In a case closely watched by civil rights and public interest groups, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that under federal fee-shifting statutes, judges may award fees that go above the “lodestar” amount under rare circumstances, including superior performance by the attorneys.

The ruling came in Perdue v. Kenny A, involving a $4.5 million fee enhancement that Georgia was required to pay lawyers who brought and won a class action suit challenging the state’s foster care system.

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