OPINION AND ORDER
Harold Baer, Jr., U.S.D.J.:
Plaintiff Shlomo Helbrans moves this court for an award of attorneys' fees pursuant to the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Award Act of 1976, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1988 ("Section 1988") Helbrans seeks reimbursement of the legal fees he incurred in this action against the defendants (the "State") for injunctive relief under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 ("RFRA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000bb et seq., the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 et seq., and the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 et seq.
For the reasons that follow, Helbrans' motion is GRANTED. The fees requested, however, shall be reduced in accordance with this opinion.
Helbrans, an Orthodox Hasidic Jew and, at one time, the Rabbi of a Yeshiva in Monsey, New York, adheres to a religious tradition forbidding the removal of facial hair. He claims that this prohibition is a fundamental tenet of Hasidic Jewry, and applies with even greater force to Hasidic Rabbis. Apparently, the origins of the prohibition trace to scholarly interpretation of the Torah's admonition: "They shall not shave an edge of their beard." Leviticus, 19:27.
In November 1994, Helbrans was found guilty of kidnapping in the Second Degree and Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree, after which he was incarcerated on Rikers Island pending sentencing. The offenses involved the abduction of a thirteen year old Jewish boy, whom Helbrans was bent on converting from a secular upbringing to a strict Orthodox lifestyle. On November 22, 1994, Helbrans was sentenced to serve in state prison two concurrent sentences of four to twelve years and one to three years.
On November 30, 1994, before his transfer to state custody, Helbrans commenced this action, by Order to Show Cause, under the RFRA, the Civil Rights Act, and the Declaratory Judgment Act. He sought to enjoin the State from removing his facial hair upon his reception at State prison pursuant to prison Directive 4914 ("Inmate Grooming Standards"), which requires all newly committed inmates to receive an initial shave and haircut upon arrival so that they may be photographed for identification purposes. After the initial shave, the Directive allows inmates to grow facial hair up to one inch in length. Directive 4914 further provides that inmates who obtain a court order to enjoin the enforcement of the initial shave requirement must be placed in administrative segregation.
On November 30, 1994, the court granted Helbrans' application for a temporary restraining order and directed the State to show cause why a preliminary injunction should not issue restraining them from removing Helbrans' facial hair, or from otherwise interfering with his rights.
Helbrans thereafter retained a computer imaging expert and, on the second day of the preliminary injunction hearing, produced computer-generated photographs of himself sans facial hair. After reviewing the photographs, the parties agreed to resolve the action without further litigation. The parties entered into a stipulation on January 6, 1995, precluding the defendants from (1) removing Helbrans' beard; and (2) placing Helbrans in administrative segregation or imposing on Helbrans any other form of disciplinary action for refusing to shave.
On January 25, 1995, the hirsute Helbrans moved for an award of attorneys' fees under Section 1988. His attorneys -- Duker & Barrett ("D&B"), a New York City law firm with approximately twenty-five attorneys in its New York City office, and Gerald. L. Shargel, a solo practitioner -- have submitted fees totalling $ 78,739.00, comprising approximately 282 billed hours.
Helbrans is currently incarcerated at the Green Haven Correctional Facility in Stormville, New York.
A. Prevailing Party Under Section 1988
Section 1988 permits the court, in its discretion, to grant reasonable attorneys' fees to prevailing parties in actions enforcing civil rights claims. Congress intended the statute to compensate "private attorneys general" in order to encourage private enforcement of civil rights statutes:
citizens must have the opportunity to recover what it costs them to vindicate these [civil] rights in court . . . . If the cost of private enforcement actions becomes too great, there will be no private enforcement. If our civil rights laws are not to become mere hollow pronouncements which the average citizen cannot enforce, we must maintain the traditionally effective remedy of fee shifting in these cases.
S. Rep. No. 1011, 94th Cong., 2d Sess. 1, 2 (1976), reprinted in 1976 U.S. Code Cong. & Admin. News 5908, 5910, 5913; see also Mid-Hudson Legal Servs., Inc. v. G & U, Inc. 578 F.2d 34, 37 (2d Cir. 1978) (legislative history of Section 1988 indicates that Congress intended for attorneys who successfully enforce civil rights laws to receive reasonable compensation). To achieve its remedial purpose, Section 1988 should receive broad application. Mid-Hudson Legal Servs. 578 F.2d at 37.
In awarding attorneys' fees in a civil rights action, the plaintiff must be the prevailing party. Koster v. Perales, 903 F.2d 131, 134 (2d Cir. 1990); Gingras v. Lloyd, 740 F.2d 210, 212 (2d Cir. 1984); Sharrock v. Harris, 489 F. Supp. 913, 914 (S.D.N.Y. 1980). The crux here is whether Helbrans was the "prevailing party" for purposes of Section 1988. Helbrans claims that he prevailed because he successfully enforced his civil rights by maintaining his facial hair while in the State's custody. Conversely, the State claims that Helbrans did not prevail because the parties voluntarily settled the case by stipulation and order, in which the State did not concede the validity of its defenses or admit any liability.
According to the Supreme Court, the mere fact that a claim has been resolved by settlement does not preclude a finding that the plaintiff is a prevailing party for purposes of awarding attorneys' fees. Hewitt v. Helms, 482 U.S. 755, 760-61, 96 L. Ed. 2d 654, 107 S. Ct. 2672 (1987); Maher v. Gagne, 448 U.S. 122, 129, 65 L. Ed. 2d 653, 100 S. Ct. 2570 (1980). It is clear that a party may prevail when it vindicates rights through a settlement or consent judgment. Hewitt, 482 U.S. at 760-61. According to the House Judiciary Committee:
The phrase "prevailing party" is not intended to be limited to the victor only after entry of a final judgment following a full trial on the merits. It would also include a litigant who succeeds even if the case is concluded prior to a full evidentiary hearing before a judge or jury. If the litigation terminates by consent decree, for example, it would be proper to award counsel fees.