United States v. Braunstein

281 F.3d 982 (9th Cir. 2002)



The Hyde Amendment was enacted by Congress as part of a 1998 appropriations bill and is located in a statutory note to 18 U.S.C.S. § 3006A. It provides, in relevant part, that courts may award attorney's fees and other litigation expenses to prevailing criminal defendants where the court finds that the position of the United States was vexatious, frivolous, or in bad faith, unless the court finds that special circumstances make the award unjust. Pub. L. No. 105-119,111 Stat. 2440, 2519 (1997). The defendant bears the burden of proof, as well as establishing that he is otherwise qualified for the award under the law.


Defendant computer wholesaler appealed the district court's order denying his motion for attorney's fees pursuant to the Hyde Amendment, 18 U.S.C.S. § 3006A. He asserted that he incurred approximately $ 200,000 in attorney's fees defending against sixteen federal criminal charges of wire fraud, interstate transportation of goods obtained by fraud, and money laundering. He claimed that under the Hyde Amendment, the government was required to pay his attorney's fees because the prosecution was "vexatious, frivolous, or in bad faith" 18 U.S.C.S. § 3006A. The appellate court reversed the district court's order in part and remanded.


Could defendant computer wholesaler recover attorney’s fees under the Hyde Amendment, 18 U.S.C.S. § 3006A on account of a frivolous criminal action filed by the government against him?




Defendant wholesaler, as the prevailing party in a criminal prosecution that was "frivolous" was entitled to an award of his attorney's fees. Accordingly, the district court's order was reversed-in-part and remanded to with instructions to grant defendant’s motion for attorney's fees, and to determine the amount to be awarded pursuant to the Hyde Amendment.

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