The opinion of the court was delivered by: FREDERICK SCULLIN, Chief Judge, District
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
Plaintiffs New York State Teamsters Conference and Retirement Fund
("Pension Fund") and New York State Teamsters Council Health and Hospital
Fund ("Health Fund") (collectively "the Funds") prevailed in their action
against Defendant United Parcel Service, Inc. ("UPS") under § 515 of
the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"),
29 U.S.C. § 1145. Subsequently, as the prevailing party, Plaintiffs filed the
present motion for attorneys' fees and costs pursuant to Rule 54(d) of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and § 502(g)(2) of ERISA,
29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(2)(D). The following constitutes the Court's written
decision with respect to the pending motion.
A. Plaintiffs' request and Defendant's objections
Plaintiffs contend that they are entitled to the full amount that they
have requested as well as "such further relief as the Court deems just
and proper" because the award of attorneys' fees and costs is mandatory
under the statute and because Defendant's tactics prior to and during
this litigation were designed to "unnecessarily drag out and multiply the
issues involved." Specifically, Plaintiffs claim that Defendant (1)
asserted a frivolous counterclaim, (2) improperly issued a subpoena after
the close of discovery, and (3) filed a motion in limine that
Defendant knew or should have known was not well-founded and that the
Court ultimately rejected.
Plaintiffs seek $93,805.00 in attorneys' fees and $12,385.05 in costs,
for a total of $106,190.05 for work that their local counsel,
Hancock & Estabrook, LLP ("Hancock &
Estabrook"), performed. In addition, Plaintiffs seek $1,347,205.70
in attorneys' fees and $157,435.11 in costs, totaling
$1,504,640.81 for work that their lead counsel, Morgan, Lewis
& Bokius, LLP ("Morgan, Lewis"), performed. In sum, Plaintiffs seek a
total of $1,610,830.86 in attorneys' fees and costs from
On May 5, 2003, Defendant filed a memorandum in opposition to
Plaintiffs' motion for attorneys' fees and costs, arguing that the amount
requested is unreasonable and should be denied "in substantial part."
Defendant claims that the hourly rates that Plaintiffs' attorneys charged
exceed the prevailing rates in this district and that the hours claimed
are insufficiently documented or are excessive, redundant, and
unnecessary. In addition, Defendant objects to Plaintiffs' request for
costs associated with plane tickets and other transportation, meals,
lodging, postage/delivery, computer research, and clerical overtime on
the ground that these expenses are not taxable as costs under §
1132(g)(2). Based upon its objections, Defendant contends that Plaintiffs
are entitled to no more than $737,736.50 in attorneys' fees and
$12,026.00 in costs.
The Court will address each of the issues that the parties have raised
B. The reasonableness of Plaintiffs' request for attorneys'
To determine the reasonableness of an attorneys' fees application, the
Second Circuit uses the lodestar method. SeeLuciano v. Olsten
Corp., 109 F.3d 111, 115 (2d Cir. 1997) (citations omitted). The
lodestar amount is calculated by multiplying a reasonable hourly rate by
the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation. See id.;
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983).*fn2 The court may
then increase this lodestar amount, in its discretion, with particular
emphasis placed on the degree of the prevailing party's success. See
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434 (footnote omitted).*fn3 The prevailing
party has the burden to establish the appropriate hourly rate and to
document the time reasonably expended. See id. at 437. However,
"[a] request for attorney's fees should not result in a second major
Both parties agree that this Court must calculate the award of
attorneys' fees according to the lodestar method. They disagree, however,
with respect to the values of the two main components of that calculation
the reasonable hourly rate and the reasonable number of hours
expended. In this regard, Defendant contends that Plaintiffs' attorneys'
hourly rates are unreasonably high and that the hours billed are
excessive, redundant, and unnecessary.
Defendant also protests any increase in the fee award beyond the
initial lodestar calculation.
1. Plaintiffs' requested hourly rates
The reasonable hourly rate must be "in line with those prevailing in
the community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable
skill, experience and reputation." Blum v. Stenson,
465 U.S. 886, 895 n.11 (1984). The "prevailing community" has been
interpreted as the district where the court sits. Luciano,
109 F.3d at 115 (quotation omitted). The court also has the discretion
to increase a fee award in certain circumstances, see Hensley,
461 U.S. at 434, however, "[t]he burden of proving that such an
adjustment is necessary to the determination of a reasonable fee is on
the fee applicant." Blum, 465 U.S. at 898.
Courts in this district have held that the prevailing rate for
experienced attorneys is $175 per hour. See, e.g., Patterson v.
Julian, 250 F. Supp.2d 36, 45 (N.D.N.Y. 2003) (citing I.B.E. W.
Local No. 910 Welfare, Annuity and Pension Funds ex rel. Love v.
Dexelectrics, Inc., 98 F. Supp.2d 265, 275 (N.D.N.Y. 2000)) (other
citations omitted). In Local 910, the court specified that the
prevailing rates in this district are $175 per hour for the most
experienced attorneys, $125 per hour for attorneys with four or more
years of experience, $100 per hour for attorneys with less than four
years experience, and $65 per hour for work done by paralegals. See
Local No. 910, 98 F. Supp.2d at 275 (citations omitted).
Defendant objects to the rates that Plaintiffs' attorneys charged and
contends that this Court should apply the hourly rates set forth in
Local 910. Defendant concedes, however, that a rate of $200 per
hour is reasonable for attorney Jonathan Rose based upon his special
expertise; however, Defendant argues that no other upward adjustment in
the fee allowance is justified.
Plaintiffs' documentation for the hours that its Morgan, Lewis
attorneys expended shows that they charged the following hourly rates:
between $330 and $415 for partners and of counsel, between $115 and $375
for associates, and between $100 and $145 for legal assistants/law
Plaintiffs' documentation for the hours that its Hancock &
Estabrook attorneys expended does not clearly show the hourly rates for
most of the attorneys individually, as they are typically grouped
together on the invoices. However, it appears that the hourly rates they
charged are as follows: between $185 and $225 for partners, ...