The opinion of the court was delivered by: HERMAN
The above-captioned civil rights action was initiated on April 24, 1980. Prior to trial, certain defendants were dismissed. Following a lengthy trial, a jury returned a verdict of liability against the remaining Defendants:
John Balshy, Dean Shipe, and Joseph Van Nort.
The jury awarded $40,500.00 in compensatory damages and $15,000.00 in punitive damages.
The sole issue before us now is Plaintiff's motion for attorney fees and costs. Plaintiff avers that his counsel fees total $119,475.50, which he believes should be multiplied by two for a total of $238,951.00. Plaintiff and his counsel also seek recovery of costs totalling $28,774.11. While Defendants do not contest Plaintiff's general right to recover attorney fees and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988, Defendants strongly contest the reasonableness and the propriety of the fees and various costs.
In any lawsuit in this country, the "American Rule" has been that each party ordinarily should bear its own counsel fees unless there is express statutory authority to the contrary. ALYESKA PIPELINE SERVICE CO. v. WILDERNESS SOCIETY, 421 U.S. 240, 44 L. Ed. 2d 141, 95 S. Ct. 1612 (1975). With federal civil rights actions, such a statute exists, which provides that "the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party, other than the United States, a reasonable attorney's fee as part of the costs." 42 U.S.C. § 1988. Although the statute is simply worded, the courts have been inundated with cases seeking to clarify the extent of this statute. As a result, certain principles have emerged.
In general, the court must determine the lodestar, or base figure, of the requested attorney fee. This requires an analysis of how many hours were spent by which attorneys in what manner and the value of these services. LINDY BROTHERS BUILDERS, INC. OF PHILADELPHIA v. AMERICAN RADIATOR & STANDARD SANITARY CORP., 487 F.2d 161, 167 (3d Cir. 1973) (LINDY I). Accordingly, the courts must make a "twin inquiry into reasonableness: a reasonable hourly rate and a determination of whether it was reasonable to expend the number of hours in a particular case." URSIC v. BETHLEHEM MINES, 719 F.2d 670, 676 (3d Cir. 1983) (emphasis in original). See also HENSLEY v. ECKERHART, 461 U.S. 424, , 103 S. Ct. 1933, 1939, 76 L. Ed. 2d 40 (1983) ("The most useful starting point for determining the amount of a reasonable fee is the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.").
In determining the lodestar, the court may exercise some discretion, but the court must abide by the appropriate standards and articulate its reasons to permit careful appellate review. URSIC, 719 F.2d at 675. While balancing numerous concerns, the trial courts have been cautioned not to become so enmeshed with a fee decision that it dwarfs the case in chief. LINDY BROTHERS BUILDERS, INC. v. AMERICAN RADIATOR & STANDARD SANITARY CORP., 540 F.2d 102, 116 (3d Cir. 1976) (en banc) (LINDY II) ("Once the district court determines the reasonable hourly rates to be applied, . . . it need not conduct a minute evaluation of each phase or category of counsel's work.").
Regardless, as statutory fee cases have increased dramatically, the courts have been advised to "cast a critical eye on the award request." URSIC, 719 F.2d at 676. In the recent Supreme Court decision of HENSLEY v. ECKERHART, 461 U.S. 424, 103 S. Ct. 1933, 76 L. Ed. 2d 40 (1983), the Court held that the amount of a fee should be determined on the facts of each case considering numerous factors. Twelve factors the court specifically noted are as follow:
(1) The time and labor required; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions; (3) the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly; (4) the preclusion of employment by the attorney due to acceptance of the case; (5) the customary fee; (6) whether the fee is fixed or contingent; (7) time limitations imposed by the client or the circumstances; (8) the amount involved 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.
Id. at 1937 n.3; URSIC, 719 F.2d at 675 n. 4. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit also has emphasized various concerns affecting a lodestar determination, including the reputation and status of the attorney and the general quality of a counsel's experience, knowledge, and legal talent. LINDY I, 487 F.2d at 167; LINDY II, 540 F.2d at 117.
Further considerations exist in calculating a lodestar. First, a party must adequately document the hours worked or suffer a reduction in his award request. HENSLEY, 103 S. Ct. at 1939. Moreover, hours that are not reasonably expended must be excluded from the lodestar. Overstaffed cases that include excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary billed hours cannot be fully compensated. Id. at 1939-40. While duplicative efforts on some matters surely will be helpful to trial counsel, not all such efforts are reasonably necessary and recoverable under the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1988. M.S.R. IMPORTS, INC. v. R.E. GREENSPAN CO., INC., 574 F. Supp. 31, 34 (E.D. Pa. 1983) (one day assistance of senior co-trial counsel in short, uncomplicated trial excluded from fee award).
As the Supreme Court and the Third Circuit have emphasized, the key word in consideration of a fee petition is "reasonable." HENSLEY, 103 S. Ct. at 1939; URSIC, 719 F.2d at 678. "Billing judgment" is an important component in setting a fee. "'Hours that are not properly billed to one's client also are not properly billed to one's adversary pursuant to statutory authority.'" HENSLEY, S. Ct. at 1940, quoting, COPELAND v. MARSHALL, 205 ...