Appeals from an order of the Supreme Court, Monroe County (Evelyn Frazee, J.), entered May 18, 2009. The order, insofar as appealed from, denied those parts of the motions of plaintiff and plaintiff's former attorney for attorneys' fees and expenses pursuant to CPLR article 86 and granted the motions of defendants to quash the subpoenas duces tecum issued to their attorneys.
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PRESENT: SCUDDER, P.J., PERADOTTO, CARNI, GREEN, AND GORSKI, JJ.
It is hereby ORDERED that the order insofar as appealed from is reversed on the law without costs, the motions of defendants are denied in part, defendants are directed to produce only those documents pertaining to them, and the matter is remitted to Supreme Court, Monroe County, for further proceedings in accordance with the following Opinion by Peradotto, J.: The primary question presented by this appeal is whether a prevailing plaintiff in a sex discrimination action against the State may recover attorneys' fees and expenses pursuant to the New York State Equal Access to Justice Act ([EAJA] CPLR art 86). We agree with plaintiff and her former attorney, appellant Emmelyn Logan-Baldwin, that they are entitled to seek attorneys' fees and expenses under the plain language of the EAJA.
Facts and Procedural History
Plaintiff, a former State Trooper, commenced this action in 1995 alleging that she was subjected to discrimination on the basis of sex and to acts of sexual harassment and retaliation; she also alleged that she was exposed to a hostile work environment for approximately 15 years. Plaintiff asserted violations of, inter alia, the Human Rights Law (Executive Law art 15) and sought compensatory damages, declaratory and injunctive relief, and reinstatement as a State Trooper. Plaintiff was awarded damages upon a jury verdict in her favor, and this Court affirmed that judgment on a prior appeal (Kimmel v State of New York, 49 AD3d 1210, lv dismissed 11 NY3d 729). Thereafter, plaintiff and Logan-Baldwin each moved for, inter alia, an award of attorneys' fees and expenses pursuant to the EAJA. In opposition to the motions, defendants contended, inter alia, that the EAJA does not apply to this action and that the fees sought by plaintiff and Logan-Baldwin were unreasonable.
Logan-Baldwin's attorney issued a subpoena duces tecum directing the attorneys for defendants, Jaeckle, Fleischmann & Mugel, LLP (JFM), to produce "[a]ll documents, including but not limited to invoices, statements and New York State Standard Vouchers submitted by you to the State of New York for legal and paralegal services rendered by any member or employee of your firm and expenses and disbursements incurred in connection with your representation of any of the following parties to the above action," which included defendants and former defendants.
Plaintiff's attorney likewise issued a subpoena duces tecum directing JFM to produce "[a]ll documents, including but not limited to invoices, statements and New York State Standard Voucher[s] submitted by you to the State of New York for legal and other non-attorney personnel services rendered by you and any member and/or employee of the firm of [JFM] and expenses and disbursements incurred in connection with your representation of the following parties," which also included defendants and a former defendant.
Defendants moved to quash the subpoenas pursuant to CPLR 2304 contending, inter alia, that their fee records were irrelevant to the court's determination of the reasonableness of the legal fees incurred by plaintiff.
Plaintiff and Logan-Baldwin appeal from the order denying their respective motions for, inter alia, attorneys' fees and expenses pursuant to the EAJA. Supreme Court concluded that "the EAJA does not apply to a situation where a plaintiff has recovered compensatory damages for tortious acts of the State and its employees." The court also in effect granted defendants' motions to quash the subpoenas. We conclude that the order should be reversed insofar as appealed from inasmuch as the court erred in determining that the EAJA is inapplicable to this action and in granting in their entirety defendants' motions to quash the subpoenas.
The Motions of Plaintiff and Logan-Baldwin
New York enacted the EAJA in 1989 in order "to create a mechanism authorizing the recovery of counsel fees and other reasonable expenses in certain actions against the state of New York" (CPLR 8600). The purpose of the EAJA is "to assist economically disadvantaged litigants in obtaining legal assistance in the prosecution of actions seeking to obtain redress from wrongful actions of the state" (Matter of Scott v Coleman, 20 AD3d 631, 631, lv dismissed 5 NY3d 880). To that end, the EAJA provides that eligible parties who prevail in a civil action against the State are entitled to legal fees and other expenses incurred in the prosecution of that action (see CPLR 8601 [b]). Eligible parties include those individuals ...