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IRISH v. CITY OF NEW YORK

March 8, 2004.

CLAUDE J. IRISH, JR., Plaintiff, -against- CITY OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT, SGT. DAVID FURMAN, Defendants


The opinion of the court was delivered by: RONALD ELLIS, Magistrate Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Claude Irish ("Irish") seeks attorney's fees and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988 and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d) for work performed by his counsel, Robert Spergel, in litigating his claims in these two cases. For the reasons which follow, the Court awards Irish $54,100.

  II. BACKGROUND

  Irish sued the City of New York, the New York City Police Department, and Sergeant David Furman, claiming that these defendants violated his rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the State and City Human Rights laws. He alleged that he was discriminated against based upon his race, subjected to a hosfile and abusive working environment, and retaliated against for having complained about his treatment. Irish's original complaint (98 Civ. 7131) was filed in 1998 with the assistance of a different attorney. In 2000, Spergel represented Irish in the second case (00 Civ. 9614), and replaced the attorney in the 1998 case. After completion of substantial discovery, the parties entered into a stipulation of Page 2 settlement as to both cases. Irish signed the agreement on or about April 19, 2003. See Affirmation of Robert H. Spergel ("Spergel Aff."), Exh. A. The parties were not able to agree on a reasonable attorney's fee, and agreed to have the undersigned decide the issue. In support of Irish's application, he has submitted time records maintained by Spergel. Spergel Aff., Exh. B.

  III. DISCUSSION

 A. Standard for Awarding Attorney's Fees

  A plaintiff may recover attorney's fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 if he is a "prevailing party" in the litigation. Section 1988 provides, in relevant part, that:
In any action or proceeding to enforce a provision of section[] . . . 1983 . . . of this title . . . the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party, other than the United States, a reasonable attorney's fee as part of the costs . . .
  The Supreme Court has adopted a common sense approach to attorney's fees litigation:
 
Where a plaintiff has obtained excellent results, his attorney should recover a fully compensatory fee. Normally, this will encompass all hours reasonably expended on the litigation, and indeed in some cases of exceptional success an enhanced award may be justified. In these circumstances the fee award should not be reduced simply because the plaintiff failed to prevail on every contention raised in the lawsuit . . . Litigants in good faith may raise alternative legal grounds for a desired outcome, and the court's rejection of or failure to reach certain grounds is not a sufficient reason for reducing a fee. The result is what matters.
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 434-35 (1983) (citation omitted). The district court is given broad discretion in granting a fee award and assessing a reasonable fee under the circumstances of the case. Id. at 437; Luciano v. Olsten Corporation, 109 F.3d 111, 115 (2d Cir. 1997).

  The starting point for the determination of a reasonable fee is the calculation of the lodestar amount, i.e., "the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate." Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433-34; see Quaratino v. Tiffany & Co., Page 3 166 F.3d 422, 425 (2d Cir. 1999) (en banc). In determining the number of hours reasonably expended for purposes of calculating the lodestar, the district court should exclude excessive, redundant or otherwise unnecessary hours. Quaratino, 166 F.3d at 425. The rate requested should 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, 896 n. 11 (1984); Cruz v. Local Union No. 3. 34 F.3d 1148, 1159 (2d Cir. 1994). The party seeking a fee award bears the burden of producing evidence demonstrating that the requested rates are in line with those prevailing in the community. See Wilder v, Bernstein, 975 F. Supp. 276, 281 (S.D.N.Y. 1997). The court may look to attorney's fees granted in other cases and rely on its own knowledge of the market to determine a reasonable rate. Blum, 465 U.S. at 895. A reasonable attorney's fee is "adequate to attract competent counsel" without resulting in "windfalls to attorneys." Id. at 897; see also Orchano v. Advanced Recovery, Inc., 107 F.3d 94, 96 (2d Cir. 1997). Generally, the relevant community for determining a reasonable hourly rate is the district in which the case was brought. See Luciano, 109 F.3d at 116; In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation, 818 F.2d 226,232 (2d Cir. 1987).

  A party seeking fees bears the burden of supporting its claim of hours expended by accurate, contemporaneous time records. See New York State Ass'n for Retarded Children v, Carey, 711 F.2d 1136, 1147-48 (2d Cir. 1983). Time records need not be overly detailed, but must be sufficiently specific so that the Court may assess the reasonableness of time expended in relation to the work performed. See United States Football League v. National Football League, 887 F.2d 408 (2d Cir. 1989), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 1071 (1990); Dailey v. Societe Generate, 915 F. Supp. 1315, 1328 (S.D.N.Y. 1996), aff'd in relevant Page 4 part, 108 F.3d 451 (2d Cir. 1997).

 B. The Reasonable Rate in This Case

  1. Irish's Position

  Irish seeks a total of $66,125 in attorney's fees and costs for Spergel's work, which is based on a rate of $300 per hour, and which includes 210.4 hours spent on litigating the merits of the claims, and 10 hours on the instant fee petition. In support of the requested rate, he cites a number of cases in this district in which counsel were awarded rates of $300 per hour or more. See, e.g., Baird v. Bois, Schiller and Flexner, LLP, 219 F. Supp.2d 510, 523 (S.D.N.Y. 2002) (rate of $300 per hour for associate with ten years' experience); Brenlla v. LaSorsa Buick Pontiac Chevrolet Inc., 2002 WL 1059117, at * 13 (S.D.N.Y. May 28, 2002) (rate of $345 per hour for partner with twelve years' experience and $270 and $175 for senior and junior associates, respectively); Gonzalez v. Bratton, 147 F. Supp.2d 180, 211-12 (S.D.N.Y. 2001) (rate range of $250 to $390 for the most senior attorneys, and $180 to $200 for the most junior attorneys); Colbert v. Furumuto Realty, Inc., 144 F. Supp.2d 251, 260 (S.D.N.Y. 2001) (rates of $325 and $300 for lead attorneys); Marisol A. v. Giuliani, 111 F. Supp.2d 381, 386-87 (S.D.N.Y. 2000) (rates of $375 for lead counsel and $300 for counsel with ten years' experience); Skold v. American Int'l Group, Inc., 1999 WL 405539 at *6-7 (S.D.N.Y. June 18, 1999), aff'd, 205 F.3d ...


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