The city of Newark, N.J., was ensnared last year when it settled a civil rights case by offering $55,000 to resolve a journalist’s wrongful arrest claims. The plaintiff accepted the offer, but a district judge rejected his request for fees and costs, finding them part of the deal.

On Tuesday, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed in a precedential opinion, holding that because the offer was silent as to fees and costs, they were not part of it, and the district judge erred by looking at extrinsic evidence of what Newark intended.

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