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IN RE BIG R FOOD WAREHOUSES v. LOCAL 338 RWDSU

July 28, 1995

IN THE MATTER OF THE ARBITRATION OF CERTAIN CONTROVERSIES BETWEEN BIG R FOOD WAREHOUSES, ROYAL FARMS, INC., Petitioner, -against- LOCAL 338 RWDSU, Respondent.

A. SIMON CHREIN, United States Magistrate Judge


The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. SIMON CHREIN

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE A. SIMON CHREIN

By order dated December 28, 1994 the above referenced matter was referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge by the Honorable Eugene H. Nickerson for a report and recommendation. Respondent, Local 338 RWDSU, has been awarded costs and attorney's fees by the District Court. See Memorandum and Order of Honorable Eugene H. Nickerson, dated December 28, 1994. This matter has been referred to this Court solely for a determination as to the reasonableness of respondent's attorney's fees and costs.

 BACKGROUND:

 As there was no transcript of the arbitrator's bearing to support petitioner's allegation, Judge Nickerson granted summary judgment in favor of the respondent on September 2, 1994, confirming and enforcing the arbitration award. Respondent was consequently awarded attorney's fees and Judge Nickerson referred the matter to the undersigned to hear and report on the issue of the appropriate amount of costs and attorney's fees. A more in depth discussion of the circumstances surrounding the arbitration dispute can be found in Judge Nickerson's decision. See Memorandum and Order of Honorable Eugene H. Nickerson, dated December 28, 1994. Friedman & Levine billed a total of 191 hours concerning this matter and requested a sum of $ 31,135.00 for attorney's fees plus $ 451.80 for costs incurred. Petitioner objects to the amount of attorney's fees requested.

 DISCUSSION:

 Petitioner alleges that respondent's attorney's fees are not realistic, "are disproportionate to the value of the subject matter, [and that] . . . the services could have been performed in a more efficient manner." See Affidavit in Opposition to Respondent's Request for Attorney's Fees, dated March 31, 1995 ("Opposition"). The petitioner argues that the respondent did not submit original time slips, that duplication of time by attorneys should not be compensated, and that the fees requested do not bear a proportionate relationship to the value of the proceeding at bar. Petitioner further questions the amount of time expended by Friedman & Levine attorneys on various stages of this litigation.

 ORIGINAL TIME SLIPS:

 Petitioner notes that Friedman & Levine has not submitted "original" time sheets in its computation of hours billed. It is not clear what petitioner means by "original", however I assume petitioner's contention is that the time slips submitted by respondent's counsel in support of the fee request were inadequate, and therefore not in accord with the mandate for contemporaneous time records in computing attorneys fees as set forth in New York Ass'n For Retarded Children, Inc. v. Carey, 711 F.2d 1136, 1154 (2d Cir. 1983). Attorneys at Friedman & Levine keep time records by directly inputting their hours worked into a computer system. A printout of this information has been submitted to the Court. See Declaration of Jennifer D. Weekley, dated September 23, 1994 and Supplemental Declaration of Jennifer D. Weekley, dated February 28, 1995. Chronological computer printouts satisfy the contemporaneous time record requirements of New York Ass'n for Retarded Children, Inc. v. Carey. See Pastre v. Weber, 800 F. Supp. 1120, 1125 (S.D.N.Y. 1991); Meriwether v. Coughlin, 727 F. Supp. 823, 826-27 (S.D.N.Y. 1989). Therefore petitioner's claim in this respect is meritless.

 Petitioner also contends that Friedman & Levine's contemporaneous time records lack the detail necessary to determine the propriety of the requested attorney's fees. Contemporaneous time records should specify the date, hours expended and the nature of the work done by each attorney. Carey, 711 F.2d at 1148. This court had no problems in evaluating respondent's billing invoice as respondent's invoices were clearly labeled and dated. The invoices provided a clear description of the work performed, the time spent on the respective matter, the attorney who rendered services, and the date the services were performed. Indeed, petitioner's own affidavit challenging the amount of time spent by opposing counsel on each stage of this litigation is testament to the clarity of respondent's billing invoice.

 DUPLICATION:

 Secondly, petitioner states that respondent should not be reimbursed where on two separate occasions two attorneys for the respondent billed for court appearances even though only one attorney addressed the court. *fn1" Petitioner cites Kipper v. Kipper, 151 A.D.2d 377, 542 N.Y.S.2d 617 (1st Dep't. 1989), as holding that duplication of time by attorneys is not compensable. Kipper however, held that the sending of two attorneys to a deposition was duplicative. Id. at 378. In the instant case, Friedman & Levine sent two attorneys not to a simple deposition, but rather for attendance at oral argument. The attorney at Friedman & Levine most familiar with this litigation and who addressed the court at oral argument, Jennifer Weekley, Esq., was at the time in her second year as a labor lawyer. I find nothing wrong with Friedman & Levine sending a more experienced attorney to lend guidance to Ms. Weekley at oral argument. See Seigal v. Merrick, 619 F.2d 160, 164 (2d Cir. 1980) (dicta showing reluctance in depriving a lawyer the aid of even one associate in court appearances). While duplicative hours are certainly not compensable, this is not an instance where staffing was unnecessary and resulted in duplicative charges. Compare United States v. Bedford Assoc., 548 F. Supp. 748, 752 (S.D.N.Y. 1982) (finding that work done by fifteen full time associates, five summer associates and various legal assistants on a simple mortgage foreclosure was unnecessary and thus led to duplicative charges). Therefore, I would allow the hours billed by the respective attorneys who attended oral argument.

 RATIO OF REQUESTED COMPENSATION TO AMOUNT IN DISPUTE:

 Petitioner contends that respondent should not be compensated $ 30,000.00 for attorney's fees when the amount in dispute was only $ 11,000.00. Notwithstanding the fact that a correct "lodestar" figure should not be reduced because of a low damage award, Cowan v. Prudential Ins. Co. of America, 935 F.2d 522, 526 (2d Cir. 1991), it is important to note that petitioner initiated this action over the disputed sum. To permit a reduction in attorney's fees because of the small sum at stake in the instant case ...


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