Plaintiff James Hughes, formerly chief investigator for the Defender Association of Philadelphia, brought this action against the Association and Chief Defender Benjamin Lerner, under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983, and under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5. He contended that he was discriminated against in the terms and conditions of employment and was demoted and finally terminated because he is black. The case proceeded to trial by jury, and on May 29, 1979, the jury rendered a verdict in favor of the defendants. On July 2, 1979, after hearing oral argument, I denied Hughes' motion for a new trial. Defendants now move for an award of counsel fees pursuant to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k), and the Civil Rights Attorneys' Fees Award Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1988.
Initially defendants moved for an award of attorneys' fees for the entire amount which they have expended in legal fees to defend this action. Defendants later modified their petition, however, limiting their request to those fees they incurred after the jury verdict in their favor.
Both statutory provisions cited by defendants provide that a "prevailing party" may be awarded counsel fees in the discretion of the court, and it is beyond dispute that prevailing defendants are eligible for an award of fees under both § 1988, see Milburn v. Girard, 455 F. Supp. 283 (E.D.Pa. 1978), and under the fee provisions of Title VII, see Sek v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 421 F. Supp. 983 (E.D.Pa. 1976), aff'd, 565 F.2d 153 (3d Cir. 1977). The standard for determining whether a prevailing defendant is entitled to an award is the same under both provisions. Milburn, supra.
The Supreme Court set forth the standard for an award of attorneys' fees to a prevailing defendant in a civil rights action in Christiansburg Garment Co. v. EEOC, 434 U.S. 412, 421, 98 S. Ct. 694, 700, 54 L. Ed. 2d 648 (1978):
a district court may in its discretion award attorney's fees to a prevailing party in a Title VII case upon a finding that the plaintiff's action was frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation, even though not brought in subjective bad faith.