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Barrett v. West Chester University of Pennsylvania of the State System of Higher Education

April 24, 2009

ELIZABETH C. BARRETT, ET AL.,
v.
WEST CHESTER UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA OF THE STATE SYSTEM OF HIGHER EDUCATION, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Surrick, J.

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for a Reconsideration and Amendment of Award of Attorney's Fees. (Doc. No. 45.) For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' Motion will be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Underlying Litigation*fn1

On April 28, 2003, West Chester University ("WCU") announced its decision to eliminate its women's gymnastics and men's lacrosse programs. At the same time, WCU stated that it intended to add women's golf to its athletic program.

A concerned parent of one of the eight members of the women's gymnastics team contacted Trial Lawyers for Public Justice ("TLPJ"), a public interest law firm based in Washington, D.C., which ultimately took on the case. TLPJ contacted Hangley Aronchick Segal & Pudlin ("Hangley firm") and engaged the firm as co-counsel in the matter. TLPJ has been involved in Title IX litigation since 1985 when Arthur Bryant, the Executive Director of TLPJ, served as lead counsel in Haffer v. Temple University, 688 F.2d 14 (3d Cir. 1982). (Doc. No. 32, Ex. 2 (hereinafter, "Bryant Decl.").) William Hangley, a founder and shareholder of the Hangley firm, is an experienced litigator with experience in Title IX litigation, having participated in the Haffer case. (Doc. No. 32, Ex. 4 (hereinafter, "Hangley Decl.").)

As a public interest law firm, TLPJ does not charge its clients for services rendered but does seek attorney's fees pursuant to fee-shifting statutes. (Bryant Decl.) The Hangley firm, which does charge clients for its services, agreed to work on this case because of the "important social value in enforcing Title IX." (Hangley Decl.) The firm "viewed the risk of loss and the certainty that any payment would be delayed as a pro bono contribution on the firm's part." (Id.)

Plaintiffs' attempts to have the gymnastics team reinstated without court involvement failed, and on September 4, 2003, Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit along with a motion for a preliminary injunction. Plaintiffs claimed that Defendants' elimination of the women's gymnastics team violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681, et seq.

After the parties fully briefed the issues and following a hearing that spanned four days, we granted Plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction and ordered Defendants to immediately reinstate the women's gymnastics team. See generally Barrett v. W. Chester Univ. of Pa.,No. 03-4978, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21095 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 12, 2003) (hereinafter, "Doc. No. 18"). Following our decision, the parties agreed to a settlement, which provided that the preliminary injunction would become permanent and that all claims that were not related to the discontinuance of the gymnastics team would be dismissed without prejudice. (Doc. No. 29.)

The parties entered into an additional, separate agreement wherein Plaintiffs agreed not to seek a portion of the fees for work that their attorneys performed from January 1, 2004, through completion of the settlement negotiations. (Hangley Decl. ¶ 32; Doc. No. 32, Ex. 5, ¶ 50 (hereinafter, "McKee Decl.").) Plaintiffs also agreed to forego a portion of the costs that they incurred in preparing their fee petition. (Id.)

B. Fee Petition

On June 21, 2004, Plaintiffs requested attorney's fees from WCU in the amount of $207,609.50 plus costs in the amount of $12,477.82, for a total of $220,087.32, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1821, 1920, and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54. (See Doc. No. 32.)

Defendants objected to these totals, contending that the number of hours spent on the litigation and the hourly rate of some of Plaintiffs' attorneys were unreasonable. Defendants contended that the costs should be reduced and suggested that a reasonable ...


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