Alan Schoenfeld


McGrath v. Toys "R" Us, Inc., 821 N.E.2d 519 (N.Y. 2004).

The awarding of attorney's fees in civil rights cases is a central component of a well-ordered civil rights regime. The Senate Report on the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act of 1976 claimed that numerous pieces of civil rights legislation "depend heavily upon private enforcement, and fee awards have proved an essential remedy if private citizens are to have a meaningful opportunity to vindicate the important Congressional policies which these laws contain." Noting that "[i]n many cases arising under our civil rights laws, the citizen who must sue to enforce the law has little or no money with which to hire a lawyer," those citizens and their lawyers, acting as private attorneys general, "must have the opportunity to recover what it costs them to vindicate these rights in court."' The award of attorney's fees is particularly important for those plaintiffs who win only nominal damages - a frequent occurrence in civil rights lawsuits-and therefore cannot pay attorneys out of their compensatory or punitive damage awards.

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