WASHINGTON -� In a pair of rulings yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court partly disappointed prisoners’ lawyers seeking to avoid an onerous cap on their fees and completely frustrated a group of scofflaws — federal judges — trying to get out from under a local tax.

The fee cap ruling in Martin v. Hadix, 98-262, will likely have the broader financial impact of the two. In Michigan alone, the decision will result in “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in savings, according to Michigan Solicitor General Thomas L. Casey. He added that savings nationwide probably will reach well into the millions when other affected states apply the new ruling. But the ruling also will mean the release of thousands of dollars in attorney fees withheld, according to prisoner rights litigators, because of conflicting circuit interpretations of the federal Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995.

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