion Protester May Be Entitled to Attorney Fees Based on Injunction

An anti-abortion protester in South Carolina is a prevailing party who may be entitled to attorney fees, even though he did not win any damages, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled.

Steven Lefemine of Columbia Christians for Life won a permanent injunction restricting the sheriff’s police in Greenwood County from banning graphic signs of aborted fetuses. But he lost his bid for damages on grounds that the police were entitled to qualified immunity.

The injunction ordered government officials to change their behavior in a way that directly benefited Lefemine, making him a prevailing party, the Supreme court said Monday in a per curiam opinion (PDF). Absent special circumstances, prevailing parties are ordinarily entitled to attorney fees, the court said.

The court issued a summary ruling, with no briefing or argument, that overturned a decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in Richmond, Va., SCOTUSblog reports. The 4th Circuit had ruled the injunction did not make Lefemine a prevailing party because it barred unlawful rather than legitimate conduct and because it merely safeguarded his constitutional rights in the future.

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