The opinion of the court was delivered by: Spatt, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER
In this case, the Plaintiff, a former Nassau County Police
Officer, brought a Section 1983 action against the Nassau County
Police Department and various individual police officers,
alleging that he had been discriminated against because of his
homosexuality in violation of the Equal Protection clause of the
14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. A jury returned a
verdict in favor of the Plaintiff against all but three of the
Defendants, and awarded the Plaintiff $360,000 in compensatory
and punitive damages. Presently before the Court is the
Plaintiff's application for attorney's fees.
The Court has previously described the factual scenario of this
case in Quinn v. Nassau County, 53 F. Supp.2d 347 (E.D.N Y
1999), and incorporates that recitation by reference here. In
short, the Plaintiff, Joseph Quinn, a former Nassau County Police
Officer, alleged that the Nassau County Police Department and
various individual police officers and supervisors violated his
right to equal protection by harassing and discriminating against
him in the terms and conditions of his employment because of his
homosexuality. Quinn's amended complaint alleged a Section 1983
violation bottomed on his right to equal protection; a second
Section 1983 claim grounded on his right to freedom of
expression; a Section 1985 claim that the Defendants conspired to
deprive him of his civil rights; and a claim based on New York
State's "Executive Order No. 28," 9 N.Y.C.R.R. § 4.28. Quinn
demanded $5 million in damages.
Prior to trial, the Court dismissed some of the causes of
action, and only the Section 1983 equal protection and Section
1985 conspiracy claims were submitted to the jury. Following a
10-day trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendants
Donald Kane, the Nassau County Police Commissioner; Daniel
Lishansky, the Deputy Chief; and Edward Gonzalez on all charges,
and returned a verdict in favor of the Plaintiff against the
remaining Defendants on both claims. 53 F. Supp.2d at 352-53. The
jury awarded Quinn $250,000 for emotional distress, $60,000 in
lost pay, $30,000 in punitive damages against Defendant Rice, and
$20,000 each in punitive damages against Defendants Allen and
Ryan. Id. In post-verdict motions, the Court dismissed the
Section 1983 claim against Defendant Rice on the ground that his
actions were done in his individual capacity, not "under color of
state law," 53 F. Supp.2d at 354-55, but left the Section 1985
violation found against Rice intact. 53 F. Supp.2d at 359-60.
Frederic Ostrove, Esq.: 486.25 hours at $250 per hour = $121,562.50
Lenard Leeds, Esq.: 30 hours at $350 per hour = $10,500
Susan Fitzgerald, Esq.: 191.25 hours at $200 per hour = $38,250
Scott Cholewa 150.5 hours at $100 per hour = $15,050
Total hours: 858 Total fee requested: $185,362.50
Ostrove, an associate in the Leeds & Morelli firm, was the
principal trial counsel for Quinn and was apparently responsible
for almost all the pleadings and discovery in the case.
Fitzgerald, an associate, second-chaired the trial and appears to
have done some pre-trial preparation of exhibits and witnesses.
Leeds is a partner in the firm of Leeds & Morelli, who conducted
intermittent conferences regarding the case with Ostrove and
Quinn. Cholewa, a non-lawyer, is a staff member of Leeds &
Morelli, responsible for supervising the firm's interns and
paralegals. It is claimed that Cholewa performed "trial
consulting," such as preparation of witnesses, digesting
depositions, and assisting in drafting opening and closing
The Defendants challenge the hourly rates requested by the
Plaintiff, suggesting that the appropriate rates are $225 per
hour for Leeds, $200 per hour for Ostrove, $125 per hour for
Fitzgerald, and $75 per hour for Cholewa. The Defendants also
suggest that the number of hours claimed by the Plaintiff is
excessive and should be reduced to approximately 500 hours. The
Defendants seek an additional reduction of the fee award to
reflect the verdict in favor of Defendants Kane, Lishansky, and
Gonzalez, and a reduction due to a monetary settlement Plaintiff
received in a "malpractice claim" against his previous attorneys.
The Defendants do not contest the Plaintiff's claimed
A prevailing party in a case brought pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1985 may be awarded his reasonable attorney's fees.
42 U.S.C. § 1988(b). Because of the district court's familiarity
with the quality of the representation and the extent of the
litigation, the decision whether to award fees and the amount of
fees awarded are issues generally confined to the sound
discretion of the court. Gierlinger v. Gleason, 160 F.3d 858,
876 (2d Cir. 1998). The well-known formula for calculating
attorney's fees is the "lodestar" method described in
Pennsylvania v. Delaware Valley Citizens' Council for Clean
Air, 478 U.S. 546, 565, 106 S.Ct. 3088, 92 L.Ed.2d 439 (1986).
Under this method, the court makes an initial calculation of a
lodestar amount by multiplying the number of hours reasonably
spent on the litigation by a reasonable hourly rate. Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433, 103 S.Ct. 1933, 76 L.Ed.2d 40
(1983); LeBlanc-Sternberg v. Fletcher, 143 F.3d 748, 763-64 (2d
Cir. 1998); Gierlinger, 160 F.3d at 876; Luciano v. Olsten
Corp., 109 F.3d 111 (2d Cir. 1997). If the court finds that
certain claimed hours are excessive, redundant, or otherwise
unnecessary, the court should exclude those hours from its
lodestar calculation. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434, 103 S.Ct. 1933;
Luciano, 109 F.3d at 116. Once the initial lodestar calculation
is made, the court should then consider whether upward or
downward adjustments are warranted by factors such as the extent
of success in the litigation and the degree of risk associated
with the claim. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434 and n. 9, 103 S.Ct.
1933, citing Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc.,
488 F.2d 714, 717-719 (5th Cir. 1974).
In making the initial lodestar calculation, the Court finds
that the hourly rates requested by Quinn's counsel are excessive.
The rate to be used in the calculation must be the rate
"prevailing in the community for similar services by lawyers of
reasonably comparable skill, experience, and reputation."
Luciano, 109 F.3d at 111, citing Blum v. Stenson,
465 U.S. 886, 896 n. 11, 104 S.Ct. 1541, 79 L.Ed.2d 891 (1984). The Second
Circuit has recently held that rates of $200 for partners, $135
for associates and $50 for paralegals are reasonable rates for
legal services in the Eastern District. Savino v. Computer
Credit, Inc., 164 F.3d 81, 87 (2d. Cir. 1998); Luciano, 109
F.3d at 111-112 (collecting cases); Cruz v. Local Union No. 3,
Int'l. Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, 34 F.3d 1148, 1160 (2d
Cir. 1994). Therefore, the Court will apply these rates in making
the initial lodestar calculation. While Ostrove is an associate
at Leeds & Morelli, he served as lead counsel in this case, and
apparently did so with minimal supervision from Leeds. Therefore,
in making the lodestar calculation, the Court will use the $200
per hour rate for Ostrove's hours.
Next, the Court must determine the number of hours that were
reasonably expended in this litigation. Upon reviewing the time
sheets submitted by plaintiff's counsel, and based upon this
Court's own knowledge of the trial of the case, the Court
concludes that some of the 858 hours sought by the Plaintiff are
unnecessary and excessive. For example, most of Fitzgerald's time
involves her attendance at the trial, where her role consisted
largely of observation. The Court notes that Fitzgerald has
passed the bar exam, but is not yet admitted to the New York
State Bar. While the Court recognizes that Fitzgerald may have
provided some useful services supporting Ostrove during the
trial, it does not consider all of her billed hours to be
reasonably necessary to the prosecution of this case. The ...