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GUARDIANS ASSOCIATION POLICE DEPT. v. CITY OF NEW YORK

United States District Court, S.D. New York


June 2, 2004.

THE GUARDIANS ASSOCIATION OF THE POLICE DEPARTMENT OF NEW YORK, INC., Plaintiff
v.
THE CITY OF NEW YORK, Defendant

The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEWIS KAPLAN, District Judge

ORDER

This employment discrimination action was brought by a fraternal organization representing African-American New York City police officers against the City. The matter has been settled. It is before the Court on the application of plaintiffs' counsel, presumably pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e-5(k), for attorneys fees and costs in the amounts of $99,187.50 and $446.94, respectively. The attorneys fee portion of the application breaks down as follows:*fn1

Attorney Hours Rate Extension Mr. Goodstein 96.25 S350 $33,687.50 Ms. Kelly 71.17 $300 $21,350.00 Ms. Zelman 147.28 $300 $44,184.00 Total 314.70 $99,221.50
  Defendant opposes the application. Although it does not challenge plaintiffs' contention that they were prevailing parties within the meaning of the statute or the general reasonableness of the hourly rates sought, it contends that the application is supported only by vague claims of hours worked, in any case seeks compensation for excessive hours, improperly seeks recovery for clerical work, includes travel time that should be compensated at half the usual rate, should be computed on historic rather than current hourly rates, and includes excessive time for the preparation of the fee application. Before considering these objections, it is important to place this case in its proper context.

  This case was filed in July 1999 and assigned to a different judge. No depositions were taken. There was no meaningful motion practice. For all practical purposes, the case was inactive for years while a class action entitled Latino Officers Ass'n v. City of New York, 99 Civ. 9568 (LAK), which made claims similar to those asserted here, was litigated intensively. In late 2003, the parties for Latino Officers were involved in settlement negotiations with the assistance of a special master. In recognition of the possible desirability of settled this action together with Latino Officers, the undersigned accepted reassignment of this case from Judge Cederbaum and set a schedule for pretrial proceedings here, whereupon plaintiffs and the City reached a settlement. In consequence, the tasks that plaintiffs' counsel in this case were called upon to undertake were quite limited. They drafted a complaint and an amended complaint, presumably monitored the progress of Latino Officers, and then negotiated a settlement in the context of the much larger and broader class action settlement in Latino Officers.

  Against this background, it is apparent that the number of hours for which plaintiffs' counsel seek compensation exceeds any reasonably and justifiably devoted to the matter, even assuming that the hours claimed actually were devoted to the case.*fn2 While the Court would be justified in denying the application based on the deficiencies of the time records, it has concluded that it is sufficiently familiar with the matter to estimate the time reasonably devoted to the matter. Taking into account also the other factors relied upon by defendant (viz. the reasonableness of compensating travel and clerical work at a reduced rate, the excessiveness of the time devoted to this fee application, and plaintiffs' use of current rather than historic rates), the Court discounts the hours for which compensation is sought by 80 percent. As defendant does not object to the hourly rates sought, a reasonable attorneys' fee in this action would be $19,844.30.

  For the foregoing reasons, plaintiffs' motion for attorneys fees and costs is granted to the extent that plaintiffs are awarded $19,844.30 in attorneys fees plus S446.94 in costs. The attorneys fees are payable to the firm of Goodstein & West in the amount of $11,014.30 and Bonita Zelman, Esq., in the amount of $$8,830. The costs are payable to the firm of Goodstein & West in the amount of $246.94 and to Bonita Zelman, Esq., in the amount of $200.

  SO ORDERED.


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