Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA V.

November 16, 1994

PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA; REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH AND COUNSELING CENTER; WOMEN'S HEALTH SERVICES, INC.; WOMEN'S SUBURBAN CLINIC; ALLENTOWN WOMEN'S CENTER; and THOMAS ALLEN, M.D., Plaintiffs
v.
ROBERT P. CASEY; N. MARK RICHARDS; ERNEST D. PREATE; and MICHAEL D. MARINO, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HUYETT

 HUYETT, J.

 Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania and other abortion providers ("Plaintiffs") petition for attorneys' fees and costs associated with services rendered in this Court. For the reasons set forth below the petition is GRANTED WITH CERTAIN MODIFICATIONS.

 I. BACKGROUND

 This action involves a challenge by Plaintiffs to the constitutionality of certain provisions of Pennsylvania's Abortion Control Act ("Act"), 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 3201-3220 (1990). This Court enjoined virtually all challenged provisions. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 744 F. Supp. 1323 (E.D. Pa. 1990). Applying the strict scrutiny standard of review, this Court found unconstitutional the provisions relating to informed consent ( §§ 3205, 3208), spousal notification ( § 3209), public disclosure of certain reports ( §§ 3207(b), 3214(f)), certain reporting requirements ( § 3214(a), (h)), and the definition of medical emergency ( § 3203). The Court found unconstitutional the provision for parental consent for minors ( § 3206) under the undue burden standard of review.

 The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ("Defendants" or "Commonwealth") appealed. Applying the undue burden standard, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the unconstitutionality of the spousal notice provision but held the other provisions constitutional. Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 947 F.2d 682 (3d Cir. 1991).

 The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Applying the undue burden standard, the Supreme Court affirmed the unconstitutionality of the spousal notification provision. Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 120 L. Ed. 2d 674, 112 S. Ct. 2791 (1992). It also invalidated the reporting requirement for the spousal notice provision ( § 3214(a)(12)). It affirmed the constitutionality of all other challenged sections and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for proceedings consistent with the opinion, including consideration of severability of the spousal notice provision from the constitutional provisions of the Act.

 On remand, the Court of Appeals found the spousal notice provisions severable and remanded the case to the District Court. Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 978 F.2d 74 (3d Cir. 1992).

 The determination of attorneys' fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 involves several steps. First, the Court must decide if the petitioner is a prevailing party. If the petitioner is a prevailing party, the Court must then determine a reasonable fee. Second, the reasonable fee is obtained by calculating a lodestar. Third, the lodestar may be reduced if it is unreasonable in light of the "results obtained" or enhanced in cases of "exceptional success." Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433-37, 76 L. Ed. 2d 40, 103 S. Ct. 1933 (1983).

 Plaintiffs request $ 526,429.30 in fees and $ 22,567.34 in costs. Upon thorough review of Plaintiffs' petition for attorneys' fees, the Commonwealth's response, and Plaintiffs' reply memorandum, the Court awards Plaintiffs $ 201,735.00 in attorneys' fees and $ 20,236.33 in costs, for a total of $ 221,971.33.

 II. Calculating Attorney's Fees Excluding the Fee Petition

 A. Prevailing Party Status

 Under 42 U.S.C. § 1988, courts may award reasonable attorneys' fees to prevailing parties. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 429. "'Plaintiffs may be considered prevailing parties if they succeed on any significant issue in litigation which achieves some of the benefit the parties sought in bringing suit.'" Id. at 433 (quoting Nadeau v. Helgemoe, 581 F.2d 275, 278-279 (1st Cir. 1978)). The Supreme Court elaborated upon that definition and stated that a plaintiff must obtain at least some relief on the merits. Farrar v. Hobby, 121 L. Ed. 2d 494, 113 S. Ct. 566, 573 (1992); Hewitt v. Helms, 482 U.S. 755, 760, 96 L. Ed. 2d 654, 107 S. Ct. 2672 (1987). There must be a resolution of the dispute which changes the legal relationship between the parties. Hewitt, 482 U.S. at 760-61; Rhodes v. Stewart, 488 U.S. 1, 3-4, 102 L. Ed. 2d 1, 109 S. Ct. 202 (1988). This change occurs when a plaintiff obtains a judgment, consent decree, or settlement against the defendant. Farrar, 113 S. Ct. at 574. It may also occur if the lawsuit is a catalyst that produces "voluntary action by the defendant that affords the plaintiff all or some of the relief he sought through a judgment--e.g., a monetary settlement or a change in conduct that redresses the plaintiff's grievances." Hewitt, 482 U.S. at 760-61; Baumgartner v. Harrisburg Hous. Auth., 21 F.3d 541, 544 (3d Cir. 1994).

 Plaintiffs assert that they succeeded on four issues: the constitutionality of the spousal notice provision ( § 3209), the reporting requirement of section 3214(a)(12), the scope of the definition of medical emergency ( § 3203), and the reaffirmation of the essential aspects of Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 35 L. Ed. 2d 147, 93 S. Ct. 705 (1973). Application Interim Attorneys' Fees at 4. Plaintiffs are prevailing parties with respect to §§ 3209 and 3214(a)(12), and Defendants do not challenge their status on these issues. Although Plaintiffs must prevail on only one claim to obtain prevailing party status, the Court considers Plaintiffs' status on the other claims because it is relevant to determining the reduction to Plaintiffs' request because of limited success.

 To be a prevailing party, the plaintiff must "'succeed on any significant issue in litigation which achieves some of the benefit the parties sought in bringing suit.'" Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433 (quoting Nadeau v. Helgemoe, 581 F.2d 275, 278-79 (1st Cir. 1978)). In other words, "a plaintiff 'prevails' when actual relief on the merits of his claim materially alters the legal relationship between the parties by modifying the defendant's behavior in a way that directly benefits the plaintiff." Farrar v. Hobby, 121 L. Ed. 2d 494, 113 S. Ct. 566, 573 (1992). "[A] favorable judicial statement of law in the course of litigation that results in judgment against the plaintiff does not suffice to render [the plaintiff] a prevailing party." Hewitt v. Helms, 482 U.S. 755, 763, 96 L. Ed. 2d 654, 107 S. Ct. 2672 (1987).

 In this Court, Plaintiffs challenged the Act's definition of "medical emergency" as unduly narrow and vague. Plaintiffs claimed it did not include three life-threatening conditions: preeclampsia, inevitable abortion, and prematurely ruptured membranes. The Court granted an injunction to prevent the application of the narrow definition. The Court of Appeals read the statutory definition more broadly and reversed this Court, finding that the definition encompassed the three medical conditions Plaintiffs addressed.

 Plaintiffs claim prevailing party status on this issue, arguing that the Court of Appeals' broad construction clarified the definition of medical emergency in a manner favorable to Plaintiffs. Corrected Mem. Law Supp. Pl.-Appellees' Application for Attorneys' Fees [hereinafter "Pls.' Corrected Application"] at 12. *fn1" Plaintiffs also argue that they directly benefitted from the Court of Appeals' holding because the broad definition prevents prosecutions by Defendants when abortions are performed because of preeclampsia, inevitable abortion, or prematurely ruptured membranes. Id. at 11-12.

 Plaintiffs misinterpret the judicial effect of the Court of Appeals decision. The Court found Plaintiffs' narrow interpretation "unduly restrictive." Casey, 947 F.2d at 701. The Court of Appeals did not grant Plaintiffs relief on the merits of this claim. Rather, it accepted Defendants' interpretation of the definition. Just because the court offered a favorable judicial statement of law, Plaintiffs are not prevailing parties on this issue.

 Plaintiffs also claim prevailing party status because the Supreme Court affirmed the essential holding of Roe. Plaintiffs assert that the validity of Roe "became a 'significant issue'" in the proceeding, and that therefore, the affirmance of the essential holding of Roe was a benefit to Plaintiffs and the public as a whole. Pls.' Corrected Application at 8.

 This argument is misplaced. At issue in this case was the constitutionality of certain provisions of Pennsylvania's Abortion Control Act. Casey, 112 S. Ct. at 2803. Although the validity of Roe was an important legal issue, the Supreme Court's affirmation of Roe cannot be said to have given Plaintiffs an enforceable judgment against the defendant for whom fees are sought. See Farrar, 113 S. Ct. at 573. Plaintiffs did not seek an affirmation of Roe in their complaint. As a result, the Court finds that while Plaintiffs prevailed on this issue, this issue was not a claim on which they could be called "prevailing parties." Plaintiffs ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.