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.

ROMAINE v. RAWSON

May 6, 2004.

LORENZO O. ROMAINE, Plaintiff, -against- BOYCE RAWSON, Defendant


The opinion of the court was delivered by: LAWRENCE KAHN, District Judge

MEMORANDUM — DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Lorenzo O. Romaine ("Plaintiff") commenced an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming that Defendant Boyce Rawson ("Defendant") violated his constitutional rights. Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's motion, which seeks attorneys' fees and costs stemming from this litigation and a declaration that the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), which caps the hourly rate for attorneys' fee awards in 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(d)(3), is unconstitutional.

I. BACKGROUND

 (a) Procedural history

  Plaintiff filed this action seeking $4 million in compensation for injuries he suffered at the hands of Defendant on May 18, 1998, while he was incarcerated at Mount McGregor Correctional Facility. A bench trial was held in November 2001, and the Court rendered a decision on April 17, 2001, finding that Defendant used excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment and awarding Plaintiff $1000 in compensatory damages and $500 in punitive damages. Defendant then appealed this decision to the Second Circuit. In settlement of the appeal, the parties agreed to file a joint motion to vacate this Court's April 17 decision, and Plaintiff agreed to accept $1500 plus interest in settlement of all claims. (Dkt. No. 80, Exhibit C: Stipulation of Settlement and Discontinuance at 1, 2). While the bench trial resulted in the Court finding that Defendant had violated Plaintiff's constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, the stipulation provided that the agreement shall not "be construed as an acknowledgment of the validity of any of the allegations or claims made in this action." (Dkt. No. 80, Exhibit C: Stipulation of Settlement and Discontinuance at 3). This Court explained its denial of the motion to vacate:
When the parties in a § 1983 case brought by an inmate do not adequately represent the public's interest in creating a record of prison abuse, the Court must ensure that this interest is not seriously undermined. If defendants are allowed to use the threat of appeal to pressure inmates to accept settlement agreements which effectively exonerate defendants, violations of prisoners' civil rights will go unrecorded. The Court refused to vacate its decision because of the overriding interest in holding responsible the prison guard who violated Romaine's civil rights. Romaine v. Rawson, No. 99-cv-603, slip op. (N.D.N.Y. November 11, 2003).
  However, said stipulation was "so-ordered" by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals' mandate to vacate. The stipulation contained the following provision, which is significant to the present motion:
 
Plaintiff reserves the right to apply to the District Court for an award of costs and fees, including attorneys' fees as authorized by 42 U.S.C. § 1988 and 1997e, and defendant acknowledges that plaintiff is qualified as a "prevailing party" for purposes of an award of attorney's fees under those sections. Plaintiff may file and serve a motion for such fees no later than sixty (60) days after the plaintiff's counsel receives a copy of the so-ordered stipulation. . . . (Dkt. No. 80, Exhibit C: Stip. of Settlement & Discontinuance at ¶ 6).
(b) The present motion

  Plaintiff filed this motion for attorneys' fees on December 29, 2003. Therein, he requests $73,484.00 which is the total amount due to his attorneys. However, Plaintiff recognizes that 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(d)(3) may be an obstacle to this request: No award of attorney's fees in an action described in paragraph (1) shall be based on an hourly rate greater than 150 percent of the hourly rate established under section 3006A of Title 18 for payment of court-appointed counsel.

  Plaintiff acknowledges that in this provision, the PLRA caps the hourly rate in prisoner civil rights litigations such as this at $112.50, and therefore the recoverable attorneys' fees would be reduced to $31,552.88. To avoid this cap, Plaintiff now argues that this provision violates the equal protection clause. He further contends that excessive force claims should be exempted from the PLRA's limits on attorney's fees.

  In addition to rebutting the arguments set forth by Plaintiff, Defendant opposes the present motion by claiming that it is untimely, that the fees sought are grossly disproportionate to the results achieved, and that another PLRA provision, namely 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(d)(2), limits the maximum amount of attorney's fees to not greater than 150 percent of the judgment, here $2,250.00.

  II. DISCUSSION

 (a) Timeliness

  In an effort to deny Plaintiff any recovery of fees, Defendant argues that under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(2)(B) the present motion is untimely. Rule 54(d)(2)(B) provides that "[u]nless otherwise provided by statute or order of the court, the motion [for attorney's fee] must be filed no later than 14 days after entry of judgment. . . ."

  Defendant now attempts to argue that Plaintiff's filing was beyond the proscribed time for such a motion. Defendant states that the latest time an "entry of judgment" was made was on November 3, 2003 when the Court "so ordered" the Stipulation of Settlement and Discontinuance. Accordingly, relying solely on the 14 day time limit set forth in the Rule, Defendant argues that when Plaintiff filed the current motion on December 23, 2003, the time for filing had since passed. However, such an argument is disingenuous, for Defendant ignores the key provision that it agreed to: "Plaintiff may file and serve a motion for [attorney's] fees no later than sixty (60) days after the plaintiff's counsel receives a copy of the so-ordered stipulation." ...


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.