Law students in California wereawarded$114,780 (61,800) in fees last month after helping win religious rights for Muslim prisoners.
Almost three-dozen law students were involved in a case that ran for seven years. A Sacramento federal judge last month made a total award of $289,000 (155,500) in fees to the students and an attorney who supervised them.
Susan Christian took on the inmates case while she held the post of supervising attorney at the King Hall Civil Rights Clinic at the University of California, Davis, School of Law. She took the case with her when she moved into private practice in 2001. During the course of the seven-year case, 34 students at the clinic contributed nearly 2,000 hours of work.
US District Judge Lawrence K Karlton directed that the students be paid $60 (32.30) an hour a total of $114,780 for work done from October 1997 to June 2001.
The students work was wide-ranging and included discovery, taking and defending depositions, legal research and arguing points in court.
Because of the nature of the action and the issues involved, the work done by the students was more complex and legally sophisticated than work typically performed by law clerks or paralegals in law firms, the judge wrote.
As reported in The Sacram-ento Bee, the Muslim inmates at the California State Prison in Solano had sued for violations of the right to practise their religion. Judge Karlton granted them 15 preliminary injunctions, all but one of which were unsuccessfully appealed by state prison officials.
Carter White, the clinics current supervising attorney, said: Were proud of this ruling. This is the largest amount thats ever been awarded in one case for work done by our students. When the clinic was founded in 1993, the hope was that it would be partially funded by prevailing party fees. This is the ultimate realisation of that goal.
The state has appealed the outcome of the case to the ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals.