Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

PATTERSON v. JULIAN

March 14, 2003

STEPHEN PATTERSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TIMOTHY JULIAN, INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS MAYOR OF THE CITY OF UTICA; AND CITY OF UTICA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hurd, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM — DECISION and ORDER

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Stephen Patterson ("plaintiff") brought suit against defendants Timothy Julian, Individually, and as Mayor of the City of Utica ("Mayor Julian"), and the City of Utica ("the City of Utica"), alleging six causes of action:

First — Termination and hostile work environment based on his race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000 et seq.;

Second — Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981, denial of equal opportunities in violation of the equal protection and due clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment;

Third — Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, retaliation for the exercise of First Amendment rights, failure to provide a name-clearing hearing or restoration of employment in violation of property and liberty interests guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment;

Fourth — Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985, conspiracy to deprive plaintiff of constitutional protections on the basis of his race;

Fifth — Deprivation of rights guaranteed by New York Human Rights Law § 296;

Sixth — Slander and libel pursuant to common law. (Complaint, Docket No. 1, ¶ 30-46). Plaintiff, prior to trial, stipulated to the discontinuance of his First, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth causes of action. (See Docket No. 22).

Taken from the Complaint, the following are the facts upon which plaintiff based his claims. Plaintiff, an African-American, after working for the City of Utica for some period of time, was appointed to the position of Commissioner of Public Works by former Mayor Edward Hanna. In this position, plaintiff claims he was subject to a racially hostile environment by various employees of the City of Utica. Plaintiff claims Mayor Hanna made no response when informed of said environment, and plaintiff instead "was berated and made subject to undeserved controversies surrounding his leadership position so as to compel an involuntary resignation or grounds for discharge. (Complaint, Docket No. 1, ¶ 15).

Plaintiff claims he was unlawfully terminated from his position as Commissioner of Public Works on four occasions. Upon returning after the first termination, plaintiff alleged that various agents of the City of Utica monitored his private life, and then fired him on the basis of false allegations of criminal wrongdoing. Plaintiff was rehired again, but alleged that the damage to his reputation was permanent. Plaintiff alleged that former Mayor Hanna was aware of all of these events, but made no effort to investigate. Plaintiff was fired again after Mayor Julian took office. Plaintiff alleged that he was given no means to defend himself. Plaintiff alleged that Mayor Julian, or individuals acting on his behalf, began distributing false statements about plaintiff to community leaders as a way to justify the termination, and making public statements about improper drug use in the department in which plaintiff had worked. Plaintiff alleges that at no time as to each firing by Mayors Hanna and Julian, was he provided an opportunity to clear his name.

On December 2, 2002, a five-day jury trial commenced. After closing arguments, the jury was presented with a "Verdict Form," asking them to answer questions relating to three different types of claims. (Verdict Form, Docket No. 31). Under the heading "Race Discrimination Claims — Section 1983," the jury was asked three questions. The first question asked whether the City of Utica discriminated against plaintiff on the basis of his race in terminating him on four separate occasions. The second question asked whether the City of Utica discriminated against plaintiff on the basis of his race with regard to a hostile work environment. The third question asked whether Mayor Julian discriminated against plaintiff on the basis of his race in terminating plaintiff on one occasion. The jury answered no to all three questions in favor of the defendants.

For the City of Utica's due process violation, the jury awarded plaintiff $16,167.00 in loss of earnings, $218,250.00 for emotional distress and/or loss of reputation to date, and $48,500.00 for future emotional distress and/or loss of reputation, this latter award to cover two years, for a total award of $282,917.00. Defendants thereafter moved for a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 50 (Docket No. 33), and plaintiff moved for judgment as a matter of law for his claims on which the jury found in defendants' favor (Docket No. 37). Both motions were denied. (Docket No. 46).

Plaintiff thereafter moved for attorney's fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988, attaching time records for work performed in connection with the case. (Docket Nos. 48 and 49). Defendants opposed. (Docket Nos. 51 and 52). This motion, taken on submit with no oral argument, is the subject of this Order.

II. DISCUSSION

"[A]bsent explicit statutory authority," plaintiffs and defendants "are ordinarily required to bear [their] own attorney's fees — the prevailing party is not entitled to collect from the loser." Buckhannon Bd. and Home Care, Inc. v. West Virginia Dept. of Health and Human Resources, 532 U.S. 598, 602, 121 S.Ct. 1835, 149 L.Ed.2d 855 (2001). Among the statutes authorizing the award of attorney's fees is 42 U.S.C. § 1988 ("§ 1988"), which provides, in relevant part, "[i]n any action or proceeding to enforce a provision of section[] . . . 1983 . . . of this title, . . . the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party, . . . a reasonable attorney's fee as part of the costs[.]" As the language indicates, in order to recover, a moving party must establish both: (1) eligibility to a fee award ("prevailing party" status); and (2) entitlement to a fee award ("reasonableness" of the award sought). See Pino v. Locascio, 101 F.3d 235, 237 (2d Cir. 1996). Here, there is no dispute that plaintiff is a prevailing party, and is thus eligible for a fee award. The parties do differ, however, as to the reasonableness of the award sought.

As noted, plaintiff is entitled only to a "reasonable" fee. See Pino, 101 F.3d at 237. The fee to be awarded to the prevailing party is based on the "lodestar" figure, "which is arrived at by multiplying the `number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation . . . by a reasonable hourly rate'." Gierlinger v. Gleason, 160 F.3d 858, 876 (2d Cir. 1998) (quoting Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.