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Charles v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

September 4, 2014

CITY OF NEW YORK, et al., Defendants.


PAUL A. ENGELMAYER, District Judge.

Freddy Charles brought this civil rights lawsuit, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the City of New York and several officers of the New York City Police Department ("NYPD") (collectively, "defendants"), alleging constitutional violations sounding in false arrest and excessive force. Charles accepted an Offer of Judgment from defendants in the amount of $60, 000.01. Charles now seeks $64, 289.25 in attorneys' fees, expenses, and costs. Defendants do not contest that Charles is entitled to fees, expenses, and costs, but argue that the amount Charles seeks is too high. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants Charles's fee application, with specified exceptions and modifications that serve to reduce it to $48, 983.50.

I. Background

A. Factual Allegations

On June 2, 2011, Charles was arrested, along with four other individuals, at the scene of an altercation outside a bodega in the Bronx, New York. Charles alleges that, although he was not involved in the altercation, at least one officer pushed him from behind and placed him under arrest when he exited the bodega. He was then placed in an NYPD van and driven to the local precinct for processing and booking. Charles alleges that, while in custody, he was handcuffed excessively tightly, causing bruising and swelling to his wrists, as well as lasting physical injuries requiring extensive medical attention.

Charles was eventually released from custody when the Bronx County District Attorney declined to prosecute him. In total, he was held in custody for about 31 hours.

B. Procedural History

On May 24, 2013, Charles filed the complaint in this action, alleging that he was falsely arrested and subjected to excessive force in connection with his June 2, 2011 arrest. Dkt. 1. The case was assigned to the Southern District of New York's Plan for Certain § 1983 Cases Against the City of New York (the "Plan"). On February 25, 2014, Charles filed an amended complaint. Dkt. 30.

In attempting to value the case for settlement, the parties relied in large part on the records of an investigation by the Civilian Complaint Review Board ("CCRB") into the arrests of Charles and the others. The investigation, which included the testimony of six NYPD officers and five civilians, generated a nearly 300-page investigative file and about seven hours of audiotaped recordings of witness interviews. The file itself was not produced to Charles until after the Plan-mandated mediator session, which took place on November 26, 2013.

Once the file was produced, Charles disputed a fact reported by the CCRB, which significantly affected the case's settlement value. The written CCRB report notes that Charles had stated to the CCRB that he had a prior injury to his wrist-the same part of his body that he claims was injured during his June 2, 2011 arrest. Charles later denied having a prior wrist injury or making any statement to that effect to the CCRB. And the recording of Charles's CCRB interview does not disclose his making any such statement. Defendants maintained during the course of the litigation-and continue to maintain-that Charles did make such a statement to the CCRB interviewer, but did so off the record, when he was having his wrist photographed for the file.

On May 20, 2014, defendants served an Offer of Judgment, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 68, on Charles, in the amount of $60, 000.01, plus reasonable attorney fees, expenses, and costs. See Dkt. 66 (Declaration of Dara A. Olds in Opposition to the Motion for Attorney Fees, Costs, and Expenses ("Olds Decl.")) Ex. B. On May 30, 2014, Charles filed a formal notice of acceptance of defendants' Rule 68 Offer. Dkt. 46.

C. The Instant Motion

On July 15, 2014, Charles filed a motion for attorneys' fees, expenses, and costs, Dkt. 55; a supporting memorandum of law, Dkt. 56 ("Pl. Br."); and two supporting declarations-one from Jessica Massimi, Dkt. 57 ("Massimi Decl."), and one from Steven M. Weiner, Dkt. 58 ("Weiner Decl.").

On July 25, 2014, defendants submitted a declaration in opposition, see Olds Decl., and a memorandum of law, Dkt. 74 ("Def. Br.").

On August 8, 2014, Charles submitted a reply, Dkt. 68 ("Pl. Reply Br."), and two supporting declarations, Dkt. 69 ("Massimi Reply ...

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