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People Against Police Violence v. City of Pittsburgh

September 13, 2006

PEOPLE AGAINST POLICE VIOLENCE, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY OF PITTSBURGH, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Conti, District Judge

MEMORANDUM ORDER

In this memorandum order, the court considers the motion for attorney fees filed by plaintiffs People Against Police Violence, Thomas Merton Center, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (all plaintiffs referred to collectively as "plaintiffs") against defendant City of Pittsburgh ("city" or "defendant"). After considering the motion, the briefs, and the exhibits submitted by the parties, the court will grant plaintiffs' motion and will award plaintiffs' attorney fees and costs aggregating $103,718.89.

Procedural History

On October 28, 2003, plaintiffs filed a complaint and a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the city requesting that section 603 of the city code be found unconstitutional, that the city's assessment of security costs to plaintiffs for their November 1, 2003, rally be declared unconstitutional, and a finding that the city be permanently enjoined from enforcing section 603 of the city code and charging for police-security costs. On October 31, 2003, the court held a hearing on the motion for a temporary restraining order and granted plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order.

On November 25, 2003, the court held a hearing on plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. At the hearing, the court on the record ordered that the temporary restraining order entered on October 31, 2003, shall remain in effect as a preliminary injunction until January 22, 2004. The preliminary injunction order required, among other things, that 1) until a permanent injunction is issued, any person seeking to hold a public event in the city, on the city streets, or sidewalks, must obtain a permit from defendant using defendant's current permit application form, 2) an applicant for a permit shall pay to defendant a $21 administrative fee if the event involves closure of a sidewalk and/or a $68 administrative fee if the event involves a street closing, 3) permit applications must be filed at least seven days prior to the scheduled public event, 4) defendant has 72 hours to respond to permit requests and 5) until entry of a permanent injunction by the court, defendant shall not charge any fee for police protection for public events.

On January 7, 2004, the court held a status conference. The court set a briefing schedule on plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction and permitted plaintiffs to take two depositions. On February 24, 2004, the city filed a motion to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint. On February 27, 2004, the court held a further hearing on plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. With the consent of the parties, the court continued the preliminary injunction as modified at that hearing.

On August 4, 2004, the city filed an emergency motion requesting an exception to the court's preliminary injunction for the special event permit to be issued for the Pittsburgh Regatta. The court granted that motion the following day. On July 14, 2005, the city again filed a motion for an exception to the court's preliminary injunction order. That motion requested that the court make an exception to its preliminary injunction order for the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. The court granted that motion the following day. On January 17, 2006, the court entered an order lifting the preliminary injunction and which provided:

[T]he City of Pittsburgh Council having passed Ordinance 16 of 2004 (City Code Chapter 471), as well as having finalized all attendant regulations and costs providing for permitting of special events, it is hereby ORDERED, ADJUDGED and DECREED that the Preliminary Injunction issued by this Court on February 27, 2004 is lifted except for the regulation noted herein.

The City of Pittsburgh shall enforce all provisions of City Code Chapter 471 with one exception. The parties agree that Section VIII(a)(iii) of the regulations, requiring the purchase of insurance coverage for any special event "expected to attract more than Five Thousand (5000) participants." shall not apply for any event attracting more than 5000 participants should the special event being permitted be one principally involving First Amendment issues and focused on the exercise of First Amendment rights. The parties further agree that this exception is not and shall not be interpreted to preclude an insurance requirement for "Traditional Parades" as defined in the regulations.

During the next forty-five (45) days, the City of Pittsburgh agrees to meet with Plaintiffs and engage in a good faith discussion regarding this clause. However, if the Parties fail to reach agreement regarding this clause within forty-five (45) days the Court shall issue a briefing schedule and schedule needed hearings so as to issue a ruling settling this matter. Issuance of this Order shall not serve as grounds for or evidence of the City of Pittsburgh's waiver of any jurisdictional arguments available regarding enforcement of City Code Chapter 471 and accompanying regulations.

On February 24, 2006, at a status conference, the parties informed the court that they had reached agreement on all outstanding issues and that the case could be administratively closed. The parties agreed to proceed to mediation with a magistrate judge to address the issue of attorney fees. On March 17, 2006, plaintiffs filed their motion for attorney fees. On March 27, 2006, the city responded to that motion. On March 28, 2006, the parties held a mediation session with a magistrate judge. The mediation was not successful.

On April 18, 2006, the court held a status conference and permitted the parties to file supplemental briefs on plaintiffs' motion for attorney fees. On May 5, 2006, plaintiffs filed a reply to the city's response to its motion and on May 17, 2006, the city refiled its response.

Standard of Review

In American courts, it is generally the case that parties are responsible for their own attorney's fees. John T. v. Delaware County, 318 F.3d 545, 555 (3d Cir. 2003); Truesdell v. Phila. Hous. Auth., 290 F.3d 159, 163 (3d Cir. 2002). This is commonly referred to as the "American Rule" regarding attorney's fees. John T., 318 F.3d at 555. This rule means that courts follow a "general practice of not awarding fees to a prevailing party absent explicit statutory authority." Key Tronic Corp. v. United States, 511 U.S. 809, 819 (1994).

In this case, the applicable statutory authority relied upon by plaintiffs is found at 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b). "Congress has, however, authorized the award of attorney's fees to a prevailing party in the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Award Act of 1976, 90 Stat. 2641, 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b), the statute upon which [plaintiffs] rel[y] in this case." Truesdell, 290 F.3d at 163(Alito, J.). That provision provides in relevant part:

In any action or proceeding to enforce a provision of section ... 1983 ... of this title ..., the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party ... a ...


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