42 U.S. Code § 1997a - Initiation of civil actions
(a) Discretionary authority of Attorney General; preconditions
Whenever the Attorney General has reasonable cause to believe that any State or political subdivision of a State, official, employee, or agent thereof, or other person acting on behalf of a State or political subdivision of a State is subjecting persons residing in or confined to an institution, as defined in section 1997 of this title, to egregious or flagrant conditions which deprive such persons of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States causing such persons to suffer grievous harm, and that such deprivation is pursuant to a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of such rights, privileges, or immunities, the Attorney General, for or in the name of the United States, may institute a civil action in any appropriate United States district court against such party for such equitable relief as may be appropriate to insure the minimum corrective measures necessary to insure the full enjoyment of such rights, privileges, or immunities, except that such equitable relief shall be available under this subchapter to persons residing in or confined to an institution as defined in section 1997 (1)(B)(ii) of this title only insofar as such persons are subjected to conditions which deprive them of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution of the United States.
(b) Discretionary award of attorney fees
In any action commenced under this section, the court may allow the prevailing party, other than the United States, a reasonable attorney’s fee against the United States as part of the costs.
Source(Pub. L. 96–247, § 3,May 23, 1980, 94 Stat. 350; Pub. L. 104–134, title I, § 101[(a)] [title VIII, § 803(a)], Apr. 26, 1996, 110 Stat. 1321, 1321–70; renumbered title I, Pub. L. 104–140, § 1(a),May 2, 1996, 110 Stat. 1327.)
1996—Subsec. (c). Pub. L. 104–134amended subsec. (c) generally. Prior to amendment, subsec. (c) read as follows: “Any complaint filed by the Attorney General pursuant to this section shall be personally signed by him.”