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Port Authority Police Asian Jade Society of New York & New Jersey Inc. v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

April 14, 2010

THE PORT AUTHORITY POLICE ASIAN JADE SOCIETY OF NEW YORK & NEW JERSEY INC., CHRISTIAN ENG, NICHOLAS YUM, ALAN LEW, HOWARD CHIN, DAVID LIM, GEORGE MARTINEZ, STANLEY CHIN, MILTON FONG, RICHARD WONG, SANRIT BOONCOME AND MICHAEL CHUNG, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cedarbaum, J.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Familiarity with the detailed history of this Title VII discrimination case is presumed. Jury trial began on March 11, 2009. The jury returned its verdict on March 26, 2009, and awarded seven of the eleven plaintiffs $1,637,622 in back pay and compensatory damages.*fn1 On January 13, 2010, I denied the motion of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (the "Port Authority") to grant judgment as a matter of law, a new trial, or a remittitur. Plaintiffs now move for an award of attorneys' fees and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k).

Plaintiffs' lead counsel, Karen King, began work on the case while associated with the law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP ("Cravath"). When Ms. King left Cravath for Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP ("Paul Weiss"), she brought the matter with her. Plaintiffs seek an award of fees and costs, totaling $2,357,658.63. For the following reasons, the attorneys' fees and costs are granted in part.

DISCUSSION

Title VII provides that "the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party... a reasonable attorney's fee (including expert fees) as part of the costs...." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k). While the decision to award attorneys' fees and costs is committed to my discretion, fees should be awarded to a prevailing plaintiff "absent special circumstances." New York Gaslight Club, Inc. v. Carey, 447 U.S. 54, 68 (1980) (citing Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, 390 U.S. 400, 402 (1968).

Plaintiffs Eng, Fong, Lew, Lim, Martinez, Yum, and Stanley Chin are "prevailing parties" because the jury returned a verdict in their favor and awarded them back pay and compensatory damages. See, e.g., Bridges v. Eastman Kodak, 102 F.2d 56, 58 (2d Cir. 1996).

I. Attorney's Fees

I calculate the presumptive "reasonable attorney's fee" that may be awarded under § 2000e-5(k) by determining a "reasonable hourly rate" and multiplying that rate by the "number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation." Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983).*fn2

A. Plaintiffs' Fee Request

Plaintiffs request the following fee award:

Paul, Weiss     NamePositionHoursHourly RateTotal Susanna BuergelPartner98.7$400$39,480 Karen KingAssociate (Class of 2000)968.2$400$387,280 Moira WeinbergAssociate (Class of 2004)151.1$300$45,330 Jane O'BrienAssociate (Class of 2004)387$300$116,100 Dominika TerczynskaAssociate (Class of 2005)126.5$300$37,950 Michael BergerAssociate (Class of 2005)245.6$300$73,680 Allison GrodinAssociate (Class of 2007)517.7$200$103,540 Weiss Satyam BeeAssociate (Class of 2007)149.9$200$29,980 Chloe CliffordParalegal498.9$100$49,890 Grace ChoiParalegal488.4$100$48,840 Abigail CushingParalegal323.2$100$32,320 Total: 3955.2 $964,390 Cravath     NamePositionHoursHourly RateTotal Karen KingAssociate (Class of 2000)435.5$400$174,200 Christopher HarwoodAssociate (Class of 2003)617.8$300$185,340 Andrew GoldsmithAssociate (Class of 2004)442.1$300$132,630 Eva TemkinAssociate (Class of 2004)257.5$300$77,250 Lauren MoskowitzAssociate (Class of 2005)288.2$200$57,640 Richard TuckerAssociate (Class of 2006)642.3$200$128,460 Varsha KarkeraParalegal1034.5$100$103,450 Christine FungParalegal472.8$100$47,280 Total: 4190.7 $906,250 Grand Total: (both Firms) 8145.9 $1,870,640

B. Reasonable Hourly Rates

The "reasonable hourly rate" is meant to approximate the hourly rate a client would be willing to pay. Arbor Hill Concerned Citizens Neighborhood Association v. County of Albany, 522 F.3d 182, 190 (2d Cir. 2007). Among the factors relevant when determining what a client would be willing to pay are: the "novelty and difficulty of the questions"; "the skill required to properly" pursue the case; "the results obtained" in the case, "awards in similar cases"; and, whether the client would be able to negotiate a lower rate in light of reputational benefits that may flow to the lawyer from litigating that case. Id., (citing to the twelve factors enumerated in Johnson v. Ga. Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th Cir. 1974) (abrogated on other grounds, Blanchard v. Bergeron, 489 U.S. 87 (1989)). The ...


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