The opinion of the court was delivered by: FREDERIC BLOCK, District Judge
Individuals residing in the immediate vicinity of a former
municipal landfill ("plaintiffs") sued the Town of Brookhaven
("Town") under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
("RCRA"), Clean Water Act ("CWA"), and state common law for
pollution of a pond and creek. General familiarity with the
litigation that followed is presumed. See Aiello v. Town of
Brookhaven, 136 F. Supp. 2d 81 (E.D.N.Y. 2001) (finding that
Town was not liable under CWA, but was responsible under RCRA for
contaminating Mott's Creek and Mott's Pond because it contributed
to disposal of solid waste presenting imminent and substantial endangerment to environment); Aiello v.
Town of Brookhaven, No. 94-CV-2622 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 15, 2001)
(dismissing plaintiffs' state common law claims).
Pending before the Court is plaintiffs' counsel's motion for
attorneys' fees and costs pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 6972(e).*fn1 For the reasons that follow, the Court awards
counsel attorneys' fees in the amount of $376,315.50 and costs in
the amount of $29,932.54.
When they commenced this action, plaintiffs were represented by
the law firm of Burton, Scott and Associates ("Burton firm"). In
January 1997, the Burton firm retained the law firm of Meyer,
Suozzi, English and Klein ("Meyer firm") as litigation
co-counsel. In November 2004, counsel moved for an interim,
pre-judgment award of attorneys' fees in the amount of
$290,424.50 for the Burton firm and $185,286.25 for the Meyer
firm. Counsel also sought costs in the amount of $30,845.15. No
action was taken by the Court until final judgment was entered on December 20,
2004.*fn2 Magistrate Judge Wall then endeavored to resolve
the parties' differences with respect to attorneys' fees and
costs, but was unsuccessful. The Court thereafter afforded
counsel the opportunity to supplement their application to
include the period from the submission of their motion through
the entry of judgment. In their supplemental submission, counsel
requested an additional $3,395.00 in fees for the Burton firm and
$10,112.50 in fees for the Meyer firm.*fn3 Their
supplemental submission also sought a 25 percent equitable fees
enhancement due to the contingent nature of their fee
arrangement; such enhancement increased the total fees request
from $489,218.25 to $611,522.81.
The Town posits the following objections: (1) certain billing
statements lack the requisite specificity; (2) certain billing
statements request hours that are excessive, redundant and
unnecessary; (3) fees should not be paid for plaintiffs'
unsuccessful statelaw claims; (4) the hourly rate sought is excessive and
unsubstantiated; (5) an equitable enhancement is not warranted;
and (6) counsel's requested costs are unsubstantiated and, with
respect to certain requests, not compensable.
As noted, see supra note 1, RCRA authorizes a court to "award
costs of litigation (including reasonable attorney . . . fees)"
to a "prevailing or substantially prevailing party."
42 U.S.C. § 6972(e).*fn4 As the Supreme Court has explained, "[t]his
language is similar to that of many other federal fee-shifting
statutes; our case law construing what is a `reasonable' fee
applies uniformly to all of them." City of Burlington v. Dague,
505 U.S. 557, 562 (1992) (internal citations omitted). "The
`lodestar' figure has, as its name suggests, become the guiding
light of [the Supreme Court's] fee-shifting jurisprudence." Id.
There is "a strong presumption that the lodestar represents the
reasonable fee." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). The
lodestar figure "is arrived at by multiplying `the number of
hours reasonably expended on the litigation . . . by a reasonable
hourly rate.'" Kirsch v. Fleet Street, Ltd., 148 F.3d 149, 172
(2d Cir. 1998) (quoting Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433
(1983)). The party seeking reimbursement bears the burden of
proving the reasonableness and necessity of hours spent and rates
charged. See generally, New York State Ass'n for Retarded Children, Inc. v.
Carey, 711 F.2d 1136 (2d Cir. 1983) ("Carey").
B. Determination of Attorneys' Fees
"In reviewing a fee application, the district court examines
the particular hours expended by counsel with a view to the value
of work product of the specific expenditures to the client's
case." Luciano v. Olsten Corp., 109 F.3d 111, 116 (2d Cir.
1997). Where documentation of billable hours expended is
deficient, the Court may reduce the fee award accordingly. See
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433. In addition, the district court
"should exclude excessive, redundant or otherwise unnecessary
hours[.]" Quarantino v. Tiffany Corp., 166 F.3d 422, 425 (2d
Counsel seek to recover fees for 1,453.57 hours of legal
services from October 19, 1993 through December 20, 2004. These
hours are broken down as follows: (1) with respect to the Burton
firm, Bernard Burton ("Burton"), 552.20 hours; Jonathan Scott
("Scott"), 155.32 hours; and Wendi Lindsey ("Lindsey"), 184.75
hours; and (2) with respect to the Meyer Firm, Robert Zausmer
("Zausmer"), 480.95 hours; G. Oliver Koppell ("Koppell"), 36.60
hours; Michael Ciaffa ("Ciaffa"), 37.50 hours; Andrew Turro
("Turro"), 2.25 hours; and paralegal services, 4.00 hours.
a. Adequacy of time records
The Town contends that counsel's time records are objectionable
due to their lack of specificity. In particular, they point to
vague time entries in Burton and Zausmer's billing statements and
the use of "block billing" by the Meyer firm, both of which, they argue, unduly impede the Court's ability to ascertain the nature
of the work performed.*fn5 Counsel respond that their
billing statements are appropriate, arguing that the Court,
applying its knowledge of the case, should be able to decipher
the time entries by reference to the context in which they occur.
In Carey, 711 F.2d at 1148, the Second Circuit held,
"[h]ereafter, any attorney . . . who applies for court-ordered
compensation in this Circuit for work done after the date of this
opinion must document the application with contemporaneous time
records. These records should specify, for each attorney, the
date, the hours expended, and the nature of the work done." Id.
(emphasis added). It is not required that counsel describe in
great detail how billable time was spent; it is sufficient to
identify the general subject matter of time expenditures. See
Perdue v. City Univ. of New York, 13 F. Supp. 2d 326, 345
(E.D.N.Y. 1998). Even where an attorney's time entries are, on
their face, vague, "courts may attempt to decipher them by
reference to the context in which these entries occur [to
determine] what work was involved." Bonnie & Co. Fashions, Inc.
v. Bankers Trust Co., 970 F. Supp. 333, 342 (S.D.N.Y. 1997)
(alterations in original; internal quotation marks omitted).
Courts may also use their knowledge of a case to assess time
entries. See Algie v. RCA Global Communications, Inc.,
891 F. Supp. 875, 894 (S.D.N.Y. 1994), aff'd, 60 F.3d 95 (2d Cir.
Nonetheless, "[w]here the documentation of hours is inadequate,
the district court may reduce the award accordingly." Hensley,
461 U.S. at 433. Because "it is unrealistic to expect a trial judge to evaluate and rule on every
entry in an application," ...