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BOLDEN v. SEPTA

May 5, 1995

RUSSELL BOLDEN
v.
SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY



The opinion of the court was delivered by: EDMUND V. LUDWIG

 Ludwig, J.

 May 5, 1995

 A verdict of $ 250,001 in a second jury trial having become final, *fn1" plaintiff Russell Bolden moves for expenses, including attorney's fees of $ 313,128 and non-taxable costs of $ 7,037.11. The verdict represented compensatory damages on plaintiff's claim that SEPTA had discharged him in violation of his civil rights. 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

 I.

 As the prevailing § 1983 party, plaintiff is statutorily entitled to reasonable attorney's fees and costs. 42 U.S.C. § 1988. Rode v. Dellarciprete, 892 F.2d 1177, 1183 (3d Cir. 1990).

 Determination of a compensable fee involves the calculation of the "lodestar" - the number of hours appropriately expended times the attorney's reasonable hourly rate - minus a downward adjustment where only partial success has been achieved. See Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433-34, 103 S. Ct. 1933, 1939-40, 76 L. Ed. 2d 40 (1983); Halderman v. Pennhurst State School & Hospital, 49 F.3d 939, 1995 WL 82847, *5 (3d Cir. 1995); Rode, 892 F.2d at 1183-84; Schreiber v. Shuler, 1995 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3330, no. 94-2567, 1995 WL 16646, *1 (E.D.Pa. March 16, 1995).

 Here, SEPTA challenges the hours claimed and the hourly rate, but not plaintiff's overall degree of success. *fn2" SEPTA concedes attorney's fees and costs to the extent of $ 157,565.86. Defendant's response at 25.

 In 1990, our Circuit summarized the evidentiary burdens in attorney's fees cases:

 
The party seeking attorney's fees has the burden to prove that its request for attorney's fees is reasonable. To meet its burden, the fee petitioner must "submit evidence supporting the hours worked and rates claimed." Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433, 103 S. Ct. 1933, 76 L. Ed. 2d 40 (1983) . . . . In a statutory fee case, the party opposing the fee award then has the burden to challenge, by affidavit or brief with sufficient specificity to give fee applicants notice, the reasonableness of the requested fee. Bell v. United Princeton Properties, Inc., 884 F.2d 713 (3d Cir. 1989). The district court cannot "decrease a fee award based on factors not raised at all by the adverse party." Id. at 720; see Cunningham v. City of McKeesport, 753 F.2d 262, 267 (3d Cir. 1985) [vacated on other grounds, 478 U.S. 1015, 106 S. Ct. 3324, 92 L. Ed. 2d 731].

 Rode, 892 F.2d at 1183 (citations omitted).

 Here, plaintiff met his initial burden with a sufficient itemization of dates, time spent, and work performed.

 II.

 Whether the requested hourly rate is reasonable "is to be calculated according to the prevailing market rates in the relevant community." Rode, 892 F.2d at 1183, citing Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895, 104 S. Ct. 1541, 79 L. Ed. 2d 891 (1984). The attorney's experience and skill should be compared to that of other attorneys similarly situated. Id., citing Student Public Interest Research Group v. AT & T Bell Laboratories, 842 F.2d 1436, 1442 n.3 (3d Cir. 1988). Ninety-five percent of plaintiff's claim is ...


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