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LENIHAN v. CITY OF NEW YORK

July 14, 1986

MARY LENIHAN, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF NEW YORK, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CONNER

OPINION AND ORDER

CONNER, D.J.

 Plaintiff Mary Lenihan ("Lenihan"), a policewoman employed by the Police Department of the City of New York, brought this action pursuant to title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17 (1982), the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1982), and section 296 of the New York Human Rights Law, N.Y. Exec. Law § 296 (McKinney 1982), alleging that the police department and the various other municipal defendants had discriminated against her on the basis of her sex and had violated her due process rights. The matter was ultimately tried before the Court sitting without a jury. After considering the parties' posttrial submissions, I issued an Opinion and Order, familiarity with which is presumed, in which I concluded that Lenihan had proven her allegations. Judgment was subsequently entered in favor of Lenihan and against defendants. Lenihan now moves, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1988, 2000e-5(k) (1982), for an award of attorney's fees.

 In civil rights actions, "the Court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party . . . a reasonable attorney's fee as part of the costs." 42 U.S.C. § 1988 (1982). *fn1" The purpose of section 1988 is to ensure 'effective access to the judicial process' for persons with civil rights grievances." Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 429, 76 L. Ed. 2d 40, 103 S. Ct. 1933 (1983) (quoting H.R. Rep. No. 1558, 94th Cong., 2d Sess. 1 (1976)).

 Computation of a "reasonable attorney's fee" begins with a determination of the number of hours reasonably expended by the prevailing party's counsel, that number is then multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. at 433, Cohen v. West Haven Bd. of Police Comm'rs, 638 F.2d 496, 505 (2d Cir. 1980); City of Detroit v. Grinnell Corp., 560 F.2d 1093 (2d Cir. 1977): City of Detroit v. Grinnell Corp., 495 F.2d 448 (2d Cir. 1974). The Court may then adjust this "lodestar" figure to compensate counsel for factors such as risk, quality of representation, and results obtained. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. at 434; New York Ass'n for Retarded Children, Inc. v. Carey, 711 F.2d 1136, 1153 (2d Cir. 1983)

 Lenihan seeks an award of attorney's fees and costs for the services of Janice Goodman, Esq. ("Goodman"), Lenihan's lead counsel, Jill Sheinberg, Esq. ("Sheinberg"), Goodman's associate, and Arlene Smoler ("Smoler"), Goodman's law student clerk. She calculates her costs as $15,926.72 and her attorney's fees as $132,133.50 and requests that I adjust her attorney's fees upward by fifty percent. Lenihan also seeks fees and costs for the firm of Gordon & Gordon, P.C., which represented her before the Article II Medical Board and the New York City Commission on Human Rights. She calculates those costs and attorney's fees as $98.73 and $5,751.67, respectively.

 The City contends that Lenihan's motion should be denied in its entirety because she has not submitted contemporaneous time records in support of her motion. Alternatively, the City argues that Lenihan's fee request should be reduced for the following reasons: (1) Lenihan's counsel expended more hours than were reasonably necessary, (2) Lenihan's attorneys duplicated each other's efforts, (3) Lenihan's attorneys' time records are too vague, and (4) the hourly rates requested by Lenihan's counsel are excessive. The City also objects to several items of Lenihan's costs, and to any award for representation before the Article II Medical Board. I address each of these issues in turn below.

 Contemporaneous Records

 The City contends that Lenihan's fee application must be denied in its entirety because Lenihan has not submitted her attorneys' contemporaneous time records as required in this Circuit, see New York Ass'n for Retarded Children, Inc. v. Carey, 711 F.2d 1136, 1147 (2d Cir. 1983). I need not linger long on this contention. There is nothing to suggest that the records Lenihan has submitted are not contemporaneous records. To be sure, Lenihan has not submitted the original, handwritten time sheets filled out by her attorneys on a daily basis. See Reply Affidavit of Janice Goodman PP 6-7. However, Lenihan has submitted typewritten transcriptions of those original records. Id. No more is required. The rule in this Circuit prohibits the submission of reconstructed records, where no contemporaneous records have been kept Lenihan has not submitted reconstructed records. Rather, she has attempted to present her attorneys' contemporaneous records in a form convenient for the Court. The Court routinely receives computerized transcriptions of contemporaneous time records from firms whose billing records are maintained in computers. Lenihan's submission is no less contemporaneous.

 Excessive Hours

 The City argues that Lenihan's counsel expended more hours than were reasonably necessary in performing certain tasks and that Lenihan's fee request should be reduced accordingly. In particular, the City contends that it was excessive for Goodman and Sheinberg to spend 98 hours researching and drafting plaintiff's posttrial reply brief, or for Smoler to spend 94 hours and Goodman 21 hours preparing plaintiff's preliminary injunction papers. I do not agree. I reviewed plaintiff's posttrial submissions in the process of drafting my previous Opinion and Order, and they reflected the very high degree of professionalism which plaintiff's counsel exhibited in all phases of this litigation. I am not surprised at the number of hours involved. I do not think it was excessive for two attorneys to bill 98 hours between them for preparing the posttrial reply brief. This was not a small ten-page reply brief submitted in support of a pretrial motion. The trial lasted ten days: defendants' posttrial brief was nearly one hundred pages long, and contained numerous case citations and references to the trial transcript.

 I also do not think the hours spent preparing plaintiff's preliminary injunction papers were excessive. These submissions were also of high quality. Perhaps fewer hours would have been required if more of the work had been done by Goodman or her associate, Sheinberg, rather than by her law student clerk, Smoler; however, Smoler's much lower hourly rate more than compensates for any such inefficiency. Finally, I do not think it was excessive for Goodman to bill 18 hours on September 3, 1984, the day before the crucial preliminary injunction hearing.

 Duplicative Hours

 The City next contends that Lenihan's fee request should be reduced because her attorneys unnecessarily duplicated each other's efforts. In particular, the City notes (1) that Goodman was accompanied by either Sheinberg or Smoler at pretrial conferences, the preliminary injunction hearing, and the trial; (2) that Goodman and Sheinberg both claim time preparing for the deposition of Dr. Symonds, (3) that Goodman and Smoler both claim time researching and preparing the preliminary injunction brief, (4) that Goodman claims time revising the ...


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