not be affected by the hearing's outcome, as they were incurred after the effective date of the amendments; (2) as the Open Housing Center is a not-for-profit organization, there is a reasonable likelihood that it is financially unable to meet the legal costs it incurred in this case; and (3) the defendants have stated that in order to prepare for such a hearing, they will require further discovery.
The defendants argue that because congress postponed the effective date of the amendments, it was congress's intention that the amendments apply prospectively only. It has been stated that the "delayed effective date constitutes 'statutory direction' that the amendments are to be applied prospectively only". ( Ragin v. Harry Macklowe Real Estate Co., Inc., supra, 801 F. Supp. at p. 1228 n.8 [September 1988 amendments to the Fair Housing Act apply prospectively only].) While the effective date is evidence of congress's intent, it is hardly conclusive. The Court found nothing in the legislative history which indicates that Congress intended the amended attorney's fees provision to apply prospectively only. (Cf. Kaiser Aluminum Chem. Corp. v. Bonjorno, 494 U.S. 827, 839, 110 S. Ct. 1570, 1578 108 L. Ed. 2d 842  [plain language of statute and legislative history, together with postponement of statute's effective date, indicated prospective application only].)
The purpose of the amendment to the Fair Housing Act's fee provision was to "bring attorney's fee language in title VIII closer to the model used in other civil rights laws." (H. Rep. No. 711, 100th Cong., 2d Sess. 13, reprinted in 1988 U.S.C.C.A.N. 2173, 2174.) The Court finds that this goal is best served by applying the amended attorney's fees provision of the Fair Housing Act to the circumstances presented in this case.
Moreover, it should be noted that in the case cited by the defendants for the proposition that the delayed effective date indicates prospective application only, Ragin v. Harry Macklowe Real Estate Co., Inc., 801 F. Supp. 1213, 1228 n.8 (S.D.N.Y. 1992), the court was considering the application of a limitations period. Similarly, in Seniors Civil Liberties Ass'n, Inc. v. Kemp, 761 F. Supp. 1528, 1543-44 (M.D. Fla. 1991), aff'd, 965 F.2d 1030 (11th Cir. 1992), another case cited by the defendants, the question before the court concerned the effect of the amendments on substantive rights, specifically, what type of housing was covered by the Act. In the instant case, however, the defendants' substantive rights are not implicated by retroactive application of the amended attorney's fees provision. Instead, the only consideration is one of the penalties for the defendants' prior discriminatory activities.
Accordingly, the Court will apply the attorney's fees provision of the Fair Housing Act, as amended, to the plaintiffs' entire fee application. This section of the amended Act provides "In any civil action under subsection (a) of this section, the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party . . . a reasonable attorney's fee and costs. . . ." (42 U.S.C. § 3613[c] [Supp. 1992).) The plaintiffs are not required to show financial inability to pay their attorney's fees in order to receive a fee award.
In order to obtain an award of attorney's fees under either the Fair Housing Act or § 1988, one must be a "prevailing party." The Supreme Court has defined a "prevailing party" as one who succeeds on "any significant issue in litigation which achieves some of the benefit the parties sought in bringing suit." ( Texas State Teachers Ass'n v. Garland Indep. Sch. Dist., 489 U.S. 782, 109 S. Ct. 1486, 1493, 103 L. Ed. 2d 866 . See also Hensley v. Eckerhart, supra, 461 U.S. at p. 433, 103 S. Ct. at p. 1939.) A plaintiff who wins nominal damages is such a "prevailing party". ( Farrar v. Hobby, U.S. , 113 S. Ct. 566, 121 L. Ed. 2d 494 .)
The amount of an award of attorney's fees in a civil rights case is determined by using the "lodestar" method. ( Blanchard v. Bergeron, 489 U.S. 87, 109 S. Ct. 939, 945, 103 L. Ed. 2d 67 ; Hensley v. Eckerhart, supra, 461 U.S. at p. 433, 103 S. Ct. at p. 1939.) The amount of the fee award is initially estimated by multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation by a reasonable hourly rate. ( Pennsylvania v. Delaware Valley Citizens' Council for Clean Air, 478 U.S. 546, 563, 106 S. Ct. 3088, 3097, 92 L. Ed. 2d 439 .) A reasonable attorneys fee
"is one calculated on the basis of rates and practices prevailing in the market, i.e., 'in line with those [rates] prevailing in the community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill, experience, and reputation,' [citation omitted], and one that grants the successful civil rights plaintiff a 'fully compensatory fee,' [citation omitted], comparable to what 'is traditional with attorneys compensated by a fee-paying client.'" ( Missouri v. Jenkins, 491 U.S. 274, 286, 109 S. Ct. 2463, 2470, 105 L. Ed. 2d 229 (1989) [citation omitted]. See also Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895-96 & n.11, 104 S. Ct. 1541, 1547-48, 79 L. Ed. 2d 891 & n.11. .)
The amount of an award, however, must ultimately be determined on the facts of the case. ( Hensley v. Eckerhart, supra, 461 U.S. at p. 429, 103 S. Ct. at p. 1937.)
The Second Circuit has noted that of particular applicability in determining the amount of an award of attorney's fees in a civil rights case are the twelve factors set forth by the Fifth Circuit in Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 719 (5th Cir. 1974). ( United States Football League v. National Football League, 887 F.2d 408, 415 [2d Cir. 1989] [citing Johnson], cert. denied, 493 U.S. 1071, 107 L. Ed. 2d 1022, 110 S. Ct. 1116 .) These factors are: (1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty of the legal questions; (3) the skill level required; (4) whether accepting the case precluded the attorney from accepting other work; (5) the customary fee; (6) whether the fee is fixed or contingent; (7) any time limitations imposed by the client or situation; (8) the amount involved and the results obtained; (9) the experience, reputation and ability of the attorney; (10) the "undesirability" of the case; (11) the nature and length of the relationship with the client; and (12) awards made in similar cases. (See, e.g., Blanchard v. Bergeron, supra, 109 S. Ct. at p. 943 n.5 [citing Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., supra].) The Court notes, however, "that many of these factors usually are subsumed within the initial calculation of hours reasonably expended at a reasonable hourly rate." ( United States Football League v. National Football League, supra.)
Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3613(c)(2), the plaintiffs can recover reasonable attorney's fees and costs from each defendant. Additionally, the plaintiffs can recover attorney's fees and costs from Jakabovitz pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988.
The plaintiffs seek an award of attorney's fees in the sum of $ 883,386.50, plus $ 92,251.99 for costs and disbursements, for a total sum of $ 975,638.49. This application seeks compensation for approximately 4,800 attorney-hours and 1,500 paralegal-hours. The Court has considered the arguments of all parties and the records submitted by the plaintiffs, and awards attorney's fees in the sum of $ 335,280.20, including costs and disbursements, against all defendants as set forth below.
Jakabovitz contends that the rates at which the plaintiffs' counsel seeks to recover are too high and must be reduced. For example, David N. Brodsky, the plaintiffs' "lead attorney", charges rates ranging from $ 300 to $ 425 per hour, while associates charge rates as high as $ 270 per hour.
Prevailing parties "are entitled to reasonable hourly rates which fall within the prevailing marketplace rates in the community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill, experience, and reputation." ( New York State Nat'l Org. for Women v. Terry, 737 F. Supp. 1350, 1361 [S.D.N.Y. 1990] [citation omitted], aff'd in part, rev'd in part on other grounds, 961 F.2d 390 [2d Cir. 1992].) The Court has reviewed the applicable law in this Circuit and determines that, based upon the type of work performed and the experience of the attorneys, the following maximum rates are reasonable: for partners, no more than $ 200 per hour; for associates, no more than $ 135 per hour. (See, e.g., Huntington Branch NAACP v. Town of Huntington, 749 F. Supp. 62, 65 [E.D.N.Y. 1990] [rates of $ 135-$ 225 per hour appropriate in housing discrimination case, where counsel performed "extremely ably" and have experience in civil rights cases]; Clarke v. Frank, No. 88 CV 1900, 1991 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10601 [E.D.N.Y. July 26, 1991] [$ 200 per hour rate reasonable in civil rights case]. See also Jennette v. New York, 800 F. Supp. 1165, 1169 [S.D.N.Y. 1992] [sole practitioner with ten years' experience in civil rights actions awarded $ 200 per hour]; Nu-Life Constr. Corp. v. Board of Educ., 795 F. Supp. 602, 606 [E.D.N.Y. 1992] [counsel awarded fees at rates of $ 165-$ 200 per hour in RICO action]; Malarkey v. Texaco, Inc., 794 F. Supp. 1237, 1246 [counsel inexperienced in civil rights cases awarded $ 175 per hour for partners, $ 100 per hour for associates], aff'd, 983 F.2d 1204 [2d Cir. 1993] [available on Lexis at 1993 U.S. App. LEXIS 1181]; Ortiz v. Regan, 777 F. Supp. 1185, 1188-89 [S.D.N.Y. 1991] [counsel seeking $ 300-$ 400 per hour in pension case awarded $ 250 per hour], aff'd in part, rev'd in part on other grounds, 980 F.2d 138 [2d Cir. 1992]; New York State Nat'l Org. for Women v. Terry, supra, 737 F. Supp. at p. 1361 [rates of $ 160-$ 210 per hour reasonable in civil rights case, based upon rates charged by major New York City firms with litigation practices].) Accordingly, all partners whose listed billing rates exceed $ 200 per hour will be compensated at $ 200 per hour; similarly, all associates whose listed billing rates exceed $ 135 per hour will be compensated at $ 135 per hour.
Additionally, paralegals' time is includable in an award of attorney's fees. ( United States Football League v. National Football League, supra, 887 F.2d at p. 416. See Missouri v. Jenkins, supra, 491 U.S. at pp. 285-86, 109 S. Ct. at pp. 2468-69  ["the 'reasonable attorney's fee' provided for by statute should compensate the work of paralegals, as well as that of attorneys."]) The Court compensates plaintiffs' counsel for the work performed by paralegals at a rate of $ 50 per hour. (See Aetna Casualty and Surety Co. v. Namrod Devel. Corp., No. 91-1609, 1992 U.S. Dist LEXIS 17843 [S.D.N.Y. Nov. 24, 1992] (work performed by paralegals compensated at rate of $ 55 per hour]; Lewis v. Tuscan Dairy Farms, Inc., No. 87-7607, 1992 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13244 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 3, 1992) (approximate rate for work performed by paralegals is $ 50 per hour]; Kahn v. General Motors, Corp., No. 88-2982, 1992 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12191 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 14, 1992] (work performed by paralegals compensated at rate of $ 55 per hour].)
Similarly, the Court finds that the amount of hours for which plaintiffs' counsel seeks compensation, specifically, 4,800 hours spent by attorneys and 1,500 hours spent by paralegals on this case, is unreasonable. In Huntington Branch NAACP v. Town of Huntington, 749 F. Supp. 62 (E.D.N.Y. 1990), a case similar to the instant matter, counsel sought to recover for 2359.75 hours of work performed over a period of nine years, including a trial, various motions, both pre- and post-trial, and the entry of judgment. (See also other proceedings at 961 F.2d 1048 [2d Cir. 1992]; 844 F.2d 926 [2d Cir. 1988]; 689 F.2d 391 [2d Cir. 1982]; 762 F. Supp. 528 [E.D.N.Y. 1991]; 749 F. Supp. 62 [E.D.N.Y. 1990]; 668 F. Supp. 762 [E.D.N.Y. 1987]; 530 F. Supp. 838 [E.D.N.Y. 1981].) Giving plaintiffs' counsel every benefit of the doubt, the Court cannot view the expenditure of 4,800 attorney-hours and another 1,500 paralegal-hours as necessary or reasonable. Upon an examination of plaintiffs' counsel's papers and the attached records, the Court finds that a twenty-five percent reduction of counsel's hours to be reasonable: to 3,600 for attorneys, spread evenly among partners and associates, and 1,125 for paralegals. Based upon these hours and the above rates, the lodestar figure computes to $ 507,195.00.
Central to an application for attorney's fees is the submission of time records reflecting the hours expended by counsel in pursuing the successful claims of their client. In order for a party to recover attorney's fees, such time records must be made contemporaneously with the associated work. (See Lewis v. Coughlin, 801 F.2d 570, 577 [2d Cir. 1986].) Furthermore, "these records should specify, for each attorney, the date, the hours expended, and the nature of the work done." ( New York State Ass'n for Retarded Children, Inc. v. Carey, 711 F.2d 1136, 1148 [2d Cir. 1983].) "The burden is on counsel to keep and present records from which the court may determine the nature of the work done, the need for it, and the amount of time reasonably required; where adequate contemporaneous records have not been kept, the court should not award the full amount requested." ( F.H. Krear & Co. v. Nineteen Named Trustees, 810 F.2d 1250, 1265 [2d Cir. 1987] [applying New York State law and noting that the Second Circuit rule is similar to that of New York]; see also Soler v. G&U Inc., 801 F. Supp. 1056 [S.D.N.Y. 1992].)
Plaintiffs' counsel submitted a computer printout which comprises its documentation in support of the plaintiffs' fee application. Jakabovitz contends that the descriptions contained in the printout are too vague and insufficient to support a fee application.
The following is a list of some of the descriptions contained in the printout: "staff meeting"; "talk w/SAP, Bove, P. Spiro"; "processed documents"; "tc w/Sheinfeld, Lorin, Wolf; meet w/JJ re docs"; "confs w/MRH; meeting w/Luckett". Similarly vague and cryptic descriptions can be found throughout counsel's computer records.
While vague descriptions such as those listed above are not fatal to a fee application, courts in this Circuit have reduced fee awards due to the lack of specificity in time records. (See United States Football League v. National Football League, supra, 887 F.2d at p. 415; New York State Ass'n for Retarded Children, Inc. v. Carey, supra, 711 F.2d at p. 1146; Soler v. G&U, Inc., supra, 801 F.2d at pp. 1060-61; Nu-Life Constr. Corp. v. Board of Educ., supra, 795 F. Supp. at p. 607; Meriwether v. Coughlin, 727 F. Supp. 823, 827 [S.D.N.Y. 1989].)
In light of the numerous entries which contain insufficient descriptions of the work done and the need for it, the Court reduces the lodestar amount by thirty percent. (See Nu-Life Constr. Corp. v. Board of Educ, supra, 795 F. Supp. at p. 607 [thirty percent reduction for vague entries]. See also United States Football League v. National Football League, supra, 887 F.2d at p. 415 [thirty percent reduction due to, inter alia, vague entries]; New York State Ass'n for Retarded Children, Inc. v. Carey, supra, 711 F.2d at p. 1146 [5%-20% reductions made to multiple claims for fees upon objections to duplicative and excessive hours]; Meriwether v. Coughlin, supra, 727 F. Supp. at pp. 831 [15% reduction for entries too vague to assess reasonableness].)
Furthermore, as Jakabovitz argues, the plaintiffs cannot recover attorney's fees for McCoggle's unsuccessful claims. "Work that is based on different facts and legal theories than a successful one may not be included in the fee award." ( United States Football League v. National Football League, supra, 887 F.2d at p. 413 [citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, supra, 461 U.S. at p. 434-35, 103 S. Ct. at p. 1939-40.) However, a plaintiff's various claims may be based upon a common set of facts or similar legal theories. In such an instance, it would be impractical to divide the hours on a claim-by-claim basis, as a large portion of the attorney's time will likely have been spent on the case as a whole, rather than on individual claims. Under these circumstances, a district court
"should focus on the significance of the overall relief obtained by the plaintiff. [citation omitted] Where a plaintiff has achieved only partial or limited success, full compensation of attorney's fees would not be reasonable. [citation omitted] The district court may either attempt to identify specific hours that should be eliminated, or it may simply reduce the award to account for the limited success." ( United States Football League v. National Football League, supra, 887 F.2d at p. 414 (citation omitted).)