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Buckley v. Slocum Dickson Medical Group, Pllc

United States District Court, N.D. New York

July 1, 2015

RUDOLPH A. BUCKLEY, M.D., Plaintiff,
v.
SLOCUM DICKSON MEDICAL GROUP, PLLC as successor in interest to Slocum Dickson Medical Group, P.C., Defendants.

KOWALCZYK, TOLLES LAW FIRM ANDREW S. KOWALCZYK, JR., ESQ., JOSEPH S. DEERY, JR., ESQ., MICHELLE E. BROADBENT, ESQ., Utica, New York, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

BARCLAY DAMON LLP ANTHONY J. PIAZZA, ESQ., Rochester, New York, Attorneys for Defendants.

JUDITH M. SAYLES, ESQ., ANNE B. DOTZLER, ESQ., Syracuse, New York.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

DAVID N. HURD, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Rudolph A. Buckley ("Buckley" or "plaintiff") initially filed this action in the Supreme Court, Oneida County, against his former employer, defendant Slocum-Dickson Medical Group ("Slocum-Dickson" or "defendant") asserting, inter alia, a state law breach of contract claim and seeking a declaratory judgment and an accounting. Defendant, claiming that the breach of contract cause of action arose under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), removed the case to federal court. The parties completed discovery and plaintiff moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56.

On April 23, 2013, a Memorandum-Decision & Order issued partially granting Buckley's motion. Buckley v. Slocum Dickson Med. Grp., PLLC ("Buckley"), 941 F.Supp.2d 251 (N.D.N.Y. 2013). The parties stipulated to dismissal of the remaining causes of action and plaintiff then sought attorneys' fees, which were granted over Slocum-Dickson's objection in the amount of $47, 723. Judgment was entered in plaintiff's favor for $666, 455.64.

Slocum-Dickson then appealed the grant of summary judgment to Buckley, who cross-appealed seeking an upward modification of the fee award. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, after constructively amending plaintiff's complaint to assert a claim under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), affirmed the judgment by summary order and left the amount of attorneys' fees undisturbed. Buckley v. Slocum Dickson Med. Grp., PLLC ("Buckley II"), 585 F.Appx. 789, 794 (2d Cir. 2014) (summary order).

Buckley has now filed this motion seeking to recover additional attorneys' fees from Slocum-Dickson for time accrued subsequent to July 29, 2013, the time expended defending the grant of summary judgment on appeal. The motion has been fully briefed and will be considered on the basis of the submissions without oral argument.

II. DISCUSSION[1]

Slocum-Dickson raises a litany of objections to Buckley's fee request, asserting it is inappropriate, untimely, unreasonably large, and based almost entirely on work improperly completed by a disbarred attorney.[2]

A. Propriety of Fee Request

Buckley purports to base this latest fee request on the same broad contractual language found in the Employment Agreement that formed the basis of his first fee award. Slocum-Dickson asserts that, "[a]bsent remand, a district court in this Circuit is not authorized to determine in the first instance whether an award of attorneys' fees is warranted for the appellate phase of the proceedings." Def.'s Mem. Opp'n, ECF No. 63, 7.[3]

"The award of attorneys' fees may involve intensive factfinding and a large degree of discretion. Therefore a district court generally decides this issue in the first instance." L.I. Head Start Child Dev. Servs., Inc. v. Econ. Opportunity Comm'n of Nassau Cnty., ...


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