Burlington v. Dague, 505 U.S. 557, 3 (1992)

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Cite as: 505 U. S. 557 (1992)

Opinion of the Court

Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents the question whether a court, in determining an award of reasonable attorney's fees under 7002(e) of the Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA), 90 Stat. 2826, as amended, 42 U. S. C. 6972(e), or 505(d) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act (CWA)), 86 Stat. 889, as amended, 33 U. S. C. 1365(d), may enhance the fee award above the "lodestar" amount in order to reflect the fact that the party's attorneys were retained on a contingent-fee basis and thus assumed the risk of receiving no payment at all for their services. Although different fee-shifting statutes are involved, the question is essentially identical to the one we addressed, but did not resolve, in Pennsylvania v. Delaware Valley Citizens' Council for Clean Air, 483 U. S. 711 (1987) (Delaware Valley II).

I

Respondent Ernest Dague, Sr. (whom we will refer to in place of all the respondents), owns land in Vermont adjacent to a landfill that was owned and operated by petitioner city of Burlington. Represented by attorneys retained on a contingent-fee basis, he sued Burlington over its operation of the landfill. The District Court ruled, inter alia, that Burlington had violated provisions of the SWDA and the CWA, and ordered Burlington to close the landfill by January 1, 1990. It also determined that Dague was a "substantially prevailing party" entitled to an award of attorney's fees under the Acts, see 42 U. S. C. 6972(e); 33 U. S. C. 1365(d). 732 F. Supp. 458 (Vt. 1989).

In calculating the attorney's fees award, the District Court first found reasonable the figures advanced by Dague for his attorneys' hourly rates and for the number of hours expended by them, producing a resulting "lodestar" attorney's fee of $198,027.50. (What our cases have termed the "lode-star" is "the product of reasonable hours times a reasonable rate," Pennsylvania v. Delaware Valley Citizens' Council

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