Chapter 9: Relief

Updated 2013

This chapter addresses issues related to the recovery of relief in federal litigation. Section 1 of this chapter discusses the general rules governing the recovery of compensatory and punitive damages, focusing primarily on litigation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Because the law governing proof of damages under Section 1983 closely parallels proof of damages in common-law tort actions, no attempt is made to repeat the suggestions of many commonly available sources on how to prove damages of a particular type.

Generalizations about injunctive relief are more difficult. The scope and nature of injunctive relief typically are functions of the underlying substantive law and the scope of the violation of that law. Because many claims for injunctive relief are resolved by settlement, Section 2 focuses on issues that arise in the context of negotiating settlements and consent decrees, and discusses in some detail the kinds of provisions that should be included in those agreements. These same factors should be considered when drafting a proposed final judgment submitted when a claim for injunctive relief proceeds to trial.

Section 3 discusses declaratory relief and the ways that it can be used to obtain relief that has an impact beyond the specific needs of the individual plaintiffs. This is a form of relief that is useful in a wide variety of contexts, but is especially important in cases that cannot be brought as class actions.

Section 4 reviews the law and practice governing the award of attorney's fees in federal litigation. This section discusses the major issues that arise concerning entitlement to fees and calculating the amount of the fee award. This chapter also suggests practical ways of dealing with these issues.  Section 5 covers costs and interest.

Updated 2013