United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
JOSEPH P. MOFFITT, Plaintiff
TUNKHANNOCK AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, Defendant
MALACHY E. MANNION United States District Judge.
before the court is the plaintiff's, Joseph P.
Moffitt's, motion for attorneys' fees and costs,
(Doc. 82), with four (4) letters supplementing the
motion and adding additional fees, (Docs. 105,
106, 107, 108). In addition,
before the court are the parties' submissions regarding
the calculation of damages for back pay. (Docs. 80,
81, 104). The plaintiff's motion and
the parties' submissions follow a jury verdict entered in
favor of the plaintiff on April 19, 2016. The jury in the
plaintiff's case found that the defendant, Tunkhannock
Area School District (“School District”),
violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights under the
Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution,
therein violating Title 42, Section 1983 of the United States
Code. For the reasons discussed below, the
plaintiff's motion for attorneys' fees and costs is
GRANTED IN PART in the amount of $79, 467.03. In addition,
the plaintiff is awarded back pay in the amount of $20,
221.48 and prejudgment interest on the back pay award in the
amount of $3, 443.61.
April 19, 2016, after a two-day trial, a jury found that the
defendant violated the plaintiff's due process rights
under the Fourteenth Amendment when the defendant suspended
the plaintiff from his elementary school principal position,
without pay, on June 7, 2012. The court instructed the jury
that, in awarding the plaintiff any damages, they should
consider emotional and mental harm, harm to the
plaintiff's reputation, and/or the penalty for the
plaintiff's early withdrawal of his 403(b) retirement
plan during his suspension and any associated tax. The court
further instructed the jury that any damages for back pay,
contractual retirement contributions, attorneys' fees,
and costs of litigating the case would be determined by the
jury awarded the plaintiff $40, 000.00 and at the conclusion
of trial the court ordered the parties to submit letter
briefs on the computation of damages for back pay. On April
29, 2016, the plaintiff submitted a letter brief arguing that
he is entitled to 116 days of back pay in the amount of $44,
014.12, inclusive of prejudgment interest. (Doc.
80). In his letter, the plaintiff also contended
that he would be subject to a ten percent increased tax
burden resulting from a lump sum back pay award and argued
that he is entitled to an additional $4, 401.41 to
“offset” this negative tax consequence, bringing
the total award for back pay to $48, 415.53. On April 29,
2016, the defendant submitted a letter brief arguing that the
plaintiff is only entitled to 114 days of back pay in the
total amount of $19, 587.26, which included prejudgment
interest but also accounted for several deductions, including
federal, state, and local taxes, retirement contributions,
and insurance premiums. (Docs. 81, 81-1).
The defendant opposed any offset to the plaintiff for
alleged, negative tax consequences.
3, 2016, the plaintiff also filed a motion for attorneys'
fees, with a supporting brief filed on May 17, 2016. (Docs.
82, 83). The defendant filed a brief in
opposition on May 31, 2016. (Doc. 85). On June 14,
2016, the plaintiff filed a reply brief in support of his
motion for attorneys' fees. (Doc. 87). The
plaintiff's motion requested a total of $1, 122.31 in
costs and $96, 897.81 in attorneys' fees on behalf of the
plaintiff's counsel, Andrew J. Katsock, III, and on
behalf of the plaintiff's sister, Theresa Moffitt, who is
a licensed attorney. Attorney Moffitt aided Attorney Katsock
with the litigation.
October 23, 2016, November 20, 2016, December 7, 2016, and
December 29, 2016, the plaintiff submitted letters to the
court supplementing the motion for attorneys' fees by
indicating additional fees incurred by Attorney Katsock due
to his post-trial work. (Docs. 105, 106,
107, 108). These additional fees totaled
$11, 427.62. According to the plaintiff's last letter to
the court, (Doc. 108), the plaintiff's motion
now seeks a total of $109, 447.74 in attorneys' fees and
costs when adding post-trial work.
August 22, 2016, the court conducted a hearing regarding the
issues of the plaintiff's award for back pay damages and
his request for attorneys' fees. At this hearing, the
parties agreed on two matters: (1) using 116 days as the
appropriate amount of days used to calculate back pay at a
rate of $301.95 per day; and (2) the defendant was entitled
to deduct ten percent of the premium for the plaintiff's
health insurance because the defendant paid that amount on
behalf of the plaintiff during the suspension, an amount that
would normally be deducted from the plaintiff's salary.
conclusion of the hearing, the parties still did not agree on
a final amount for the plaintiff's back pay. The
plaintiff's calculations were based on his own knowledge,
having prepared his own tax returns for many years.
Meanwhile, the defendant's calculations were based upon
documents provided by the defendant's business manager.
(See Doc. 81). Originally, the
plaintiff's calculation did not include any deductions,
while the defendant's did. (See Doc.
80). The plaintiff's most recent calculations do
exclude federal, state, and local income taxes, taxes paid by
employees under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act, 26
U.S.C. §3101 et seq (“FICA”), and exclude
the plaintiff's ten percent insurance premium.
(See Doc. 104, at 3).
parties also did not agree on the method of calculating
prejudgment interest, nor did they agree on the negative tax
implications that might be suffered by the plaintiff due to a
lump sum award. In addition, they disagreed substantially
regarding the attorneys' fees submitted by the plaintiff
for Attorney Katsock's and Attorney Moffitt's work on
the case. Both Attorney Katsock and Attorney Moffitt
testified in support of their fees during the hearing.
end of the hearing, the parties requested more time to figure
out the discrepancies in the underlying back pay
calculations. The court instructed the parties to respond to
the court in a week with final back pay numbers, indicating
whether the parties agreed or disagreed on a final amount.
The court also advised the plaintiff that he would need to
submit proof in support of any negative tax implication. The
court indicated it would need more than the plaintiff's
own, personal calculation regarding a negative tax
implication. The court also urged the parties to come to an
agreement on the amount for back pay and/or attorneys'
September 2, 2016, the plaintiff submitted a letter from
Joseph Lubash, MBA, EA, a managing partner of a tax firm in
Montrose, Pennsylvania. (Doc. 104). Revised back pay
calculations were included with the letter. In his letter,
Mr. Lubash indicated that he reviewed the plaintiff's
income and tax calculations and he confirmed that those
calculations were correct. Mr. Lobash's letter also
stated that any changes to the “base data”
provided to him would alter the actual tax paid for the year.
Mr. Lobash did not indicate in his letter what base tax data
was provided to him in reaching his opinion-the court assumes
it included the calculations attached to the letter provided
to the court. The defendant has not submitted any documents
to the court since the hearing, nor has the defendant
objected to the revised back pay calculation provided by the
plaintiff. The defendant also has not responded to the
plaintiff's letters to the court supplementing the motion
for attorneys' fees and costs.
parties have indicated that an agreement has been reached
with regard to the amount of back pay or attorneys' fees
THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES
plaintiff originally requested $96, 897.81 in attorneys'
fees and $1, 122.31 in costs. His request currently totals
$109, 447.74. The defendant made several, initial objections
to the plaintiff's request. These objections included the
following: 1) the hours billed and $250.00 rate allotted for
Attorney Katsock's work are unreasonable; 2) fees for
Attorney Moffitt's work should not be awarded, or, in the
alternative, the hours billed and $150.00 rate for her work
in the case are unreasonable; 3) Attorney Katsock's and
Attorney Moffitt's billing is inflated with respect to
any clerical or administrative tasks they performed; 4) the
motion seeks fees for tasks not related to this litigation,
namely fees for administrative proceedings; and 5) the
results obtained should reduce the lodestar. The court agrees
with some of the defendant's objections and will adjust
the award accordingly. Thus, the plaintiff's motion for
attorneys' fees is granted in part. After correcting
mathematical errors and making adjustments, the court finds
that the plaintiff is entitled to an award for attorneys'
fees and costs in the amount of $79, 467.03.
authority for awarding attorney's fees in this case is
Title 42, Section 1988 of the United States Code. This
provision grants district courts discretion to award “a
reasonable attorney's fee” to the prevailing party
“[i]n any action or proceeding to enforce [civil rights
statutes, including Section 1983 actions].” 42 U.S.C.
§1988(b). A party may be considered a prevailing party
entitled to attorneys' fees if “they succeed on any
significant issue in litigation which achieves some of the
benefit the parties sought in bringing suit.”
Farrar v. Hobby, 506 U.S. 103, 109 (1992) (quoting
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 754, 758 (1980)
(per curiam)). Here, there is no dispute that the
plaintiff is the prevailing party in this action and that the
plaintiff is entitled to a reasonable award of attorneys'
fees and costs. The defendant, however, challenges the
reasonableness of the attorneys' fees and costs requested
by the plaintiff.
most useful starting point for determining the amount of a
reasonable fee is the number of hours reasonably expended on
the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate. This
calculation provides an objective basis on which to make an
initial estimate of the value of a lawyer's
services.” Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433. This
calculation is referred to as the “lodestar.”
Hahnemann Univ. Hosp. v. All Shore, Inc., 514 F.3d
300, 310 (3d Cir. 2008). Initially, the party seeking
attorneys' fees bears the initial burden of demonstrating
the reasonableness of the fees. See Interfaith Cmty. Org.
v. Honeywell Int'l, Inc., 426 F.3d 694, 703 (3d Cir.
2005) (citing Rode v. Dellarciprete, 892 F.2d 1177,
1183 (3d Cir. 1990)). To meet this burden, the fee petitioner
“must submit evidence supporting the hours worked and
the rates claimed.” Rode, 892 F.2d at 1183
(quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433). Once the fee
petitioner has met this initial burden, the party challenging
the request bears the burden of showing that the request is
unreasonable. McKenna v. City of Phila., 582 F.3d
447, 459 (3d Cir. 2009).
there are objections, the court is given discretion to reduce
fees, but this discretion is not unlimited. The court may not
decrease an award based on factors not raised by the party
opposing the request. Id. Further, if “the
opposing party has not produced contradictory evidence, the
district court may not exercise its discretion to adjust the
requested rate downward.” Watcher v. Pottsville
Area Emergency Med. Serv., Inc., 559 F.Supp.2d 516, 521
(M.D. Pa. 2008) (quoting Ridley v. Costco Wholesale
Corp., 217 F. App'x 130, 139 (3d Cir. 2007)). In
light of any objections, the court must provide its reasoning
when awarding fees and should provide a clear and concise
explanation for the award. Planned Parenthood of Cent.
N.J. v. Att'y Gen. of State of N.J., 297
F.3d 253, 266 (3d Cir. 2002). “[T]he type of reduction
made by a district court need not be exactly the same as that
requested by the adverse party, ‘as long as the fee
applicant is given sufficient notice to present his or her
contentions with respect to the reduction that the district
court ultimately makes.'” McKenna, 582
F.3d at 459 (quoting Bell v. United Princeton Prop.,
Inc., 884 F.2d 713, 722 (3d Cir. 1989)).
Reasonable Hourly Rates
defendant disputes Attorney Katsock's and Attorney
Moffitt's hourly fee. The plaintiff has submitted the
billing for Attorney Katsock and Attorney Moffitt, in
addition to affidavits supporting Attorney Katsock's fee.
No evidence was submitted to contradict Attorney
Katsock's rate. In light of this, the court is without
discretion to adjust Attorney Katsock's hourly fee. No
evidence was offered to support or contradict the $150.00 per
hour rate for Attorney Moffitt, other than Attorney Moffitt
and Attorney Katsock's own testimony that her rate is
reasonable. The court finds that her hourly fee is
reasonable. These rates are reasonable, however, only when
used to bill for services that are not clerical or
paraprofessional in nature.
general rule is that a reasonable hourly rate for legal
services is calculated according to the prevailing market
rates in the community. Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S.
886, 895-96 n.11 (1984); Student Pub. Interest Research
Grp. of N.J., Inc. v. AT&T Bell Labs., 842 F.2d
1436, 1448 (3d Cir. 1988) (adopting the community market
rule). This determination is a finding of fact. Loughner
v. Univ. of Pittsburgh, 260 F.3d 173, 180 (3d Cir.
2001). An attorney's customary billing rate is usually an
appropriate place to start in determining the prevailing
market rate, but this is not dispositive. Id. at
180; D'Orazio v. Washington Twp., No.
07-cv-5097-JEI-KMW, 2011 WL 6715635, at *2 (D.N.J. Oct. 18,
2011) (citation omitted). “The Court should consider
the experience and skill of the prevailing party's
attorney, and compare the rates to those prevailing in the
community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably
comparable skill, experience, and reputation.”
Watcher, 559 F.Supp.2d at 521 (citing
Maldonado, 256 F.3d at 184). Affidavits of other
attorneys practicing in the same market may also be offered
as evidence to establish the prevailing market rate. See
Ellis v. Ethicon, Inc., No. 05-726, 2010 WL 715403, at
*2 (D.N.J. March 1, 2010).
Attorney Katsock's Hourly Rate
instant matter, the plaintiff seeks hourly fees in the amount
of $250.00 for Attorney Katsock. In support of this request,
Attorney Katsock submitted an affidavit outlining his
professional background and his experience in employment and
constitutional litigation and he testified during the August
22, 2016 hearing in support of his fees. In his affidavit,
Attorney Katsock asserts that the different hourly rates
requested for Attorney Moffitt and himself are reasonable and
that they are significantly lower than those charged by
attorneys of comparable experience and expertise in the
community. The defendant opposes Attorney Katsock's rate
on the grounds that he is not experienced in civil rights
litigation, although the defendant submits that the rate is
appropriate with respect to civil defense, personal injury,
corporate, and employment litigation. The court disagrees
with the defendant's position.
Katsock maintains a private law practice and has been
practicing law for 16 years. In his reply brief, the
plaintiff listed eleven employment, civil rights, and
constitutional cases that Attorney Katsock has litigated in
this district alone. (Doc. 87, at 4-6). During the
August 22, 2016 hearing, the plaintiff also submitted a
declaration from Cynthia Pollick, who is an attorney
practicing in this district, primarily in civil rights
litigation. (Doc. 102). Ms. Pollick's
declaration states that the requested hourly rate of $250.00
is reasonable because it is well under the market rate
charged by attorneys in the local area. She alleges that her
current hourly rate is $400.00 per hour. Ms. Pollick also
attached an exhibit to her declaration containing an
affidavit from defense counsel, Robin Snyder, that was
provided in a different case within this district,
which Attorney Snyder affirms “that a plaintiff's
civil rights attorney in the Scranton legal market with
approximately twenty-five years of experience, based upon
[her own] experience and knowledge, typically charges
$250-$300 per hour.” (Doc. 102, Ex. A
¶7). Attorney Katsock was also cross-examined by defense
counsel at the August 22, 2016 hearing and affirmed his
position that his fees are reasonable. Defense counsel did
not present evidence of a market rate lower than the $250.00
requested on behalf of Attorney Katsock.
court finds that the plaintiff has sustained his burden as to
Attorney Katsock's requested rate of $250.00 per hour for
legal services. The plaintiff presented Attorney
Katsock's affidavit and testimony attesting that the rate
is significantly lower than that charged by attorneys of
comparable expertise in the community. The plaintiff also
represented in his reply brief that Attorney Katsock
litigated several matters involving civil rights and/or
constitutional actions in federal court, particularly in this
district. The defendant did not produce any evidence
contradicting the plaintiff's requested rate. Further,
defense counsel has previously attested in another case that
a reasonable rate for an experienced civil rights attorney in
the Scranton legal market is $250.00 to $300.00 per hour.
Thus, having met his initial burden for the reasonableness of
Attorney Katsock's rate, and without credible
contradictory evidence from the defendant, the district court
is without discretion, nor does it believe it necessary to
adjust the plaintiff's requested rate for Attorney
Katsock downward. Watcher, 559 F.Supp.2d at 521. As
such, the court will use the reasonable rate of $250.00 per
hour in calculating Attorney Katsock's fees for legal
Attorney Moffitt's Hourly Rate
plaintiff requested hourly fees in the amount of $150.00 for
his sister, Attorney Moffitt. The defendant objects to any
compensation for Attorney Moffitt in this case and also
argues that her rate is unreasonable. With respect to her
rate, the defendant argues that the plaintiff failed to
satisfy his burden in demonstrating the reasonableness of
Attorney Moffitt's $150.00 hourly fee because her resume
is not attached to the attorney fee petition, and that in any
case, she is not experienced in civil rights litigation. The
defendant further argues that Attorney Moffitt should not be
billed as an attorney because Attorney Katsock stated in his
affidavit that Attorney Moffitt “acted as [his] legal
assistant in this matter.” (Doc. 82,
¶17). The court finds that Attorney Moffitt's hourly
rate is reasonable.
plaintiff did not submit an affidavit from Attorney Moffitt
testifying to her experience. However, during the August 22,
2016 hearing, both Attorney Katsock and Attorney Moffitt
testified that they had an initial conversation on June 8,
2012, the day after the plaintiff was originally suspended,
in which they agreed that Attorney Moffitt would assist in
the case as an attorney and would be compensated at a rate of
$150.00 per hour in the event that the plaintiff prevailed.
Their agreement was never reduced to writing. Attorney
Katsock also testified that Attorney Moffitt served in the
capacity of an attorney and not as an administrative
assistant, despite his previous description of her as a
Moffitt then testified that she has been licensed to practice
law in Pennsylvania for approximately 23 years. She testified
that she currently works as a contract negotiator for
Frontier Communications, although she did previously work for
a private practitioner for a few years. Attorney Moffitt
admitted that she had no experience in civil rights
litigation. She also testified that she aided the litigation
by doing research and helping with briefs. Attorney
Moffitt's billing indicates that the majority of her work
did, in fact, entail legal research and writing. (Doc.
82-5). The defendants cross-examined Attorney
Moffitt, but, again, they did not submit any evidence to
suggest another rate would be applicable, seemingly adhering
to the theory that she should not be compensated at all.
Moffitt is entitled to attorney's fees at her requested
rate of $150.00 per hour. The court is satisfied that
Attorney Moffitt served in her capacity as an attorney and
not as a legal assistant in this matter. Attorney Moffitt has
substantial legal experience and has contributed work product
to this litigation as indicated by the billing submitted to
the court. Although she has not been practicing in the field
of civil rights litigation, the lower rate of $150.00 per
hour reflects her level of expertise in the area, as compared
to Attorney Katsock's rate of $250.00 per hour.
Researching case law and preparing briefs are normal
functions performed by an attorney assisting a lead attorney
on a case and these tasks formed the bulk of Attorney
Moffitt's contribution to the litigation. Accordingly,
the court will use the reasonably proposed $150.00 rate in
calculating her lodestar.
Katsock and Attorney Moffitt use one hourly rate in their
billing, even though some of this time was spent on tasks
that did not require the exercise of legal judgment or skill.
The defendant argues that certain tasks billed were clerical
in nature and are, therefore, non-billable. At the hearing,
Attorney Katsock justified his billing at a single rate based
on the fact that he is a solo practitioner without any
assistance, either secretarial or paralegal assistance. The
court agrees that using an attorney's full hourly rate
for every task despite the level of skill required is
improper, but does not agree that all of the time the
defendant disputes is non-billable.
Third Circuit Court of Appeals has “cautioned on a
number of occasions that when a lawyer spends time on tasks
that are easily delegable to non-professional assistance,
legal service rates are not applicable.” Planned
Parenthood of Cent. N.J., 297 F.3d at 266 (quoting
Halderman v. Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp., 49
F.3d 939, 942 (3d Cir. 1995)). “The fact that private
lawyers may perform tasks other than legal services for their
clients, with their consent and approval, does not justify
foisting off such expenses on an adversary under the guise of
reimbursable legal fees.” Halderman, 49 F.3d
at 942. Thus, reducing the rate for tasks requiring less
skill is proper. See, e.g., McKenna, 582 F.3d at
456-57; Loughner, 260 F.3d at 180.
to the defendant's suggestion, however, the work
performed on these task may be recoverable dependant on the
relevant market. See McKenna, 582 F.3d at 457
(affirming the district court's decision to reduce, but
not eliminate, the rate for clerical tasks). For example,
paralegal work is clearly recoverable based on the market
rates for such services or at cost, which is wholly dependant
on the relevant market. Missouri v. Jenkins ex rel
Agyei, 491 U.S. 274, 285 (1989). In addition,
“[i]t is appropriate to distinguish between legal work,
in the strictest sense, and investigation, clerical work,
compilation of facts and statistics and other work which can
often be accomplished by non-lawyers . . . . Such non-legal
work may command a lesser rate.” Id. at 288 n.
10 (quoting Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express,
Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717 (5th Cir. 1974)). However,
again, “[i]ts dollar value is not enhanced just because
a lawyer [performs these tasks].” Id.
relevant legal market in this case is the
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Market. See J.S. ex rel. Snyder v.
Blue Mountain Sch. Dist., No. 3:07cv85, 2014 WL 1321116,
at *5-6 (M.D. Pa. March 31, 2014) (explaining the
“forum rate rule”); see also Interfaith Cmty.
Org., 426 F.3d at 703-04. Purely clerical work, such as
copying and filing, is non-billable and is usually absorbed
in the attorney's fee as overhead, which is true in this
area and throughout Pennsylvania. See Poff v. Prime Care
Med., Inc., No. 1:13-CV-03066, 2016 WL 3254108, at *12
(M.D. Pa. June 14, 2016) (Scranton forum); Borrell v.
Bloomsburg Univ., ___ F.Supp.3d ___, 2016 WL 4988061, at
*43 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 19, 2016) (Scranton forum);
Evankavitch v. Green Tree Servicing, LLC, No.
3:12cv2564, 2014 WL 4437645, at *3 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 9, 2010)
(Scranton forum); Walker v. Gruver, Civ. Action Nos.
1:11-CV-1223, 1:11-CV-1224, 2013 WL 5947623, at *14 (M.D. Pa.
Nov. 5, 2013) (Harrisburg forum); Sheffer v. Experian
Info. Solutions, Inc., 290 F.Supp.2d 538, 549 (E.D. Pa.
2003) (Philadelphia forum); Doe v. Ward, 282
F.Supp.2d 323, 334 (W.D. Pa. 2003) (Pittsburgh forum). In
comparison, paralegal work is billable. See, e.g., United
States ex rel. Sharon McKinney v. DHS Techs., LLC, No.
3:11-CV-146, 2015 WL 11675668, at *10 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 27,
2015). Recent awards for paralegal fees in this district have
ranged from $95.00 to $170.00 per hour. See Arlington
Indus., Inc. v. Bridgeport Fittings, Inc., No.
3:02-CV-0134, 2016 WL 3522964, at *3 (M.D. Pa. June 28, 2016)
(awarding $170/hr); id. (awarding $110/hr);
Evankavitch, 2014 WL 4437645, at *4 (awarding
court has reviewed the disputed entries in Attorney
Katsock's billing and finds that the following entries
are for clerical and paralegal/paraprofessional work and
should be treated accordingly:
1. Filing of documents with Clerk of Court: 6/6/13, 9/2/13,
9/13/13, 9/16/13, 12/10/13, 1/16/14, 3/23/14, 9/14/14,
10/29/14, 11/21/14, 3/4/16, 3/13/16, 4/1/16, 4/13/16,
4/14/16, 5/17/16, 6/14/16, two (2) entries on 7/15/16,
8/9/16, 9/1/16, 10/23/16, 11/20/16, 12/7/16
2. Preparing waivers and certificates of service: 6/18/13,
9/2/13, 9/5/13, 9/12/13, 11/9/13, 12/10/13, 1/15/14, 3/22/14,
4/29/14, 6/9/14, 6/19/14, 7/21/14, 9/13/14, 10/27/14,
10/29/14, 11/19/14, 11/21/14, 3/1/16, 3/12/16, 4/1/16,
5/17/16, 7/15/16, 8/9/16
documents, whether in person or electronically, requires no
legal skill and is a purely clerical or administrative task.
See McKenna, 582 F.3d at 457 (describing clerical
work to include faxing, emailing, filing, scanning,
assembling, and conforming). As such, it is non-billable and
is absorbed in the attorney's fee. See
Evankavitch, 2014 WL 4437645, at *3. Therefore, these
tasks must be eliminated from the final lodestar altogether.
preparation, however, does not clearly fall within the realm
of clerical work-even for a simple document such as a
certificate of service. See Jenkins, 491
U.S. at 288 n. 10 (listing “document production”
as a compensable task performed by a paralegal). At the
hearing, Attorney Katsock argued that this task has a legal
component because service is required by law and the rules.
Instead, the court finds that this task falls within the
realm between legal and non-legal work that may be performed
by an attorney or a paralegal. Certainly, if an attorney
prepared the entire document, including the certificate of
service, and simply billed for the preparation of the
document without breaking down the components of the document
there would be no dispute that the billing (at the
attorney's rate) would be appropriate. Thus, there is an
artificial line drawn between legal and clerical work just
because the attorney decided to provide exacting detail
regarding his time spent preparing a document, especially
where, as here, the attorney is a solo practitioner without
the defendant argues that such work is entirely clerical, the
court is not convinced that this is the case and instead
finds that this work falls somewhere in between the legal and
clerical divide. While the court does not seek to punish the
Attorney for providing a detailed account of his time, the
court does find that billing at Attorney Katsock's sole
rate for this task is inappropriate. The dollar value for
these services should not be enhanced just because a lawyer
performed the task. Jenkins, 491 U.S. at 288 n. 10.
Instead the preparation of these simple documents are more
appropriately billed at the rate of a paralegal, a
paraprofessional whose traditional role crosses between
clerical and legal frequently. In this market, paralegal pay
varies substantially and neither parties provided evidence of
what rate might apply to tasks assigned to paraprofessionals.
The court finds the lower rate of $95.00 per hour appropriate
in light of cases cited in this forum and in light of the
hourly rates for Attorney Katsock ($250/hr) and his less
experienced counterpart in this matter, Attorney Moffitt
addition to the above compensation for Attorney Katsock, the
defendant objects to any compensation for Attorney Moffitt
for her hand delivery of exhibits to court prior to trial.
Like the filing of documents, this task is purely clerical
and administrative, requiring no legal skill. Thus, this task
should also be eliminated entirely from the billing as a cost
absorbed in the attorney's overhead.
Hours Reasonably Expended
upon the defendant's objections, the court must next
“determine whether the number of hours spent on the
litigation was reasonable.” Watcher, 559
F.Supp.2d at 522. The court should review the time charged,
decide whether the hours entered for certain tasks are
reasonable, and exclude those that are “excessive,
redundant, or otherwise unnecessary.” Id. at
522-23 (quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434).
“Hours that are not properly billed to one's client
are not properly billed to one's adversary pursuant to
statutory authority.” Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434
(citation omitted). On numerous occasions, the defendant
argues that certain entries are excessive. The court agrees
with the defendant in part. In addition, the court notes that
the hours provided by the plaintiff in his motion are
Mathematical Corrections for Duplicative Billings
plaintiff originally requested $96, 897.81 in attorneys'
fees and $1, 122.31 in costs, stating that he seeks
compensation for 285.69 hours of work performed by Attorney
Katsock and 136.5 hours of work performed by Attorney
Moffitt. His request currently totals $109, 447.74 when
taking into account post-trial work. A review of the billing
provided exposes, however, that his current request is