clear. The Mint did not necessarily concede the issue of discrimination -- it may have reinstated Wood to avoid the time, expense, and effort of litigation, or because it recognized that its procedures in such circumstances, though not discriminatory, were faulty. Wood himself alleges that there were procedural irregularities, and it is not clear if these alleged irregularities are exclusively related to discrimination.
Obviously, the parties could have avoided the dispute with which I am presented by addressing the attorneys fee issue in their settlement. Apparently they did not. Case law under similar attorneys fee provisions suggests that, in such circumstances, the Court may award attorneys fees to the prevailing plaintiff. For example, in Maher v. Gagne, 448 U.S. 122, 65 L. Ed. 2d 653, 100 S. Ct. 2570 (1980), plaintiff raised both a constitutional claim, for which attorneys fees may be awarded under 42 U.S.C. § 1988, and a statutory claim for which such fees cannot be awarded. The court assessed fees against state officials after the case settled by entry of a consent decree in which plaintiff obtained its objective so as to be a "prevailing party" within the meaning of the statute, even though there was no determination that the plaintiff's constitutional rights had been violated. Maher v. Gagne, 448 U.S. 122, 132, 65 L. Ed. 2d 653, 100 S. Ct. 2570 (1980). Similarly, in Young v. Kenley, 641 F.2d 192 (4th Cir. 1981) the Court awarded attorneys fees to a plaintiff who settled her employment discrimination claim. Before settlement plaintiff presented her case, while defendant did not; however, the court does not indicate that the content of her presentation had any effect on its decision to award attorney's fees. Instead the Court reasoned that a plaintiff who attains her objective is considered the "prevailing party," whether she does so by settlement or by a court ruling.
Just as the constitutional issue in Maher and the issue of discrimination in Young remained in those cases until the entire disputes were settled by entry of consent decrees, the issue of discrimination remained in Wood's case until settlement was reached. It is undisputed that Wood is the prevailing party, attaining his objectives of reinstatement and back pay and benefits. Since it appears highly unlikely that Congress intended to require that a specific finding of discrimination be made before plaintiffs in employment discrimination actions against the government can be awarded attorneys fees, the Mint's motion for summary judgment will be denied.
I also reject the government's contention that the merits of plaintiff's claim must be litigated before me so as to determine the validity of plaintiff's discrimination claims. Such a procedure would make settlement meaningless. Accordingly, plaintiff will be ordered to submit his attorneys fee petition to the Court.
AND NOW, this 5th day of August, 1985, it is hereby Ordered that defendant's motions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and for summary judgment are DENIED. Plaintiff shall submit his attorneys fee petition within thirteen (13) days of the date of this order. Defendant's response shall be due in accordance with the Local Rule of Civil Procedures.
AND IT IS SO ORDERED.
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