EUGENE A. WRIGHT, Circuit Judge:
Appellants seek attorney's fees for challenging a Washington statute which was amended, mooting their action, before the case was heard. We affirm the district court's denial of their motion for fees.
Four Washington minor political parties
A legislator said in an affidavit made one year after the statute was amended:
Affidavit of State Representative Nelson.
After the Secretary sought dismissal of the suit for lack of a case or controversy, the minor parties moved for an award of fees pursuant to the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Award Act (Act), 42 U.S.C. § 1988.
A motion for reconsideration was denied
The question on review is whether the district court erred in finding that the minor parties were not "prevailing parties" within the meaning of § 1988.
1. Standard of Review
At oral argument, appellants urged us to treat Judge Tanner's denial of the motion for fees as a summary judgment. They contend that he erred in not holding an evidentiary hearing.
We disagree. A full evidentiary hearing was unnecessary. Appellants requested neither a hearing nor oral argument on their motion. The affidavits and record before the court allowed it to consider all factors requisite to an award of fees. The district court did not abuse its discretion in relying on the affidavits and record to determine the case. See Williams v. Alioto, 625 F.2d 845, 849 (9th Cir. 1980), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 101 S.Ct. 1723, 68 L.Ed.2d 213 (1981).
2. Legislative Interpretation
The history of the Act
A party who "vindicates his rights through a consent judgment,"
Id. at 1319,  U.S.Code Cong. & Ad.News at 5910-11.
The Senate Report's broad and strident language prescribes a generous attitude towards the award of fees:
S.Rep., supra at 3,  U.S.Code Cong. & Admin.News at 5910.
This circuit has interpreted Congress' mandate to require that the Act "must be liberally construed to achieve Congress' purpose `to encourage compliance with and enforcement of the civil rights laws'". Collins v. Chandler Unified School Dist., 644 F.2d 759, 764 (9th Cir. 1981) (citations omitted); Dennis v. Chang, 611 F.2d 1302, 1306 (9th Cir. 1980).
Other courts have identified as prevailing parties those who "essentially succeed in obtaining the relief [sought],"
The efforts of prevailing parties have been labelled variously as "at least a `contributing ... factor' in the bringing about of [the desired] procedural changes,"
It is clear, then, that the courts have required consistently that plaintiffs seeking to qualify as "prevailing parties" establish some sort of clear, causal relationship between the litigation brought and the practical outcome realized.
C. Appellant's Showing
In this case the minor parties argue that, although they did not prevail formally, their suit was successful because it "contributed in a significant way to the legislative action ... [which] vindicated the rights that the suit sought to protect ...."
In support, they rely on the affidavit of a single legislator. As a member of the Conference Committee which drafted the legislation, Representative Nelson's statement might be entitled to some weight if it had been made contemporaneously with the passage of the legislation. Coming one year later, it is entitled to no weight and cannot be relied on as indicative of legislative motivation or intent. See Gunther v. County of Washington, 623 F.2d 1303, 1317-18 (9th Cir. 1979). But assuming, arguendo, that his affidavit represents a statement on behalf of other legislators, it still does not persuade us that appellant's suit was at least a "material factor" in the legislative process.
The affidavit states only that the suit was "discussed", not that it played a causal role in passage of the amendment. No other evidence of the minor parties' catalytic role has been produced and the appellants have never suggested that any exists. Indeed, there is uncontroverted evidence that proposed changes in the statute had been tossed around for years, often initiated by the Secretary's own office. The minor parties have failed to show that theirs was a sufficiently influential role in this process.
The district court correctly denied the motion for attorney's fees.
BRUCE R. THOMPSON, District Judge, concurring:
I concur and write separately only to emphasize that portion of 42 U.S.C. § 1988 which provides: "the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party ... a reasonable attorney's fee...." (Emphasis supplied). Judge Wright's discussion of "Legislative Interpretation" plainly demonstrates that by court decision construing the perceived legislative will, the area of discretion has been narrowly circumscribed. I think it important to observe that the trial court exercises a normal discretion concerning the issue at hand. If appellants were "prevailing parties" it is because the lawsuit was a "significant catalyst" in effectuating the legislative change. This, at best, is an uncertain, elusive, and imponderable concept; the very kind of issue which cries for reliance on informed discretion.
In the present case, the district court had before it the affidavit of State Representative Nelson which averred that "the lawsuit ... was an important factor in leading the House to repeal the challenged former law." The lawsuit was filed in late August 1976. The respondents' affidavits showed, without contradiction, that as early as August 1971 the Washington Secretary of State met with representatives of several minor political parties to discuss amendments to the Washington statutes; that during the summer of 1974 the staff of the Secretary of State prepared a comprehensive legislative proposal to cure deficiencies in the law; that during the 1976 legislative session the House and Senate Committees on Elections conducted public hearings concerning numerous problems noted under existing election laws; that among the problems was the constitutionality of existing laws; that the committees had before them, among other information, a "Summary of Proposal on Minor Party Nominating Procedures" which stated, inter alia "In light of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions extending the equal protection provisions of the Federal constitution to any state regulation of political participation, the continued validity of this state's statutory procedures for the nomination of partisan candidates by minor political parties may be questionable." After all this spade work had been done, the 1977 legislature enacted the legislation which mooted the lawsuit.
In the light of this record it cannot be said that the district court acted arbitrarily and unreasonably in exercising discretion to deny attorney fees.
He further explained that the memoranda and affidavits submitted by both parties did not warrant a finding that the minor parties' litigation "served as a `catalyst for change', forcing the Washington Legislature to amend unconstitutional laws, and thereby achieving a `valuable public service.'" Thus, the minor parties did not qualify for attorneys fees as the "prevailing party." District Court's Order of September 26, 1979.