LEVIN H. CAMPBELL, Circuit Judge.
New Hampshire Department of Employment Security (NHDES) appeals from the district court's allowance of plaintiff's postjudgment request for attorney's fees and the court's denial of NHDES' subsequent motion to vacate a previously entered consent decree. As we find the fees request to have been filed too late, we reverse the award.
On March 8, 1976 the plaintiff, Richard M. White, commenced a class action in the United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire challenging NHDES' unemployment compensation procedures. White alleged that delays in the administration of New Hampshire's unemployment compensation program affecting certain groups of applicants worked a denial of due process and as well were violative of the so-called "when due" clause of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 503(a)(1).
Class certification was obtained on May 11, 1976, with the case proceeding to trial on October 12, 1977. The district court found that NHDES' scheme of administration did indeed violate the "when due" provision of the Social Security Act; the court ordered relief and judgment was entered November 15, 1977. Neither the court's opinion and order nor the judgment made any reference to a possible award of attorney's fees. The judgment was subsequently amended in respects not pertinent to the present appeal, and NHDES, on December 27, 1977, filed a timely notice of appeal.
While its appeal was pending in this court, NHDES requested and received numerous extensions of time for the filing of briefs and designation of an appendix on the ground that the parties were attempting to negotiate a settlement. Finally, on December 11, 1978, upon motion of NHDES, this court ordered the "cause . . remanded to the district court for the purpose of entertaining a consent decree." The consent decree was approved by the district court on January 26, 1979, with judgment entered on that day. Neither the consent decree nor the judgment contained
On June 7, 1979, some four and one-half months after the district court's approval of the consent decree and its entry of judgment, plaintiffs moved for an award of attorney's fees pursuant to the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1988. NHDES objected to this motion contending: 1) that plaintiffs had, during the "original discussions ... concerning settlement," indicated that attorney's fees would be waived;
A hearing on the fee request was held, and on August 30, 1979 the district court entered an order granting a fee award in an amount in excess of $16,000. Shortly thereafter, on September 13, 1979, NHDES, over objection, moved to vacate the consent decree contending that "Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney's Fees which was filed almost six months after the entry of the Consent Decree caught [NHDES] by surprise, as prior to this time, [NHDES] had no notice that attorney's fees would be requested and certainly had no notice at all as to the amount of attorney's fees that would be requested." The district court, after hearing, in a terse order of October 1, 1979, denied the motion to vacate. NHDES had previously filed on September 28, 1979 a notice of appeal of the district court's award of fees, and on October 30, 1979 it filed a similar notice concerning the court's adverse ruling on its motion to vacate. The appeals were consolidated by this court's order of November 6, 1979.
We dispose of this appeal focusing solely on the question of the timeliness of plaintiff's motion for fees. As we set aside the award because the request was untimely, we do not consider NHDES' alternative contention that, in light of the unexpected award, it should be allowed to withdraw its consent and that the judgment entered pursuant to such consent should therefore be vacated. We hold that a fees award under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 is a matter to be raised and determined prior to entry of final judgment, and that, at the latest, a fees request may be presented after judgment only within such time limits as apply to an appropriate motion to reopen the judgment. Here the proper post-judgment motion was one to alter or amend judgment under Fed. R.Civ.P. 59(e); such a motion must, however, be served within 10 days after entry of judgment.
Before proceeding to amplify these views we briefly consider plaintiff's threshold argument that since NHDES did not specifically raise the Rule 59(e) argument in the lower court, it is precluded from doing so now. See Johnston v. Holiday Inns, Inc., 595 F.2d 890, 894 (1st Cir. 1979). The short answer to this objection is that Rule 6(b)'s proscription against the enlargement of the time for serving motions under Rule 59(e) is
Coming to the merits of the timeliness question, our view of the procedural rules applicable to a section 1988 fees request is essentially that set out by Judge Warriner of the Eastern District of Virginia in a comprehensive opinion in Hirschkop v. Snead, 475 F.Supp. 59 (E.D.Va.1979). Judge Warriner concluded that "the weight of authority favors the proposition that a motion for attorney's fees under § 1988 must be made within 10 days of entry of final judgment under Rule 59(e)." 475 F.Supp. at 62. The court, in the course of concluding that a final judgment had in fact been entered, rejected the argument that section 1988 fees should be treated as an item of costs governed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 54 and 58, which permit the taxing of costs, without express limit of time, after entry of judgment. The court also rejected the alternative argument that section 1988 fees were somehow so "collateral" to the main litigation as to be eligible for treatment in isolation from the judgment therein.
When the present fees award was appealed, no circuit court had yet spoken on the timeliness issue considered in Hirschkop, although there existed a fair amount of circuit and district court authority on the timeliness of motions for attorney's fees made in contexts other than section 1988.
We start from the premise that a final judgment ordinarily signifies the final resolution, subject to appeal, of all claims raised in a lawsuit. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 54. New claims may thereafter be advanced and old ones reinstated only pursuant to rules providing, within narrowly defined circumstances, for the reopening of the judgment. See, e. g., Fed.R.Civ.P. 59, 60. If this were not so, appellate tribunals would be constantly vexed by multiple appeals growing out of fragments of the same litigation, and a party could never be sure when his case had ended.
Plaintiff urges two such exceptions upon us in support of the view that their failure to request fees prior to the entry of judgment or to move within 10 days to amend such judgment so as to include a fee award, is not fatal to their subsequent fee application. First plaintiff argues, as the Fifth Circuit held in Knighton, that section 1988 fees are properly treated as "costs," and thus specifically exempted from the requirement of resolution prior to the entry of final judgment.
We do not find it clear that Congress, by generally describing attorney's fees under section 1988 as a part of the costs, meant thereby to include those fees within the specific type of costs recoverable after judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 54. Rule 54(d), referring to the awarding of costs, provides, in part, that "costs shall be allowed as of course to the prevailing party unless the court otherwise directs ... Costs may be taxed by the clerk on one day's notice." 28 U.S.C. § 1920 adds a bit of flesh to the bones of Rule 54(d) by providing:
Examination of the above language strongly indicates that the costs allowed as of course by Rule 54(d) and detailed in 28 U.S.C. § 1920 are items of a nature very different from the discretionary attorney's fees allowed under the Fees Act. Rule 54(d) envisages the former as capable of being taxed by the clerk on one day's notice. In keeping with this idea the costs listed in section 1920 are almost all capable of routine computation, and the one arguable exception, item (6), is peculiarly within the court's own authority to establish, without input from the parties and with little likelihood of engendering controversy. Not so the discretionary award of attorney's fees under section 1988. To calculate such an award, indeed, even to determine whether one should be made at all, the district court must evaluate possibly a dozen diverse factors, see King v. Greenblatt, 560 F.2d 1024, 1026 (1st Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 438 U.S. 916, 98 S.Ct. 3146, 57 L.Ed.2d 1161 (1978), including such factors as the novelty and difficulty of the legal questions presented and the skill required to perform the particular services provided. Moreover, in determining the propriety and size of a fee award, the district court is generally assisted by submissions from the parties and frequently finds it necessary, as was true here, to hold a hearing on the matter. Appeals often ensue — leading to the prospect of separate fees appeals if final judgment rules are disregarded — as the sizeable sums involved may impose a very substantial
True, as plaintiff points out, the Supreme Court itself, in Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678, 98 S.Ct. 2565, 57 L.Ed.2d 522 (1978), citing the language of the Fees Act, characterized attorney's fees under section 1988 as being a part of "costs." But this statement was made in the context of rejecting the contention that the eleventh amendment stood as a bar to the awarding of fees against a state. The Court's general reasoning and ultimate conclusion that "Costs have traditionally been awarded without regard for the State's Eleventh Amendment immunity," id. at 695, 98 S.Ct. at 2568, hardly seems dispositive of the question whether section 1988 attorney's fees fall within the specific types of taxable costs contemplated by Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d) and 58. Cf. Roadway Express, Inc. v. Piper, ___ U.S. ___, 100 S.Ct. 2455, 65 L.Ed.2d 488 (1980) (costs that federal courts may impose on lawyers who unreasonably and vexatiously extend court proceedings do not include attorneys' fees under section 1988).
Plaintiff advances a second and alternative argument in support of his position that the resolution of a section 1988 fee request should be treated differently from the general run of controverted issues resolved within the contours of a court's final judgment. He suggests that his "claim for attorney's fees is a collateral and independent claim," and thus not controlled by the time limits which relate solely to the entry of judgment in the central but supposedly separate claim on the merits. Plaintiff would have us view the fee matter as a separate mini-lawsuit to be commenced, argued and resolved at some point in time following the entry of judgment in the central litigation. While plaintiff argues that this position finds support in the cases, the cited decisions involved circumstances of a different sort than those presented here. As discussed by Judge Friendly in Fase v. Seafarers Welfare & Pension Plan, 589 F.2d 112, 114-15 n. 3 (2d Cir. 1978), "cases where attorneys seek, long after judgment, to be paid out of a fund created by the judgment, Trustees v. Greenough, 105 U.S. 527 (1882), and Central Railroad & Banking Co. v. Pettus, 113 U.S. 116 [, 5 S.Ct. 387, 28 L.Ed. 915] (1885), or earmarked assets whose distribution would be governed by the legal principle which plaintiff's attorney had established, Sprague v. Ticonic National Bank, 307 U.S. 161 [, 59 S.Ct. 777, 83 L.Ed. 1184] (1939) ... present a lesser problem than those where allowance of a fee will result in an addition to the amount awarded by judgment. Something may also turn on whether ... the lawyer is asserting a right of his own ...; in the latter type of case it is easier to characterize the proceedings as `collateral' or `independent.'" Here we have neither the so-called common fund situation, see also National Council of Community Mental Health Centers, Inc. v. Weinberger, 387 F.Supp. 991 (D.D.C.1974), rev'd on other grounds, 546 F.2d 1003 (D.C.Cir.1976), cert. denied, 431 U.S. 954, 97 S.Ct. 2674, 53 L.Ed.2d 270 (1977), nor an attorney seeking fees by asserting a right of his own rather than one of his client. See 42 U.S.C. § 1988 (award of attorney's fees goes to "prevailing party," rather than attorney). But cf. Memphis Sheraton Corp. v. Kirkley, 614 F.2d 131 (6th Cir. 1980).
We thus remain unpersuaded that a section 1988 fees request falls within some recognized exception — be it "costs" or a theory of independent claim — to the general rule requiring the resolution of controverted issues by a trial judge within the overall framework of the central litigation and the final judgment entered therein. Rather, our review of the relevant authority, see, e. g., note 4, supra, including the Fees Act and the wellreasoned Hirschkop decision previously discussed, persuades us that the timeliness of a post-judgment motion for attorney's fees made pursuant to section 1988 is properly governed by Rule 59(e)'s ten day limitation.
Indeed, the present case highlights many of the problems which would likely be frequently encountered were we not to endorse the position that Rule 59(e)'s ten-day limitation marks, in terms of time, the outer limits of a fees request. The protraction here of a dispute previously, to all appearances, resolved is clearly not an occurrence to be encouraged. A court, having set its hand to the plow on the central litigation, should complete the furrow all at one time. The present post-judgment motion for an award, coming as it did nearly five months after judgment, was in our view too late.
We add that we see our decision as imposing no great hardship on civil rights litigants or courts. Doubtless persons such as the present litigants who have acted prior to this decision have greater cause for complaint than will those who follow them, but most fees litigants who have previously come to our attention have taken pains to request fees prior to or within ten days following entry of judgment, see, e. g., David v. Travisono, 621 F.2d 464, at 467 n. 2 (1st Cir. 1980); the state of the law has surely been such as to suggest the wisdom of that course.
Our decision will not prevent a district court from granting prompt and effective relief in a civil rights case. Entry of judgment which determines all matters except fees and includes an express reservation of the issue of fees, is a possible option when time is of the essence. Such a judgment might raise a question of finality should an appeal immediately be taken, see Memphis Sheraton Corp. v. Kirkley, 614 F.2d 131 (6th
Nor in a consent decree context do we see anything wrong with requiring the parties to face up to the issue of fees in their settlement negotiations. Cf. Regalado v. Johnson, 79 F.R.D. 447 (N.D.Ill.1978) (expressing concern over the propriety of injecting the issue of fees into settlement negotiations). Failure to confront the fees issue merely muddies the waters, as the present case well demonstrates. We of course do not suggest that an attorney in the course of settlement negotiations need, or in every case properly may, hold out, against his client's best interests, for a specific fees award to be included in the consent decree. If agreement as to fees is not easily accomplished, the parties may provide for submission of the entire question of fees to the court; further, they may, of course, decide to waive fees altogether. But there is nothing whatever to be encouraged in the path followed here — leaving the matter of fees unmentioned in the settlement and then raising it unilaterally several months later under circumstances that cast a shadow upon the settlement itself. Where Congress has spoken on the subject of fees, there can be no virtue in pretending the issue does not exist.
As plaintiff's fees claim was filed out of time, it should not have been entertained, and we hold the district court was without jurisdiction to make any award.
The fees award entered by the district court is vacated.
Thus from Edward's rather severe attempt to fill his coffers and the already traditional view of the solemnity of all judgments "came the ancient common law rule that a judgment, once enrolled on parchment, was unalterable even for the correction of a manifest mistake." La Vale Plaza, Inc. v. R. S. Noonan, Inc., 378 F.2d 569, 573 (3d Cir. 1967). Today, rules such as Fed.R.Civ.P. 54, 59 and 60 ease the situation somewhat, but the difficulties that would ensue were individual cases not to be organized around the principle of single and final judgment keep such escape valves the exception, not the rule.