United States District Court, N.D. New York
L. SHARPE JUDGE
is plaintiff Disability Rights New York's (DRNY) motion
for an award of attorneys' fees and costs pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1988(b) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d)(1). (Dkt. No.
50.) DRNY requests an award of $90, 237.50, (id.,
Attach. 1 at 1), but defendants argue that, “after
appropriate reductions, the fee award . . . should be in the
range of $29, 870.80, ” (Dkt. No. 51 at
For the following reasons, the proper award is $76, 761.87.
action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the court has
discretion to award the prevailing party reasonable
attorneys' fees as part of the costs. See 42
U.S.C. § 1988(b). Section 1988's fee-shifting
provision represents a limited exception to the so-called
“American Rule, ” under which each party bears
its own litigation expenses, including attorneys' fees,
regardless of the outcome of the action. See Neroni v.
Coccoma, No. 3:13-cv-1340, 2014 WL 3866307, at *1
(N.D.N.Y. Aug. 6, 2014).
determine a reasonable attorneys' fee, courts use the
lodestar method: the product of a reasonable hourly rate and
the hours reasonably spent on the case. See Millea v.
Metro-North R.R. Co., 658 F.3d 154, 166 (2d Cir. 2011);
Miller v. City of Ithaca, 3:10-cv-597, 2017 WL
61947, at *2 (N.D.N.Y. Jan. 5, 2017). Generally, the district
court relies on the prevailing hourly rate from the district
in which it sits in calculating the lodestar. See Arbor
Hill Concerned Citizens Neighborhood Ass'n v. Cty. of
Albany & Albany Cty. Bd. of Elections, 522 F.3d 182,
191 (2d Cir. 2008). In determining what a reasonable client
would be willing to pay, the court considers several factors,
(1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and
difficulty of the questions; (3) the level of skill required
to perform the legal service properly; (4) the preclusion of
employment by the attorney due to acceptance of the case; (5)
the attorney's customary hourly rate; (6) whether the fee
is fixed or contingent; (7) the time limitations imposed by
the client or the circumstances; (8) the amount involved in
the case and the results obtained; (9) the experience,
reputation, and ability of the attorneys; (10) the
“undesirability” of the case; (11) the nature and
length of the professional relationship with the client; and
(12) awards in similar cases.
Broadcast Music, Inc. v. Northern Lights, Inc., 555
F.Supp.2d 328, 333 (N.D.N.Y. 2008) (quoting Arbor
Hill, 522 F.3d at 186 n.3).
a district court may use a percentage reduction of the
requested fees “as a practical means of trimming fat
from a fee application.” McDonald ex rel.
Prendergast v. Pension Plan of the NYSA-ILA Pension
Tr. Fund, 450 F.3d 91, 96 (2d Cir. 2006) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted). The court also
considers “whether, at the time the work was performed,
a reasonable attorney would have engaged in similar time
expenditures.” Grant v. Martinez, 973 F.2d 96,
99 (2d Cir. 1992). Ultimately, district courts have
substantial deference and may use estimates based on their
overall sense of a suit. See Fox v. Vice, 563 U.S.
826, 838 (2011) (“The essential goal in shifting fees .
. . is to do rough justice, not to achieve auditing
defendants do not dispute the reasonableness of DRNY's
proffered hourly rates, (see generally Dkt. No. 51),
and the court is satisfied that these rates are reasonable
given the experience and ability of counsel, (Dkt. No. 50,
Attach. 1 at 5-6), and are within range of the prevailing
in-District rates, (id. at 6-7), the only remaining
issue is whether the hours spent on this litigation were
defendants contend that an 85% reduction to DRNY's
proffered hours is in order given (1) excessive hours spent
by numerous attorneys on a limited number of filings, which
involved similar legal issues and little factual dispute; (2)
vague, unrelated, or non-compensable billing entries; and (3)
DRNY's “limited success.” (Dkt. No. 51 at 1,
carefully reviewing DRNY's time entries, (Dkt. No. 50,
Attach. 3), the court agrees with defendants that the time
expenditures are unreasonable due to their excessiveness and
vagueness. (Compare Dkt. No. 50, Attach. 3
with Dkt. No. 51 at 3-8, 10-11.) However,
defendants' requested reduction is also unreasonable.
Instead, the court has identified approximately seventy-four
hours that are unreasonable because they either involved
purely legal issues premised on undisputed facts, (see,
e.g., Dkt. No. 31, Attach. 3), in an area of the law
that DRNY's counsel specialized in, (Dkt. No. 50, Attach.
4), or were block billed, (see, e.g., id.,
Attach. 3 at 8 (billing seven hours for “[r]eview[ing]
changes to DD regulations. Draft[ing] notes. Draft[ing]
electronic correspondence to DRNY CZ and AS. Draft[ing]
letter to Judge Sharpe of the Northern District of New York
requesting permission to submit supplemental legal brief on
new DD regulations.”)). As such, a fifteen percent
reduction to the lodestar appropriately trims this fat.
See McDonald ex rel. Prendergast, 450 F.3d at 96.
After a reduction of $13, 475.63 to the lodestar, defendants
are awarded fees of $76, 361.87 and costs of
theory that DRNY is entitled to a further reduction because
the court did not adopt the exact language of its proposed
injunction is specious at best. (Dkt. No. 51 at 12-13.) It is
unreasonable to argue that DRNY achieved “limited
success” in this litigation. (Id. at 13.) On
the contrary, DRNY achieved overwhelming success throughout
this litigation, which culminated in the attainment of its
desired result at the dispositive motion stage. (Dkt. Nos. 24,
42, 48.) Accordingly, no further reduction is necessary.
for the foregoing reasons, it is hereby
that DRNY'S letter motion seeking permission to file a
reply (Dkt. No. 52) is DENIED; and it is
that DRNY's motion for attorneys' fees and costs
(Dkt. No. 50) is GRANTED and $76, 761.87 in
fees and costs is ...