Law students awarded $289,000 for role in prison suit
SACRAMENTO – A federal judge has awarded $289,000 in legal fees to nearly three dozen law students and their supervisor for their role in winning religious rights for Muslim inmates in the California prison system.
Over the seven-year life of the lawsuit, 34 students at the King Hall Civil Rights Clinic at the University of California, Davis School of Law dedicated nearly 2,000 hours of work.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton on Friday ruled they should be paid $60 an hour for their work between October 1997 and June 2001, or a total of $114,780.
The balance will go to Susan Christian, who took on the inmates’ case while she was supervising attorney at the clinic and kept it after she moved to private practice in June 2001.
Their work resulted in 15 preliminary injunctions on behalf of Muslim inmates at California State Prison, Solano, who sued for the right to practice their religion. All but one of the injunctions was unsuccessfully appealed by the state.
Prison system attorneys objected to paying the students so much, but Karlton ruled their work was more complex and sophisticated than that typically performed by law clerks or paralegals.
Carter White, who now supervises the clinic, told The Sacramento Bee the award is the largest ever for one case handled by students there. The clinic was founded in 1993 with the expectation it would be partly funded by such fees.
“This is the ultimate realization of that goal,” he said.
In June, Karlton entered a permanent injunction barring prison officials for punishing Muslim inmates for wearing half-inch long beards or attending religious services.
The state is appealing that decision.