Awarding Attorneys’ Fees to Prevailing Pro Se Litigants

This Note examines- the propriety of awarding attorneys’ fees to prevailing pro se litigants in the federal courts. It focuses on the four major statutes under which almost all pro se cases have been filed: the Freedom of Information Act of 1974 (FOIA), the Privacy Act of 1974 (Privacy Act), the Civil Rights Attorney’s Fees Awards Act of 1976 (CRAFAA), and the Truth in Lending Act (TILA). In so doing, it will attempt to devise common principles that can be applied to most requests for pro se attorneys’ fees. Part I looks first to the statutes’ language and legislative histories to determine whether Congress authorized awards of attorneys’ fees to prevailing pro se litigants. Part II discusses the policy arguments for and against awarding attorneys’ fees in this context. The Note concludes that awarding fees to pro se litigants is not only statutorily authorized, but also desirable as a matter of policy.