Prins v. Michigan State Police II – Court of Appeals Remands for Circuit Court to Consider Reasonableness of Attorney Fees Award for State Police Violation of FOIA

This case has been up to the Supreme Court, which changed its mind on review, and then down again.  The first issue, which I previously wrote about, concerned the date the 180-day appeal period begins to run from denial of a FOIA request.  Prins v. MSP I

The circuit court ruled the date of receipt by the government agency triggered the period.  The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the date of the postmarked response denying the request was the trigger date.  This rendered Plaintiff’s appeal timely.  The Supreme Court initially granted the Michigan State Police’s application for leave to appeal, but then vacated that order in January of 2012.  See my other post about this:  Prins v. MSP Supreme Court

This opinion by the Court of Appeals addresses a second appeal by Plaintiff and addresses the important issue of calculating “reasonable attorney” fees that can be awarded for a governmental entity’s arbitrary and capricious denial of a FOIA request.

The Court here, in a published opinion, remands to the circuit court commanding an analysis of that issue pursuant to the Supreme Court’s guidance in Smith v. Khouri, 481 Mich. 519, 526-533 (2008). The Court here concludes that the list of factors enunciated in that Court and as found in Rule 1.5(a) of the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct apply equally to the question of attorneys fees in FOIA cases.

The important take away from this case, Smith, and others that address the statutory award of attorney fees is that the “reasonableness” calculation is left to the discretion of the trial court judge and can be “more” or “less” than that being requested by the attorneys submitting the bill to the court.

Here is the opinion:  Prins v. MSP II.opn

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