South Carolina              
Administrative Law Court
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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Robert Caprood # 199227 vs. SCDOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Robert Caprood # 199227

South Carolina Department of Corrections




I. Introduction

Robert Caprood # 199227 (Caprood) seeks reasonable attorney's fees under S.C. Code Ann. § 15-77-300 since he believes he is a prevailing party in a civil action. I disagree.

II. Analysis

S.C. Code Ann. §15-77-300 provides, in pertinent part, the following:

In any civil action brought by the State, any political subdivision of the State or any party who is contesting state action, unless the prevailing party is the State or any political subdivision of the State, the court may allow the prevailing party to recover reasonable attorney's fees to be taxed as court costs against the appropriate agency if:
(1) The court finds that the agency acted without substantial justification in pressing its claim against the party; and
(2) The court finds that there are no special circumstances that would make the award of attorney's fees unjust.

Among others, the statute at least requires that the party seeking the fees must be the "prevailing party" in a "civil action." Jasper County Bd. of Educ. v. Jasper County Grand Jury 303 S.C. 49, 398 S.E.2d 498 (1990). Here, no "civil action" is involved, and Caprood is not a "prevailing party."

As to the lack of a "civil action," it is certainly true enough that one seeking judicial review of an agency decision is one who is bringing a "civil action" for purposes of §15-77-300. McDowell v. S.C. Dept. of Social Services, 304 S.C. 539, 405 S.E.2d 830 (1991). However, an equally true conclusion is that attorney's fees cannot be awarded for proceedings before a State agency since at such a stage the agency is functioning as an "administrative decision-maker" and not as an adjudicator in a "civil action." McDowell, 405 S.E.2d at 833. For the matter here under review, both DOC and the ALJD were functioning as administrative decision-makers. See Al-Shabazz v. State, 338 S.C. 354, 527 S.E.2d 742 (2000). Thus, attorney's fees are unavailable.

Further, such fees are not available in any event since Caprood cannot establish that he is a "prevailing party." Rather, the term "envisions a victory to some degree on the merits." Jasper County Bd. of Educ. v. Jasper County Grand Jury 303 S.C. 49, 398 S.E.2d 498 (1990). Here, the ALJ simply remanded the matter to DOC for a new hearing due to procedural errors which occurred below. Thus, no victory on the merits has been achieved. Accordingly, Caprood cannot demonstrate he is a "prevailing party."

III. Order

The request for attorney's fees is DENIED and this case is ended.




Administrative Law Judge

Post Office Box 11667

Columbia, South Carolina 29211-1667

Dated: June 20, 2002

Columbia, South Carolina

Brown Bldg.






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