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WILDER v. BERNSTEIN

October 23, 1997

SHIRLEY WILDER, et al., Plaintiffs, against BLANCHE BERNSTEIN, individually and as Administrator of the New York City Human Resources Administration, et al., Defendants.

Robert J. Ward, U.S.D.J.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: WARD

In an Opinion dated August 12, 1997, this Court granted plaintiffs' application made pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988 and 1920, and awarded plaintiffs attorney's fees in the amount of $ 72,149.15 and expenses in the amount of $ 2,813.46. Familiarity with the Court's Opinion is assumed. Plaintiffs now move, pursuant to Rule 6.3, Local Rules of the United States District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York ("Local Civil Rule 6.3"), for reconsideration of the decision. For the reasons that follow, the motion is denied.

 BACKGROUND

 On February 19, 1997, plaintiffs filed an application seeking attorney's fees in the amount of $ 112,457.90 and out-of-pocket litigation expenses in the amount of $ 27,394.41. Arguing that the award sought was excessive, defendants opposed the application on the grounds that plaintiffs had: (1) failed to demonstrate the reasonableness of their proposed hourly rates; (2) exercised poor billing judgment; (3) submitted vague time entries; and (4) sought reimbursement of expert fees in contravention of 42 U.S.C. § 1988.

 The Court awarded plaintiffs fees and expenses totaling $ 72,149.15. The difference between the amount sought and the fees awarded was based on the Court's findings that: (1) plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate that their proposed hourly rates were "prevailing market rates;" (2) plaintiffs had sought reimbursement for travel time to and from court dates at full hourly rates; (3) some of plaintiffs' time entries were not sufficiently detailed; and (4) plaintiffs were not entitled to reimbursement for expert fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. In their motion for reconsideration, plaintiffs challenge only the hourly rates fixed by the Court.

 DISCUSSION

 I. Plaintiffs' fee application

 Plaintiffs in this action are represented by Children's Rights, Inc. ("CRI"), a non-profit child advocacy organization. In their fee application, plaintiffs requested hourly rates of between $ 185 and $ 400 for their attorneys. The Court noted that the "burden is on the applicant to demonstrate that its fees are 'in line with those prevailing in the community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill, experience and reputation.'" Wilder v. Bernstein, 975 F. Supp. 276, 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11894, 78 Civ. 957, slip op. at 6 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 12, 1997) (quoting Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895 n.11, 79 L. Ed. 2d 891, 104 S. Ct. 1541 (1984)).

 Plaintiffs also relied on a survey entitled "A Firm-by- Firm Sample of Billing Rates Nationwide," conducted by the National Law Journal and published in the December 2, 1996 issue. The survey includes only six New York firms, a small segment of the New York legal market. Plaintiffs summarize the relevant portions of the survey as follows:

 
For example, the range of hourly rates for partners in the six firms is $ 205-$ 490. For associates, the range is $ 100-300.

 Pls.' Mem. Supp. Mot. Recons., at 7-8. Accepting plaintiffs' example, the rates awarded by the Court ($ 300 for Marcia Robinson Lowry, who would be the equivalent of a partner, $ 225 for Susan Lambiase, a junior partner, and $ 130 for Rebecca Kim Kimura, a junior associate), are well within the applicable market range.

 Defendants' opposition to the fee application included a summary of thirty-one recent fee awards, most of them from this district, which specified the hourly rates awarded in each case. Many of the cases, like the instant one, involved civil rights. With the exception of the Arkin Affidavit, which makes reference to "major New York law firms," plaintiffs' evidence was limited to rates charged by the largest and most expensive firms in New York. The Court, however, found this narrow glimpse of the New York legal market overly restrictive and ...


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