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Attorney Fee Awards offset by student loan, tax and child support obligations

Federal Law allows judges to award attorney fees to the prevailing party in a civil action against the United States.  Attorneys would not take such cases without the prospect of being paid out of the attorney fee award.  But such attorney fee awards may be offset, requiring that they be paid to the U.S. Treasury, or to ex-spouses due child support payments from the plaintiff, for student loan or tax or other to obligations to the United States, or to ex-spouses for child support, under the Federal Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996.  The Unnited States Supreme Court had previously ruled the attorney fee awards are to be paid the plaintiffs, not their attorneys.  The attorney fee awards are distinct from any  monetary award to the plaintiff for disabilities, etc.  As a result fewer attorneys will be willing to handle these cases if their prospective clients owe the U.S. Government for student loans or taxes or are behind on their child support obligations.  The net result will be fewer cases against the United States, and fewer awards that could be used to repay student loans, taxes and child support obligations.  Harrington v. Berryman, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, 2018.

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