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BLACK GRIEVANCE COMMITEE v. PHILADELPHIA ELEC. CO.

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA


August 13, 1985

BLACK GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE, et al.
v.
PHILADELPHIA ELECTRIC COMPANY

Giles, J.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: GILES

MEMORANDUM

GILES, J.

 On December 21, 1984, this court entered a Consent Decree which settled the parties' merit contentions in the above-captioned case. The plaintiff class, and named plaintiffs, have now petitioned for counsel fees and costs as the "prevailing party" in this litigation which has spanned more than ten years. Philadelphia Electric Company ("PECO") agrees that plaintiffs are prevailing parties and are entitled to some fee award. However, it contests the extent of the claimed lodestar of $537,499, and some of the expert witness expenses included in the costs claimed of over $20,000. Plaintiffs ask for an upward adjustment in the lodestar for delay in payment, contingency, quality of work, as well as what they perceive as exceptional success in the relief ultimately gained through the 1984 Consent Decree. PECO challenges any upward adjustment and contends that, after considering each of the possible adjustment factors, there should be a net downward adjustment.

 Plaintiffs have filed a joint petition for counsel fees and costs. PECO's chief objection to the claimed lodestar hours focuses on the time spent by the lead attorneys, Herbert Newberg, Esquire and Alice Ballard, Esquire, in pursuing matters which were not, from defendant's viewpoint, reasonably related to this employment race discrimination litigation. It challenges as excessive the maximum hourly rates asserted by lead counsel as well as the rates claimed by Earl Trent, Esquire, who had contacts with the clients but who was rarely involved directly in pleadings or other matters which involved the court. There is no substantial challenge to the lodestar claim of Phillip Fuoco, Esquire whose time involvement was small in comparison with the claims of plaintiffs' other attorneys.

 This action was initiated by the Black Grievance Committee ("BGC"), a PECO employee organization whose membership is comprised principally of black persons, and seven named plaintiffs who were members of BGC. Jurisdiction over the claims of employment discrimination based upon race was first asserted under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Later, there was added a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. This litigation came on the heels of a 1973 Consent Decree issued by the Honorable Louis C. Bechtle stemming from a Justice Department race discrimination lawsuit against PECO. United States v. Philadelphia Electric Company, 351 F. Supp. 1394 (E.D. Pa. 1972). By reason of the 1973 Consent Decree, PECO agreed to affirmative action retention and promotion of minority applicants and employees.

 The Justice Department was, and remains, responsible for monitoring compliance with that Consent Decree and is obligated to seek court intervention in the event of non-compliance. In the context of that federal agency failing to find non-compliance, this litigation was started. In many respects, the injunctive relief sought by the class duplicated that already gained through the existing 1973 Consent Decree goals and timetables to increase hiring of minorities. Nevertheless, this lawsuit sought across-the-board relief, monetary and injunctive, in all phases of employment activity. Actual damages were sought for all members of the class, present and former employees, beginning from January 1, 1968, together with punitive damages wherever appropriate. The putative class also included all disappointed employment applicants covering the same time period.

 I. CALCULATION OF THE LODESTAR

 A "lodestar" is determined by multiplying a reasonable number of hours expentended during the litigation times a reasonable hourly rate. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 76 L. Ed. 2d 40, 103 S. Ct. 1933 (1983).

 A. MR. NEWBERG

 1. Hourly Rate Mr. Newberg claims hourly rates as follows: 9/75 to 8/78 -- $ 135 per hour 9/78 to 8/80 -- $ 150 per hour 9/80 to 1/81 -- $ 175 per hour 1/82 to 12/83 -- $ 200 per hour 1/84 to present -- $ 225 per hour

19850813

© 1992-2004 VersusLaw Inc.



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