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Robert A. Hull v. Members of the U.S. Government

August 14, 2012

ROBERT A. HULL,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MEMBERS OF THE U.S. GOVERNMENT, MEMBERS OF THE U.S. BUREAU OF PRISONS, MEMBERS OF FCI SCHUYLKILL STAFF, MEMBERS OF THE U.S. PROBATION OFFICE, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Conner)

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the court is plaintiff, Robert A. Hull's ("Hull") motion for attorneys' fees and costs. (Doc. 32). Hull asserts that he should recover $4,901.25 in attorneys' fees and costs pursuant to various statutes, including 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988 and the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2412. (Docs. 32, 35). Defendants, Members of the U.S. Government, ("defendants") contend that Hull is not entitled to the relief sought because: (1) he filed a Bivens claim and not a § 1983 claim; (2) § 1988 does not apply to Bivens claims; and (3), even if § 1988 applies to Bivens claims, the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 ("PLRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e, precludes Hull's recovery. (Doc. 34). For the reasons that follow, the court will grant the motion in part and deny it in part.

I. Statement of Facts & Procedural History

Hull, who was released from custody within the Bureau of Prisons on March 13, 2012, was previously incarcerated at the Schuylkill Federal Correctional Institution ("FCI Schuylkill"). On February 2, 2012, during his imprisonment, Hull filed the above pro se action, alleging that defendants conspired to deprive him of medical treatment for methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), access to the courts, and "emotional security, due process and necessities of civilian life." (Doc. 1). Hull made nine requests for relief including a request for an "order compelling adequate medical care." (Doc. 1).

After reviewing Hull's complaint, this court issued an order on February 10, 2012 construing Hull's motion as asserting an Eighth Amendment claim and seeking immediate injunctive relief. (Doc. 10). The court directed the U.S. Marshals to serve the Warden and the Chief Medical Director at FCI Schuylkill with the complaint. Id. Angus Love, Esquire ("Attorney Love") entered his appearance as attorney for Hull on February 13, 2012,*fn1 and the court conducted a telephone conference on the request for emergency medical relief on February 17, 2012. (Doc. 11, 15). The court determined that Hull required immediate medical attention and issued an order to ensure that he received treatment. (Doc. 15, 16). The court ordered that a certified physician supervise Hull's evaluation and treatment, and that defendants provide the court with a status report by February 27, 2012. (Doc. 16). Defendants provided a status report on February 27, 2012 confirming that Dr. Ellen Mace-Leibson treated Hull, conducted laboratory tests, prescribed medication, and counseled Hull on proper hygiene practices and other techniques to reduce the effects of his condition. (Doc. 25).

Attorney Love subsequently filed the instant motion for attorneys' fees on March 7, 2012, and a memorandum in support of the motion on March 9, 2012. (Docs. 32, 33). Defendants responded by filing a brief in opposition to Hull's motion on March 26, 2012, and Hull filed a reply on April 9, 2012. (Docs. 33, 34). The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

II. Discussion*fn2

Hull argues that he is entitled to attorneys' fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988, or in the alternative, pursuant to the EAJA. (Docs. 33, 35). Section 1988 is the channel by which the prevailing party in a § 1983 suit may recover attorney's fees from a state government or state officials. 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1988. Similarly, the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) is the channel by which the prevailing party may be awarded attorneys' fees and expenses in a suit against the "United States or an agency or an official of the United States acting in his or her official capacity."

28 U.S.C. § 2412(b).

There are four issues before the court which will be addressed in turn:

(1) whether Hull presented a § 1983 claim or a Bivens claim; (2) whether he meets the statutory requirements to recover attorneys' fees for his claim; (3) whether the PLRA precludes Hull's ability to recover fees; and (4), if he is entitled to fees, the amount he is entitled to recover. The court concludes that Hull has presented a Bivens claim, thereby rendering the attorneys fee provision of 42 U.S.C. § 1988 inapplicable to the instant action, but that fees are recoverable under the EAJA.

A. Hull Presents a Bivens Claim

It is well established that a party seeking redress for constitutional violations against a party acting under color of state law is entitled to do so under § 1983. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. It is also unquestioned that a party seeking redress for violations of his rights against a party acting under color of federal law must do so by presenting what has become known as a Bivens claim or Bivens action. Brown v. Phillip Morris, Inc., 250 F.3d 789, 800 (3d Cir. 2001) (citing Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971)).

Hull, who brings his claims against members of the United States government, has clearly presented a Bivens claim, not a ยง 1983 claim. Brown, 250 F.3d at 800 (3d Cir. 2001); Zolicoffer v. ...


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