v. Soba, 502 U.S. 909, 116 L. Ed. 2d 246, 112 S. Ct. 303 (1991). In Rivera, cited by defendants, the court awarded an hourly rate that was the average of counsel's normal fees of $ 150 to $ 180 per hour. Malarky also is of no avail to defendants because that court cited specific reasons (none which are applicable here) for adjusting counsel's fees.
The district court has broad discretion in deciding the reasonable hourly rate. Mr. Hollis normally charges $ 225 per hour, and defendants have failed to submit specific contrary evidence tending to show that a lower rate would be appropriate. We conclude that $ 225 per hour is a reasonable hourly rate for a partner with Mr. Hollis's litigation experience practicing in Westchester.
2. Mr. Frank's hourly rate
Defendants argue that the rate of $ 200 per hour charged by Mr. Frank is excessive because (1) it is not clear whether Mr. Frank was a partner or an associate and (2) plaintiff provided no information demonstrating the extent of Mr. Frank's civil rights or litigation experience. Defendants urge this court to award $ 100 per hour for Mr. Frank's work, based on Malarky, where the court awarded $ 100 per hour for work performed by an associate. However, plaintiff indicates in her Rely papers that Mr. Frank is a partner, not an associate. Furthermore, defendants cite no authority for the proposition that a court should reduce an attorney's hourly rate for lack of experience. An attorney's hourly rate already should account for experience (general litigation or otherwise), and the rates normally charged provide compelling evidence of prevailing market rates. Therefore, we decline to adjust Mr. Frank's hourly rate.
3. Paralegal's hourly rate
Defendants argue that the rate of $ 70 per hour charged for paralegal work is excessive for a Westchester law firm.
Because plaintiff provides no evidence describing the experience, training and salary of the paralegal used, defendants argue that a 50% reduction is appropriate. Def.'s Mem. at 6. Defendants then argue that $ 25 per hour is a reasonable fee for paralegal services. See Pickman v. Dole, 671 F. Supp. 982, 990 (S.D.N.Y. 1987).
We agree that $ 80 per hour charged for paralegal work in this case is excessive. We find that a 50% reduction in the fee charged for paralegal services is warranted.
B. Reasonable amount of time spent
Defendants attack the reasonableness of the hours expended by plaintiff's counsel on the following grounds: (1) failure to delegate simpler litigation tasks to associates in the firm; (2) improper accounting of travel time; and (3) unreasonableness of time expended in specific instances.
1. Failure to delegate
Defendants argue that partner level attorneys who are paid premium rates should not be fully compensated for time expended on tasks that can be delegated to lower paid associates. Defendants argue that 39 hours expended by Mr. Hollis "could have been delegated to a junior associate with little supervision." Def.'s Mem. at 7. Specifically, defendants cite the following hours:
a) 8.6 hrs. (4/14/93-7/13/93, 8/30/93) -- preparation of the notice of claim and the performance of pre-litigation conferences;
b) 7.0 hrs. (10/15/93) -- prepare for and attend 50h hearing;
c) 1.4 hrs. (10/18/93, 11/18/93, 11/19/93) -- preparation of medical release and letters to doctors;
d) 6.2 hrs. (11/16/93, 2/8/94-2/16/94) -- revision of complaint;
e) 2.5 hrs. (2/8/94) -- review 50h transcript;
f) 13.3 hrs. (11/30/94-12/6/94) -- prepare for and conduct EBTs.
The proper test is an ex ante, not ex post, inquiry whether or not certain tasks should have been assigned to more junior level attorneys. We find counsel's delegation of tasks to be reasonable.
2. Travel time
Defendants argue that an attorney's normal rate should be charged for travel time only when it can be shown that legal work was performed during travel. The Second Circuit has not ruled specifically on the compensability of attorney travel time. However, it has indicated that "a different rate of compensation may well be set for different types of litigation tasks." Cohen v. West Haven Board of Police Commissioners, 638 F.2d 496, 505 (1980).
We find it appropriate to reduce attorney's fees for travel time by 50% for lack of productivity. We find a reduction in this case particularly appropriate because counsel drove himself to conferences and other appointments, rather than using public transportation, in which case he might have demonstrated sufficient productivity to warrant his full rate for travel time. Because counsel has not separately allocated fees for travel time, we must estimate how much time was billed for travel. Based on counsel's time sheets, we estimate that approximately ten hours were billed for travel at the rate of $ 225 per hour. We reduce this portion of the fees by 50%, or $ 1,125.
3. Time charged during jury deliberations and for the instant motion
Defendants dispute the reasonableness of various other entries by plaintiff's attorney. Specifically, defendants argue that the 18 hours billed during two days of jury deliberations is excessive. Because plaintiff's counsel has not specified what other work was performed beyond the seven hours per day during two days of jury deliberations, we deduct two hours for each of the two days of jury deliberations, or $ 900. In addition, we deduct the $ 135 charged for a post verdict conference with a juror.
In addition, defendants argue that 6.5 hours expended by an associate at $ 165 per hour to research the instant motion for attorney's fees should be excluded. "An attorney should not be compensated for learning the basics of Section 1988 attorney fee litigation." Def.'s Mem. at 10. In the alternative, defendants argue that a rate of $ 165 per hour for associate work is excessive, and that $ 100 per hour is more reasonable.
Reasonable attorneys' fees incurred in connection with preparation of the petition to recover attorneys' fees under section 1988 and the related litigation are recoverable. Based on the record, we conclude that the 6.5 hours were not spent simply "learning the basics of Section 1988 attorney fee litigation." The actual drafting and revising of the memorandum in support of the application is included in this time. In fact, the associate who researched and drafted the brief for this motion was quite efficient.
With the exceptions noted by the adjustments above ($ 2,655.50 in total), the amount of time expended and the hourly rate charged are reasonable. There is a "strong presumption" that the lodestar figure represents a "reasonable" fee. City of Burlington v. Dague, 505 U.S. 557, 562, 120 L. Ed. 2d 449, 112 S. Ct. 2638 (1992); Grant v. Martinez, 973 F.2d 96, 101 (2d Cir. 1992), cert. denied sub nom. Bethlehem Steel Corp. v. Grant, 506 U.S. 1053, 113 S. Ct. 978, 122 L. Ed. 2d 132 (1993). However, "the product of reasonable hours times a reasonable rate does not end the inquiry." Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434; Grant, 973 F.2d at 101. A court must consider other factors which may cause us to adjust the fee. One such "important factor" is the "results obtained." Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434.
II. Adjustments after consideration of the "results obtained"
This consideration is particularly important where a plaintiff is deemed "prevailing" even though she succeeded on only some of her claims for relief:
In this situation two questions must be addressed. First, did the plaintiff fail to prevail on claims that were unrelated to the claims on which she succeeded? Second, did the plaintiff achieve a level of success that makes the hours reasonably expended a satisfactory basis for making a fee award?
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434. The party advocating a departure from the lodestar calculation bears the burden of establishing that an adjustment is necessary to reach a reasonable fee. United States Football League v. National Football League, 887 F.2d 408, 413 (2d Cir. 1989), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 1071, 107 L. Ed. 2d 1022, 110 S. Ct. 1116 (1990); Grant, 973 F.2d at 101.
A. Failure to prevail on claims unrelated to successful claim
Defendants argue that plaintiff's attorney is not entitled to fees for time expended on unsuccessful issues which are unrelated and hence severable. In a suit where a plaintiff presents "in one lawsuit distinctly different claims for relief that are based on different facts and legal theories . . . counsel's work on one claim will be unrelated to his work on another claim." Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434-35. "The congressional intent to limit awards to prevailing parties requires that these unrelated claims be treated as if they had been raised in separate lawsuits, and therefore no fee may be awarded for services on the unsuccessful claim." Id. at 435. Defendants argue that a 20% reduction is warranted because plaintiff's unsuccessful claim against the Sheriff's Department alleging a municipal policy of inadequate training and supervision is legally and factually distinct and therefore severable from her successful claim against one of the individual deputy sheriffs.
Defendants' reliance on this principle is misplaced. The Supreme Court held that "where the plaintiff has failed to prevail on a claim that is distinct in all respects from his successful claims, the hours spent on the unsuccessful claims should be excluded. . . ." Hensley, 461 U.S. at 440 (emphasis added). In the instant case, plaintiff's unsuccessful claim against the County alleged that the Sheriff's Department was directly responsible for the deputy sheriffs' specific actions that were the subject of the individual claims against the deputy sheriffs. Therefore, we conclude that the claims are not "distinct in all respects." Id. The Supreme Court has noted that
it may well be that cases involving such unrelated claims are unlikely to arise with great frequency. Many civil rights cases will present only a single claim. In other cases the plaintiff's claim for relief will involve a common core of facts or will be based on related legal theories. Much of counsel's time will be devoted generally to the litigation as a whole, making it difficult to divide the hours expended on a claim-by-claim basis. Such a lawsuit cannot be viewed as a series of discrete claims.