settled for a time-served suspension rather than a finding that
the defendants had acted inappropriately. Accordingly, defendant
argues that plaintiffs should not receive all of their fees and
suggest a two-thirds reduction. At the very least, SEPTA requests
that the 4.78 hours spent preparing for and attending the appeal
hearing be excluded.
The court disagrees with defendant's portrayal of the
plaintiffs' complaint and the goal of the litigation. As a brief
discussion of the complaint reveals, each of the plaintiffs'
claims actually focused on the denial of services to the
individual plaintiffs following their civil disobedience, and
plaintiffs' primary goal was to resume service. The first claim
argued that SEPTA had no authority to terminate or suspend
non-disabled individuals from riding on their buses and that,
accordingly, to deny the plaintiffs Para-Transit services violated
the ADA's requirements that SEPTA provide comparable services.
See Compl. ¶¶ 39-42. The second claim argued simply that SEPTA
had no authority to keep plaintiffs from riding on the
Para-Transit vans under the applicable ADA regulations. See id.
¶¶ 42-48. Finally, the third claim argued that the plaintiffs had
been denied a hearing before their service was terminated in
violation of due process and the ADA. See id. ¶¶ 49-51. By
achieving a settlement that permitted plaintiffs to resume riding
the Para-Transit vans, they received relief of the "same general
type" they requested in the complaint, regardless of what legal
theory led to that result. That is, a "common-sense comparison
between relief sought and relief obtained," Institutionalized
Juveniles, 758 F.2d at 911, leads to the conclusion that
plaintiffs were the prevailing parties.*fn4
In support of its arguments on this point, defendant
relies heavily on Watson v. SEPTA, Civ. A. No. 96-1002, 1998 WL
720072 (E.D.Pa. Sept. 10, 1998), in which a district court
determined that a plaintiff should not receive all of the fees
requested because she was only partially successful in her ADA
claim pertaining to employment discrimination. Plaintiff was
reinstated to her former position but she did not gain any further
relief following a jury trial. See id. at *3. Aside from the
fact that Watson is not binding on this court, the present case is
easily distinguished by differences in the goals of the two cases.
Although the Watson case does not provide an extensive discussion
of the suit, it is clear that reinstatement was only a small part
of the relief actually sought by plaintiff, as indicated by her
decision to proceed to trial following that relief. Also, the
court agrees with plaintiffs that Watson is inapplicable because
that court's reduction in fees limited the award to the amount
recoverable up to the time of reinstatement. In this case, Mr.
Gold did not seek any fees for issues on which he did not prevail,
and a two-thirds reduction as suggested by defendant would be
Having determined that there is no basis to reduce the
fees claimed because plaintiffs were not prevailing parties, the
court must turn to the question of the reasonableness of the fee
itself. Numerous decisions have held that the logical starting
point for determining a fee is the number of hours expended
multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate, with documentation of both
the time and the rate. See Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424,
433 (1983); Washington v. Philadelphia County Court of Common
Pleas, 89 F.3d 1031, 1035 (3d Cir. 1996). This calculation will
lead to a "lodestar," which is presumptively correct but which may
be adjusted should the
court find appropriate. See Rode 892 F.2d at 1183.
In determining the number of hours for which fees may
be awarded, the court may exclude time that was spent on issues on
which plaintiffs did not prevail or that was "excessive,
redundant, or otherwise unnecessary." Rode, 892 F.2d at 1183
(quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434). The court should then
consider whether the hourly rate itself is reasonable. "Generally,
a reasonable hourly rate is to be calculated according to the
prevailing market rates in the relevant community." Rode, 892
F.2d at 1183; see also Washington, 89 F.3d at 1031 (same). In
making this determination, "the court should assess the experience
and skill of the prevailing party's attorneys and compare their
rates to the rates prevailing in the community for similar
services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill, experience,
and reputation." Id.
In this case, the time expended is reasonable. Mr. Gold
has provided documentation that he spent 24.93 hours on legal work
pertaining to the claims on which plaintiffs were successful. See
Attachment to Mot. for Attorney's Fees. Defendant argues only
that it was excessive for Mr. Gold to spend 10.41 hours drafting a
complaint and a motion for a temporary restraining order either
because of Mr. Gold's extensive experience in this area or because
he could have delegated these tasks to a junior associate. Mr.
Gold's affidavit, however, explains that the time claimed includes
legal research on the issues involved as well as drafting a
memorandum of law in support of the motion. See Gold Decl. ¶
21(c). This time does not appear unreasonable given the high
quality of the work and the fact-specific nature of the documents
presented to the court. While Mr. Gold is an experienced
attorney, this is not a case where an attorney "demand[ed] a high
hourly rate — which is based on his or her experience, reputation,
and a presumed familiarity with the law — and then r[a]n up an
inordinate amount of time researching that same law." Ursic v.
Bethlehem Mines, 719 F.2d 670, 677 (3d Cir. 1983). Even an
experienced attorney should research the legal issues pertaining
directly to the case at hand. Nor is the suggestion that a junior
associate could have done the work persuasive: Mr. Gold is a solo
practitioner, and there is no indication that he could have
delegated any of the tasks to another attorney. Cf. James v.
SEPTA, Civ. A. No. 93-5538, 1997 WL 698035, at *4 (E.D.Pa. Nov.
4, 1997) (reducing Mr. Gold's hourly rate because, in that case,
he was working with other attorneys billing at a lower rate who
could have performed some tasks). The court is also reluctant to
hold that the temporary restraining motion in this case, which
required extremely quick but thorough work, was a task that did
not merit the attention of a skilled attorney.
The court also finds Mr. Gold's hourly rate of $350.00
an hour to be reasonable in this case. In arguing that the court
should reduce this rate, defendant maintains that Mr. Gold's rate
is not representative of the prevailing rates in the Philadelphia
marketplace. Defendant refers to affidavits by two other
attorneys who charge $275.00 or $175.00 for similar work. See
Aff. of James Kilcur ¶ 3; Aff. of William DeStefano ¶ 3.
Defendant also cites to an affidavit stating that the rates of law
firm partners in the Philadelphia marketplace range from $100.00
to $560.00 an hour, with an average of $277.50 an hour. See Aff.
of Jeffrey Viola ¶ 5.
Initially, the simple fact that two defense attorneys at
one law firm charge $275.00 and $175.00 does not necessarily lead
to the conclusion that these rates are representative of the
marketplace or that plaintiffs' counsel should be limited to those
rates. See Washington, 89 F.3d at 1034 (referring to a Third
Circuit decision questioning applicability of defense counsel
rates to claimed fees by plaintiff's counsel). Even considering
defendant's own documentation, however, Mr. Gold's rates actually
fall well within an acceptable range, assuming, as does defendant,
that the relevant comparison is with rates charged by
partners in Philadelphia firms. See Viola Aff. Ex. A (survey
of rates). Plaintiffs have provided documentation of Mr. Gold's
superior credentials in the area of disabilities law and have
supplied affidavits by attorneys stating that Mr. Gold's fees
are within the appropriate range for practitioners of his skill
and reputation. See Aff. of Arthur Kaplan ¶¶ 11-12; Decl.
of William Ewing ¶ 8. Mr. Gold's own declaration recounts his
extensive experience and notes that he has charged at least one
private client $350.00 an hour. See Decl. of Steven Gold ¶¶
17-18; see also Resume of Steven Gold. Given this documentation,
the court is persuaded that Mr. Gold should be reimbursed at the
hourly rate he has requested.*fn5
The court arrives at the lodestar advocated by
plaintiffs: $8,725.50. As there is no suggestion that this amount
should be adjusted for any reasons other than those already
addressed, the court will award the full amount of fees and costs
requested by plaintiffs' motion.
AND NOW, this day of October 14, 1999, upon consideration
of Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorney's Fees, and the response thereto,
it is hereby ORDERED that the Motion is GRANTED.
The court awards attorney's fees in the amount of $8,725.50 and
costs and expenses of $150.00 for a total award of $8,875.50.
The attorney's fee is calculated at the rate of $350.00 an hour
for 24.93 hours.