continued to litigate after it became clear that their action was unreasonable and frivolous, the Court finds that Plaintiffs are responsible for Defendants' attorney's fees.
II. Motion for Rule 11 Sanctions
Defendants have also moved for sanctions against Plaintiffs' attorneys pursuant to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 11(b) provides in relevant part that monetary sanctions may be awarded against an attorney who submits papers to the Court containing claims, defenses, and other legal contentions that are not warranted by existing law or makes a frivolous argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b)(2). In making this determination, the court must focus not upon the attorney's subjective good faith belief, but upon whether his or her conduct was objectively reasonable under the circumstances. Business Guides v. Chromatic Communications Enters., Inc., 498 U.S. 533, 551, 112 L. Ed. 2d 1140, 111 S. Ct. 922 (1991). In cases "where it is clear that a party's attorney should have known that there was absolutely no possibility of prevailing on the merits given the precedent against the claims, sanctions are necessary to deter such counsel from wasting the time and resources of the adversaries as well as the court." Cohen v. Bane, 853 F. Supp. 620, 629 (E.D.N.Y. 1994) (citation omitted).
Applying the objectively reasonable standard from the Supreme Court's Business Guides, the Court finds that if Plaintiffs' attorneys had undertaken a reasonable inquiry of the applicable law and listened to the Court's admonishment, they should have determined that Plaintiffs' claims were clearly barred by the doctrine of res judicata. Therefore, pursuant to Rule 11(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court awards a monetary sanction against Plaintiffs' attorneys in the amount of reasonable attorney's fees as set forth.
III. Calculation of Fees and Sanctions
In calculating a reasonable amount of attorney's fees and/or sanctions, the Court takes into consideration the failure of Defendants' attorneys to bring a motion to dismiss at an earlier stage in this case. As described above, it was clear that Plaintiffs' claims were barred by res judicata. As such, the Defendants' attorneys should have brought a motion to dismiss as soon as they received the complaint in August 1994. Instead, Defendants' motion for summary judgment was not filed until March 24, 1995, after extensive discovery had already occurred.
The Court therefore calculates Defendants' attorney's fees based upon that work attributable to bringing the summary judgment motion and excludes that work related to discovery matters. n3 The Court finds the recoverable fees to be as follows:
J.C. Engelbrecht 39.40 hours X $ 100/hour = $ 3,940
Attorney for Village of Baldwinsville
Martin J. Murphy 22 hours X $ 85/hour = $ 1,870
Attorney for County of Onondaga
Verner R. Love 30 hours X $ 125/hour
Attorney for Rob Roy Pools, Inc. $ 332.10 (trans. costs) =
and Susan M. Weichert
Total = $ 9,892.10 n4
The Court notes that the hourly rate it uses is that rate provided by
Defendants' attorneys themselves. Absent an attorney's submission of a
specific hourly rate, courts apply the "lodestar method" where a
determination is made of the hours reasonably spent by counsel multiplied
by the reasonable hourly rate. In the Northern District of New York
reasonable hourly rates for legal work are $ 150 per hour for partners
and $ 100 per hour for associates. Segarra v. Messina, 158 F.R.D.
230, 235 (N.D.N.Y. 1994).
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