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DEVORE v. CITY OF PHILADELPHIA

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania


April 20, 2004.

JOHN DEVORE
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, et al

The opinion of the court was delivered by: JACOB HART, Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

The court believes that it can now see the light at the end of the tunnel that has been this case. The facts of this Title VII/ § 1983 case have been recited by the court at length in our previous opinions. Therefore, we will refrain from "flagellating the deceased equine" any further. We now consider counsel's final request for attorneys' fees and costs, which consists of Plaintiff's Supplemental Fee Petition, which was filed on April 2, 2004, and an earlier supplement attached to Plaintiff's Memorandum in Reply to the Defendants' Response on the Issue of Attorneys' Fees. (Document 106). Counsel requests a total of 110 additional hours at $200 per hour and $858.92 in additional costs.

We begin with the puzzling reduction of fees charged by the Plaintiff's counsel. In his original fee petition, counsel declared that he charged $300 per hour and expended 697.2 hours. See Declaration of Puricelli, at ¶ 6, attached to Statement of Expended Costs (Docket # 84). In the Supplement, he states that he charges only $200 per hour for out of court work. See Declaration of Puricelli, at ¶ 3. Considering counsel's victory in this case, we would have expected an increase in his hourly rate, rather than a decrease. Defense counsel has requested the court to reduce the fees already awarded that were based on Mr. Puricelli's earlier declaration.

  In response, Plaintiffs counsel has explained that he intentionally reduced his hourly rate in an effort to avoid a renewed battle over his hourly rate. Considering the response to this Court's last opinion addressing attorneys' fees, we can understand counsel's reluctance to reopen that Pandora's Box. Based on counsel's representation in his most recent letter, we are convinced that he has been forthright in his billing submissions and will grant his requested hourly rate of $200.

  Counsel for the City also objects to 3.3 hours for activities that are usually performed by secretarial staff or a delivery service, including the faxing of letters, or hand delivering filings to the Clerk of Court. As explained in our original opinion addressing fees, such billings will not be compensated. "Since the costs of clerical work, such as filing and copying, are ordinarily considered to be part of an attorneys rate as office overhead, they will not be compensated." Sheffer v. Experian Information Solutions, Inc., 290 F. Supp.2d 538, 549 (E.D. Pa. 2003) (citing Doe v. Ward, No. 98-1746, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16651, at *31, 2003 WL 22187170, at *10 (W.D.Pa. Sept. 16, 2003) (finding that clerical tasks are office overhead and therefore incorporated into attorney's rate.) See also Missouri v. Jenkins, 491 U.S. 274, 285-88, 109 S.Ct. 2463, 105 L.Ed.2d 229 (1989) (holding that "purely clerical or secretarial tasks should not be billed at a paralegal rate, regardless of who performs them"); see also Halderman v. Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp., 49 F.3d 939, 942 (3d Cir. 1995) (holding that it is not appropriate to allow "the wasteful use of highly skilled and highly priced talent for matters easily delegable to non-professionals").

  Finally, the City objects to $600 in costs charged by a private investigator. The City opposes these costs because they were incurred during the period covered by the initial fee petition. Moreover, the City complains that three of the hours involve the interview of a person never identified at trial. As for the former argument, we adopt the adage, "better late than never." We will not, however, allow costs for the interviews of an individual unknown to the court in this case. We will reduce the costs by $225.

  An appropriate Order follows.

  ORDER

  AND NOW, this 20th day of April, 2004, upon consideration of the Plaintiff's Supplemental Fee Petition, the response, thereto, and for the reasons stated in the accompanying Memorandum, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Plaintiff's counsel is awarded an additional $21,340 in fees and $633.92 in costs.

20040420

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