The court disagrees with the former argument and agrees, to the
limited extent set forth herein, with the latter.
I. General Principles
A prevailing party in a civil rights case is entitled to
recover a reasonable attorney's fee. 42 U.S.C. § 1988. A party
will be deemed to have prevailed in a lawsuit if he has obtained
"at least some relief on the merits of his claim," that
"directly benefit[s] him at the time of the judgment or
settlement." Farrar v. Hobby, 506 U.S. 103, 111, 113 S.Ct.
566, 121 L.Ed.2d 494 (1992). The amount to be awarded is left to
the discretion of the trial court.
The starting point for calculation of the fee is arriving at
the lodestar amount. That amount is the amount of hours claimed
to have been spent on the matter, multiplied by a reasonable
hourly fee. See Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433, 103
S.Ct. 1933, 76 L.Ed.2d 40 (1983). When determining the proper
hourly fee, the court looks to the prevailing market rate that
would be charged for similar work by attorneys of like skill in
the area. Cohen v. West Haven Board of Police Commissioners,
638 F.2d 496, 506 (2d Cir. 1980). Once the proper lodestar fee
is calculated, the court may consider other factors that may
adjust the lodestar — either upward or downward. The district
court must exclude "excessive, redundant or otherwise
unnecessary hours, as well as hours spent on unsuccessful
claims." .Id. at 440, 103 S.Ct. 1933.
An attorney is not automatically entitled to the lodestar
amount as the "reasonable" attorney's fee. Instead, the court
must consider several factors including: (1) the time and labor
required; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the question
presented; (3) the skill required to perform the legal service
properly; (4) the preclusion of employment by the attorney due
to the acceptance of the case; (5) the customary fee; (6)
whether the fee is fixed or contingent; (7) time limitations
imposed by the client or the circumstances; (8) the amount
involved and the results obtained; (9) the experience,
reputation, and ability of the attorneys; (10) the
"undesirability" of the case; (11) the nature and length of the
professional relationship with the client; and (12) awards in
similar cases. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 430 n. 3, 103 S.Ct. 1933,
quoting Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, 488 F.2d 714 (5th
When considering these factors, the degree of success obtained
is the most critical factor to consider. Hensley, 461 U.S. at
424, 103 S.Ct. 1933. Where a plaintiff achieves only partial or
limited success, the lodestar amount may be excessive. Id. at
436, 103 S.Ct. 1933. If a plaintiff receives only a nominal
damage award, an award of fees may be denied completely, despite
the plaintiffs status as a technically "prevailing" party.
Farrar, 506 U.S. at 115, 113 S.Ct. 566; Pino v. Locascio,
101 F.3d 235, 238 (2d Cir. 1996). However, even if a nominal
award is obtained, an award of fees may nonetheless be
appropriate. When considering whether a fee is to be awarded,
the court considers not only the amount of the award but other
factors including whether the lawsuit established a new rule of
liability as well as the public interest in encouraging injured
parties to vindicate their civil rights through a lawsuit. See
Anderson v. City of New York, 132 F. Supp.2d 239, 242-43
The mere fact that the fee sought exceeds the plaintiffs
recovery does not preclude an award based upon the lodestar
calculation. Orchano v. Advanced Recovery, Inc., 107 F.3d 94,
98 (2d Cir. 1997).
Indeed, there are numerous cases awarding attorneys' fees well
in excess of the damages awarded. See, e.g., City of Riverside
v. Rivera, 477 U.S. 561, 564-67, 106 S.Ct. 2686, 91 L.Ed.2d 466
(1986) (approving attorneys' fee award of $245,456.25 following
damages verdict of $33,350); Grant v. Bethlehem Steel Corp.,
973 F.2d 96, 101-02 (2d Cir. 1992) (fee award of $245,456.25
after $60,000 settlement), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 1053, 113
S.Ct. 978, 122 L.Ed.2d 132 (1993); Cowan v. Prudential Ins.
Co., 935 F.2d 522, 528 (2d Cir. 1991) (fees of $54,012.76 in
case awarding damages of $15,000); Foster v. Kings Park Central
School District, 174 F.R.D. 19, 25 (E.D.N.Y. 1997) (referring
to case where $51,000 in attorneys' fees was awarded following a
jury verdict of $15,440). "The reduction of a requested fee
merely because the damages recovery was small is `error unless
the size of the award is the result of the quality of
representation.'" Orchano, 107 F.3d at 98, quoting, DiFilippo
v. Morizio, 759 F.2d 231, 235 (2d Cir. 1985).
II. Plaintiffs Counsels' Application
Plaintiffs' counsel seeks an award of attorneys' fees in the
total amount of $43,002.50. The fee schedule upon which this
award is premised is based upon a fee of $19,705.00 for Steven
Civardi, Esq. (56.3 hours times an hourly rate of $350) and $21,
925.00 for Richard Obiol, Esq., the attorney who tried the case
(87.7 hours times an hourly rate of $250). Counsel also seek
reimbursement of expenses in the amount of $1,372.50.
III. Decision on the Motion
Upon consideration of the standards referred to above the
court holds that plaintiffs are prevailing parties within the
meaning of Section 1988 and are therefore entitled to an award
of a reasonable attorney fee.
Having made this determination, the court considers the proper
lodestar figure and any appropriate adjustments thereto. The
court holds that, when considering the prevailing market rate
for attorneys with like experience and skill of each of
plaintiffs attorneys, each of these attorneys' hourly fees
should be adjusted as follows: The court sets the fee for Mr.
Civardi at $250 per hour. The court sets the fee for Mr. Obiol
at $200 per hour. The fee for Mr. Obiol is lowered because he
has less experience than Mr. Civardi and this case was Mr.
Obiol's first civil rights trial.
The court has reviewed the billing summary submitted, finds
those hours reasonable and declines defendants' invitation to
rule that any hours submitted were not necessary. The court also
declines, in this matter, to reduce the fee requested based upon
the pursuit of unsuccessful claims. The unsuccessful claims
shared a common core of facts with the successful claim and were
therefore so inextricably intertwined with each other as to make
a reduction in fees on this basis unjust. See Reed v. A.W.
Lawrence & Co., 95 F.3d 1170, 1183 (2d Cir. 1996). Finally, the
court holds that counsel may recover all expenses sought to be
Plaintiffs motion for an award of attorneys' fees is granted.
Counsel for plaintiff is to submit an order in accord with the
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