An attorney’s award of $1 in nominal damages over discourteous treatment at New York City Police Department headquarters did not entitle him to thousands of dollars in attorney fees, a Manhattan judge ruled this week in a colorful decision that explored the limits of the federal fee-shifting statute.

The ruling, from U.S. District Chief Judge Colleen McMahon of the Southern District of New York, on Monday chastised New York civil rights attorney Jeffrey Rothman for literally making a federal case out of a “petty grievance” with a detective, who had snatched the lawyer’s pen from his hand during a 2018 encounter at One Police Plaza in Lower Manhattan.

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