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Mangino v. Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission

December 22, 2009

WILLIAM MANGINO, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
PENNSYLVANIA TURNPIKE COMMISSION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nora Barry Fischer United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Supplemental Motion for Attorney's Fees, Costs and Expenses (Docket No. 135) filed on November 12, 2009 for fees and costs incurred by their counsel, W. James Young, Esquire,*fn1 in opposing Defendants Local 250's*fn2 (hereafter "Local 250" or "union local" or "local") Motion to Dissolve the Permanent Injunction (Docket No. 132) and in preparing the instant motion. In this motion, Plaintiffs claim 26.60 hours at a rate of $400/hour. On November 13, 2009, Local 250 filed a Response (Docket No. 136), arguing that Plaintiffs' petition was premature, excessive and duplicative. (Id. at 1-2). Specifically, the local argues hours charged for Mr. Young's review of the documents attached to Local 250's motion (3.90), Local 250's ten paragraph, 2 1/2 page motion (2.0), and for preparing Plaintiffs' nine-page motion for fees (4.40) are excessive and duplicative. (Docket No. 136 at 1-2). Indeed, Plaintiffs' motion was filed prematurely in that the Court had not yet ruled on Local 250's Motion to Dissolve. In their supplemental fee petition, Plaintiffs request fees "should [they] prevail." (Docket No. 135 at 2). Local 250's motion was denied on December 7, 2009 (Docket No. 140), making Plaintiffs the prevailing party*fn3 for purposes of awarding fees and costs. Local 250 does not contest Plaintiffs' status as the prevailing party.

Plaintiffs filed a Supplemental Declaration in support of their motion (Docket No. 142) on December 7, 2009, requesting additional fees and costs for Mr. Young's traveling to, attending, and returning from the oral argument on Local 250's motion on November 23, 2009. (See Docket No. 137). In this regard, Plaintiffs claim an additional 18.30 hours since the filing of the Supplemental Motion and costs in the amount of $525.64. (Docket No. 142). Local 250 did not file an opposition to Plaintiffs' supplement.*fn4 By their submissions, Plaintiffs request a total award of attorney's fees in the amount of $17,960.00 (based on 44.90 hours at $400 per hour) as well as costs in the amount of $525.64. (Docket No. 135 at 7; Docket No. 142 at 2). Upon consideration, the Court grants Plaintiffs' request in part, as the Court sustains Local 250's general objections that the fees sought are excessive and duplicative and its specific challenges to certain of the fees and costs sought by Plaintiffs. (See Docket No. 136 at 1-2). The Court will now address the Plaintiffs' Motion in light of Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424 (1983), and its progeny.

STANDARD

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988, district courts are authorized to award prevailing parties reasonable attorney's fees in civil rights litigation, "unless special circumstances would render such an award unjust." Hensley, 461 U.S. at 429 (quoting H. Rep. No. 94-1558, p. 1 (1976), S. Rep. No. 94-1011, p. 4 (1976)); McKenna v. City of Phila., 583 F.3d 447 (3d Cir. 2009). A prevailing party is not automatically entitled to compensation for attorney's fees in their entirety; rather the party seeking such attorney's fees bears the burden to prove the reasonableness of its request. Interfaith Community Organization v. Honeywell, 426 F.3d 694, 711 (3d Cir. 2005); Rode v. Dellarciprete, 892 F.2d 1177, 1183 (3d Cir. 1990). Therefore, the amount of the attorney's fees must turn on the facts in each case, and the district court should determine what fee is reasonable. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433.

The Supreme Court in Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886 (1984), stated that the initial estimate for attorney's fees is obtained by multiplying a reasonable hourly rate by a reasonable number of hours expended in the litigation. See Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433. This formula, often referred to as the lodestar, serves as an objective basis to make an initial assessment of the "value of the lawyer's services." Id; see also Pennsylvania v. Delaware Valley Citizens' Council for Clean Air, 478 U.S. 546 (1986) (explaining the lodestar approach). The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has adopted the community market rate rule. Student Pub. Interest Research Group v. AT&T Bell Lab. ("SPIRG"), 842 F.2d 1436, 1448 (3d Cir. 1988). This rule requires the court to "assess the experience and skill of the attorneys and compare their rates to those of comparable lawyers in the private business sphere." Id. at 1447. The prevailing party bears the burden of establishing that its requested hourly rate meets this comparable market standard by way of satisfactory evidence. Washington v. Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, 89 F. 3d 1031, 1035 (3d Cir. 1996)(quoting Blum, 465 U.S. at 895 n. 11).

Attorneys seeking compensation for their fees must also document their hours with "sufficient specificity" "to allow the district court 'to determine if the hours claimed are unreasonable for the work performed.'" Washington, 89 F.3d at 1037 (quoting Rode, 892 F.2d at 1190). Where this documentation is inadequate, a prevailing party's hours may be reduced. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433. The fee petition should include "some fairly definite information as to the hours devoted to various general activities, e.g., pretrial discovery, settlement negotiations" to determine adequate documentation. Washington, 89 F.3d at 1037-38. Nevertheless, the prevailing party need not go so far as to "know the exact number of minutes spent nor the precise activity to which each hour was devoted or the specific attainments of each attorney." Id. If the opposing party makes specific objections to the attorney's fees, a court must "go line by line through the billing records." Evans v. Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 273 F.3d 346, 362 (3d Cir. 2001). The court must then "exclude those [hours] that are excessive, redundant or otherwise unnecessary." Interfaith, 426 F.3d at 711.

The Supreme Court in Hensley instructs a district court to assess the reasonableness of a fee request by referring to twelve factors:

(1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions; (3) the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly; (4) the preclusion of employment by the attorney due to acceptance of the case; (5) the customary fee; (6) whether the fee is fixed or contingent; (7) time limitations imposed by the client or the circumstances; (8) the amount involved and the results obtained; (9) the experience, reputation, and ability of the attorneys; (10) the "undesirability" of the case; (11) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client; and (12) awards in similar cases.

Hensley, 461 U.S. at 430 n. 3.*fn5 Such factors aim to award fees "which are adequate to attract competent counsel, but which do not produce windfalls to attorneys." Id. at 433 n. 4. In conducting this analysis, a district court is afforded substantial discretion. Id. at 430; Lanni v. N.J., 259 F.3d 146, 148 (3d Cir. 2001)(citing Silberman v. Bogle, 683 F.2d 62, 64-65 (3d Cir. 1982)).

ANALYSIS

Plaintiffs' total request for fees for 44.90hours of work expended by Mr. Young breaks down as follows:

Task Performed Hours Expended Review of correspondence from Local 250 (Docket No. 132-4 1.30 132-6, 132-8)

Review of attachments to the local's motion to dissolve (Docket 3.90 Nos. 132-3 - 132-9)

Review of local's motion to dissolve (Docket No. 132) 2.00 Prepare, research, work on, finalize and file Plaintiffs' 15.00 opposition to union's motion to dissolve (Docket No. 133)

Research for and work on Plaintiffs' supplemental motion 4.40 for fees and costs (Docket No. 135)

Prepare for and travel to and from Pittsburgh for 11.50 November 23, 2009 argument Prepare for and attend the oral argument 3.25 Research for and prepare Plaintiffs' supplemental 1.80 submission for the Court (Docket No. 141)

Review of the Court's Memorandum Opinion on the 1.25 local's motion to dissolve (Docket No. 139), email from law clerk, and prepare formal supplemental submission to be filed on the docket (Docket No. 141)

Prepare supplemental declaration in support of 0.50 supplemental motion for attorney's fees and costs (Docket No. 142). (Docket Nos. 135-2 and 142-2). By way of a further breakdown, 26.60 hours relate to Mr. Young's work prior to the Court's ruling on the motion to dissolve, and 18.30 hours relate to his travels to and from Pittsburgh, preparing for the hearing, and in completing Plaintiffs' supplemental authority (see Docket No. 141) and the supplemental declaration in support of the instant motion. (Docket No. 142-2).

Initially, Local 250 generally objects that Plaintiffs' request includes fees which are excessive and duplicative. (Docket No. 136). On this point, Local 250 argues that a lawyer with Mr. Young's extensive experience in this area of the law should not have required 26.60 hours to review and prepare a response to the motion to dissolve. (Id. at 2). Secondly, it challenges Plaintiffs' fee request in the following specific areas arguing that the hours charged are excessive and duplicative: (1) 3.90 hours for reviewing the documents attached to Local 250's motion; (2) 2.0 hours for reviewing Local 250's ten paragraph, 2 1/2 page motion; and (3) 4.40 hours for preparing Plaintiffs' nine-page motion for fees. (Docket No. 136 at 1-2). In response, Plaintiffs contend that their fee petition is reasonable and supported by adequate documentation. (Docket No. 135 at 6-7). The Court will address the union local's challenges and the reasonableness of Plaintiffs' fee request in light of Hensley's twelve factors.

A. Hensley Factors

1. Time and Labor ...


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