Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

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.

Barsoumian v. University at Buffalo

United States District Court, Second Circuit

October 18, 2013



WILLIAM M. SKRETNY, Chief District Judge.


Plaintiff Raffi Barsoumian, M.D., commenced this action in November 2006 seeking injunctive relief and damages for Defendants' failure to reinstate him in a medical residency program after he successfully grieved the non-renewal of his employment agreement. In a March 18, 2012 Decision and Order, this Court, among other things, granted Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment against Defendants Roseanne Berger, M.D., and James Hassett, M.D. in their official capacities with the University at Buffalo, the State University of New York School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Defendants were ordered to reinstate Plaintiff to the program as a resident on probation.

Presently before this Court is Plaintiff's motion seeking attorneys' fees in connection with this successful § 1983 claim for prospective injunctive relief. Familiarity with the facts and procedural history of this case is assumed.


Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b), a court, in its discretion, may award reasonable attorney's fees to a prevailing party in an action brought pursuant to § 1983. Where, as here, attorneys' fees are ancillary to the grant of prospective relief against Defendants in their official capacities, specifically Plaintiff's reinstatement, the Eleventh Amendment does not apply as a bar to the monetary award. Missouri v. Jenkins , 491 U.S. 274, 280, 109 S.Ct. 2463, 2467-68, 105 L.Ed.2d 229 (1989); N.Y.C. Health & Hosp. Corp. v. Perales , 50 F.3d 129, 135 (2d Cir. 1995).

A. Reasonable Attorneys' Fees

Both the Second Circuit and the Supreme Court have held that "the lodestar - the product of a reasonable hourly rate and the reasonable number of hours required by the case - creates a presumptively reasonable fee.'" Millea v. Metro-North Railroad Co. , 658 F.3d 154, 166 (2d Cir. 2011) (quoting Arbor Hill Concerned Citizens Neighborhood Assoc. v. Cnty. of Albany ("Arbor Hill") , 522 F.3d 182, 183 (2d Cir. 2008)). The application of the lodestar method in this Circuit also requires a district court, "in exercising its considerable discretion, to bear in mind all of the case-specific variables that [the Second Circuit] and other courts have identified[1] as relevant to the reasonableness of attorney's fees in setting a reasonable hourly rate." Arbor Hill , 522 F.3d at 190 (emphasis removed); see Barfield v. N.Y.C. Health and Hosp. Corp. , 537 F.3d 132, 151-52 (2d Cir. 2008). Ultimately, "the presumptively reasonable fee is what a reasonable paying client would be willing to pay, giving that a client wishes to spend the minimum necessary to litigate the case effectively." Disabled Patriots of America, Inc. v. Niagara Group Hotels, LLC , 688 F.Supp.2d 216, 223 (W.D.N.Y. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted); see Arbor Hill , 522 F.3d at 184.

1. Hourly Rate

Generally, the reasonable hourly rate is the hourly rate employed by attorneys in the district in which the litigation is brought. Simmons v. N.Y.C. Transit Auth. , 575 F.3d 170, 174 (2d Cir. 2009). Defendants do not dispute that the hourly rates charged are reasonable, and this Court agrees.

2. Hours Expended

Defendants do make several categorical objections to the hours billed. First, Defendants argue that approximately 42 hours billed are not supported by adequate descriptions of the work performed or, in the case of approximately 24 of those hours, any itemization. (Decl. of David J. Sleight, Esq., ¶ 3, Docket No. 166.) "[A] party seeking attorneys' fees bears the burden of properly documenting the hours worked and that obligation is not satisfied by a vague entry such as conference with' or call to' a particular person." CDO Plus Master Fund Ltd. v. Wachovia Bank, N.A., No. 07-CV-11078 (LRS)(AJP), 2011 WL 4526132, *4, (citing Connecticut Hosp. Ass'n v. O'Neill , 891 F.Supp. 687, 690-91 (S.D.N.Y. 1994)). Counsel should "at least... identify the general subject matter of his time expenditures." Connecticut Hosp. Ass'n , 891 F.Supp. at 691 (quoting Hensley v. Eckerhart , 461 U.S. 424, 437 n. 12, 103 S.Ct. 1933, 76 L.Ed.2d 40 (1983)).

In his reply, Plaintiff supplements his initial submission by providing billing records for the unitemized hours attributed to attorney Andrew Fleming in 2005 and 2006. (See Docket No. 167.) These hourly entries, like many of the objected-to entries in the initial submission, list generic telephone conferences or meetings. The Court therefore finds that an overall five-percent reduction is appropriate. See In re Agent Orange Product Liability Litigation , 818 F.2d 226, 237-38 (2d Cir. 1987) (across the board percentage reduction practical means of "trimming fat from a fee application").

Defendants also object to hours billed for unrelated services. With respect to those hours billed for work related to the motions of co-defendant University Medical Resident Services, P.C., the claims against this Defendant and Defendants Hassett and Berger were inextricably intertwined and involved a common core of facts. Green v. Torres , 361 F.3d 96, 98 (2d Cir. 2004) (citing Hensley , 461 U.S. at 435); Quaratino v. Tiffany & Co. , 166 F.3d 422, 425 (2d Cir. 1999). Critical to Plaintiff's claims against all Defendants was whether reinstatement was legally or practically impossible. Tatum v. City of New York, No. 06-cv-4290 (PGG)(GWG), 2010 WL 334975, *14 (S.D.N.Y. 2010) (rejecting argument that fees and costs related to co-defendant should not be included in fee award). Similarly, references to hours billed for "ACGME" matters are not unrelated. The fact that the American Council for Graduate Medical Education ...

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.