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GREENBAUM v. HANDELSBANKEN

March 6, 1998

Victoria GREENBAUM, Plaintiff, against SVENSKA HANDELSBANKEN, N.Y., Defendant.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SOTOMAYOR

 Sonia Sotomayor, U.S.D.J.

 Plaintiff Victoria Greenbaum moves for an award of attorneys' fees and costs totaling $ 597,009.38, following a jury verdict in her favor in an action brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k), New York Exec. Law § 296, and New York City Administrative Code § 8-502(a)(f). For the reasons discussed below and in attached Tables 1 and 2, plaintiff is awarded $ 336,778.88.

 BACKGROUND

 Plaintiff brought this action against her former employer, defendant Svenska Handelsbanken, New York, claiming that defendant violated her rights under Title VII and the equivalent provisions of the New York Human Rights Law and New York City Administrative Code. Plaintiff alleged that she was denied promotions and other benefits, and was ultimately terminated from her position, because of her gender and her age. She also claimed that she was subject to a hostile work environment, and that she was retaliated against for filing a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights.

 The action was tried before a jury from April 28 to May 12, 1997, and on May 16, 1997, the jury rendered a verdict in favor of plaintiff on her claims of gender discrimination and retaliation, but against plaintiff on her claims of sexual harassment and age discrimination. The jury awarded $ 320,000 in back pay and $ 1,250,000 in punitive damages. This award was affirmed by this Court after consideration of post-trial motions regarding the appropriate standard of proof for the punitive damage claim, the applicability of a punitive damages cap under Title VII, and the inclusion of prejudgment interest in the jury award. See Greenbaum v. Svenska Handelsbanken, N.Y., 979 F. Supp. 973 (S.D.N.Y. 1997). *fn1"

 DISCUSSION

 I. Applicable Law

 A prevailing plaintiff in a Title VII action may collect attorneys' fees from a defendant under Title VII, which permits a court "in its discretion, [to] allow the prevailing party . . . a reasonable attorney's fee . . . as part of the costs" of the action. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k). The district court is afforded broad discretion in assessing a reasonable fee award based on the circumstances of the case. See, e.g., Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 437, 103 S. Ct. 1933, 1941, 76 L. Ed. 2d 40 (1983).

 In determining a reasonable attorneys' fee, a lodestar amount is calculated from the product of a reasonable hourly rate and the number of hours reasonably expended by each attorney. See Hensley, 461 U.S. at 437; see Luciano v. Olsten Corp., 925 F. Supp. 956, 965-66 (E.D.N.Y. 1996), aff'd, 109 F.3d 111 (2d Cir. 1997). The hourly rate should be "in line with those [rates] prevailing in the community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill, experience, and reputation." Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 896 n.11, 104 S. Ct. 1541, 1547 n.11, 79 L. Ed. 2d 891 (1984). In calculating the number of hours reasonably expended, a court should not reimburse "excessive, redundant or otherwise unnecessary" hours, as well as hours dedicated to severable unsuccessful claims. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434-35, 103 S. Ct. at 1939-40. Fees may be awarded for unsuccessful claims only when they are "inextricably intertwined" and "involve a common core of facts or are based on related legal theories." Reed v. A.W. Lawrence & Co., 95 F.3d 1170, 1183 (2d Cir. 1996).

 Once calculated, the lodestar amount may be modified based on equitable "considerations that may lead the district court to adjust the fee upward or downward, including the important factor of the 'results obtained.'" Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434 (noting that most "factors usually are subsumed within the initial calculation of hours reasonably expended at a reasonable hourly rate."). The lodestar figure is presumed, however, to represent a reasonable fee. See Orchano v. Advanced Recovery, Inc., 107 F.3d 94, 99 (2d Cir. 1997).

 II. Determination of Lodestar

 Plaintiff seeks $ 553,284.75 in attorneys' fees and $ 43,724.63 in costs. *fn2" Specifically, plaintiff requests compensation for: 1006.8 hours for lead counsel Robert Sapir (of Cooper, Sapir & Cohen) at $ 250/hr; 617.8 hours for Sapir & Frumkin partner Donald Sapir (Robert Sapir's brother) at $ 325/hr; 11.2 hours for partner David Cohen at $ 300/hr; 21.1 hours for partner William Frumkin at $ 250/hr; 16.3 hours for second-year associate Eliot Bernak at $ 150/hr; 37.4 hours for mid-level associate Louis Santangelo at $ 175/hr; ...


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