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OSHIVER v. PHILADELPHIA COURT OF COMMON PLEAS

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT, EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA


September 8, 1980

Sylvia OSHIVER
v.
PHILADELPHIA COURT OF COMMON PLEAS, COURT ADMINISTRATION

The opinion of the court was delivered by: POLLAK

MEMORANDUM

In June of 1978, Sylvia Oshiver filed with the appropriate federal agencies charges that her employer, the Court of Common Pleas, had, in failing to promote her, discriminated against her on grounds of age and sex. In September, 1978, Ms. Oshiver was notified that she was among those employees of the Court of Common Pleas who were being released for budgetary reasons. She then commenced this lawsuit, charging the failure to promote, and further, that her termination was both a second instance of age and/or sex discrimination and an act of retaliation for having filed the initial charges.

 After a series of hearings and arguments, I determined that plaintiff was entitled to a preliminary injunction. I held that she had made out a prima facie case that her discharge was the result of sex and/or age discrimination, and had made a sufficient showing of the other required elements-irreparable injury to herself, the lack of countervailing injury to defendant, and the absence of a public interest in not granting an injunction-to qualify for such interim relief. See Oshiver v. Court of Common Pleas, 469 F. Supp. 645 (E.D.Pa.1979). Pursuant to this determination, the parties agreed upon an order, which I approved on July 12, 1979, directing that plaintiff be reinstated, with full benefits, on July 16, the "preliminary injunction (to) remain in effect until final disposition of the matter on the merits . . ." Although the order did not direct the payment of backpay, it did note that plaintiff had not waived her claim to backpay for the period before reinstatement.

 The case has not yet come to trial. Nonetheless, plaintiff has petitioned for reimbursement of costs in the sum of $ 2,260.58 and for "interim counsel fees" in the amount of $ 49,780.50. The figure of $ 49,780.50 for attorney's fees represents a claim of $ 46,409.50 for work spent on achieving substantive relief for plaintiff, and $ 3,371.00 for time spent preparing the fee petition itself. The figures are derived from reports of hours spent on various aspects of plaintiff's claim as noted in contemporaneous time records. These hours have then been multiplied by the customary billing rates for each of the attorneys and assistants employed by plaintiff's law firm (varying from $ 100/hr. for the work of a partner in the firm to $ 27.50/hr. for various paralegal assistants). Finally, for work on the merits, plaintiff has doubled the Lindy lodestar to reflect a Lindy multiplier of 2 (see Lindy Bros. Builders, Inc. v. American Radiator and Standard Sanitary Corp., 540 F.2d 102 (3d Cir. 1976)). Plaintiff claims the multiplier is warranted because of "delay in payment in light of the present interest and inflation rate," the contingent nature of success, the difficulty and quality of the work, and "the extraordinary result."

 Plaintiff's right to fees turns on the question whether she is a "prevailing party" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k), *fn1" and 42 U.S.C. § 1988. *fn2" In order to qualify for a fee award a party need not prevail in all claims asserted, so long as she or he is "essentially successful" on some of those claims, Hughes v. Repko, 578 F.2d 483, 487 (3d Cir. 1978). And a plaintiff who obtains the relief sought through settlement, rather than adjudication, may nonetheless be a prevailing party. Levin v. Parkhouse, 484 F. Supp. 1091 (E.D.Pa.1980). But no case has come to my attention in which a party has obtained a fee award based solely on the fact that a preliminary injunction has been obtained.

 In Hanrahan v. Hampton, 446 U.S. 754, 100 S. Ct. 1987, 64 L. Ed. 2d 670 (1980), the Supreme Court, in a per curiam opinion, considered the award of attorney's fees pendente lite pursuant to the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act of 1976, 42 U.S.C. § 1988. While noting that Congress clearly contemplated that a person "may in some circumstances be a prevailing party without having obtained a favorable "final judgment following a full trial on the merits,' " 100 S. Ct. at 1989 (quoting the House Report), the Court went on to say that Congress intended the granting of "such an interlocutory award only to a party who has established his entitlement to some relief on the merits of his claims . . ." Id. The Court observed that Congress had approved of two cases in describing the appropriate circumstances for such an award3-and in each case "the party to whom fees were awarded had established the liability of the opposing party, although final remedial orders had not been entered." Id. Thus, an "interim award of counsel fees" may only be made "when a party has prevailed on the merits of at least some of his claims." Id. Although Hanrahan construed 42 U.S.C. § 1988, its holding is directly applicable to other statutory provisions which, in allowing awards to prevailing parties, depart from the usual rule that each side bears the cost of his own attorney. See id. at footnote 4. See also, Nadeau v. Helgemoe, 581 F.2d 275, 278 n.2 (1st Cir. 1978).

 A preliminary injunction is not an adjudication on the merits. It is designed to preserve the rights of the parties until a determination on the merits can be made. In regard to the merits of this case, I have concluded that, and only that, "plaintiff has made out a prima facie case of sex and/or age discrimination," and that defendants did not demonstrate, at this preliminary stage, "the existence of a valid non-discriminatory reason for plaintiff's discharge." I have not determined that plaintiff has indeed been discriminated against by the defendant. With that in mind, the comment of Chief Judge Bazelon in Grubbs v. Butz, 179 U.S. App. D.C. 18, 548 F.2d 973, 976 (D.C.Cir. 1976) is pertinent:

 

. . . we cannot believe Congress would have countenanced assessing fees against a defendant absent any showing of discrimination. For all we know, the defendants in this case may be entirely blameless. If attorney's fees were assessed against them at this point in the litigation, the ultimately successful party might end up having subsidized a large segment of the losing party's suit against him.

 If a jury ultimately decides that Ms. Oshiver is not entitled to keep her job, it is patent that her procedural victory in obtaining provisional relief, while perhaps of some personal benefit, would not, in any respect, have achieved the goals of those Acts for which Congress has established the fee remedy, and pursuant to which, Ms. Oshiver has brought her claims. *fn4"

  Wherefore, plaintiff's motion will be DENIED.


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