Han-Noggle v. Albuquerque
Just like Baca v. Berry, this case involves an attempt by the City of Albuquerque to recover attorneys’ fees against individual civil rights plaintiffs. After Mary Han, a prominent Albuquerque attorney who had filed several major police brutality cases against the Albuquerque Police Department, was found dead in her car, the police seriously bungled the death investigation. Although the police ruled the death a suicide, the state attorney general’s office, condemning the investigation, changed the cause of death to “undetermined.” Ms. Han’s family filed suit, alleging that the bungled police investigation violated their civil rights. The district court ultimately dismissed the claims (the dismissal of the claims is the subject of a separate appeal). At that point, rather than apologize to Ms. Han’s family, the city filed a motion for attorneys’ fees, seeking to fine a grieving family for attempting to vindicate its civil rights. The district court granted the motion in part and awarded $5,000 to the city. Still not satisfied, the city has appealed, seeking even more fees, and the Han family has cross-appealed, seeking to have the $5,000 fee order reversed. The CLC has filed a motion to participate as amicus curiae in the case and an amicus brief supporting the Han family.