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FREEMAN v. DOLE

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA


March 8, 1985

MARTHA S. FREEMAN, Plaintiff
v.
ELIZABETH DOLE, et al., Defendants

Robinson, Chief Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBINSON, JR.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Before the Court are a supplemental request for attorney's fees and a request for review of costs filed by plaintiff in the above-captioned matter. These current petitions are an outgrowth of the attempt by plaintiff to seek enforcement of this Court's order of May 24, 1984, awarding plaintiff $ 23,961.57 in reasonable attorney's fees and expenses as a result of her successful employment discrimination suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Equal Employment Opportunities Act of 1972, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16 (1976), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. § 633a (Supp. III 1979). Plaintiff has been required since the date of this order to respond to three papers filed by defendants: an opposition to plaintiff's petition for fees and costs, an opposition to defendants' motion for leave to note an untimely appeal, and an opposition to defendants' motion to alter or amend the Court's order denying leave to appeal. As it is well settled that time necessarily spent litigating a fee request is itself compensable, Copeland v. Marshall, 205 U.S. App. D.C. 390, 641 F.2d 880, 896 (D.C. Cir. 1980) (en banc), the Court now turns its attention to the specific requests presented.

 A. ATTORNEY'S FEES

 The most useful starting point in determining the amount of a reasonable attorney's fee "is the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate." Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433, 76 L. Ed. 2d 40, 103 S. Ct. 1933 (1983). Plaintiff has claimed an additional 25.1 hours since the order of this Court awarding attorney's fees and costs. Defendants' do not challenge the number of hours expended by plaintiff's counsel. The Court notes that counsel was required to prepare three substantive documents to respond adequately to the contentions raised by defendants. The Court finds that, in light of these circumstances, 25.1 hours was a reasonable amount of time to expend on this phase of the litigation.

 Plaintiff has proposed most recently that the reasonable hourly rate should be set at her law firm's current customary hourly rate of $ 100.00 an hour. Defendants' oppose this figure, claiming that the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Laffey v. Northwest Air Lines, Inc., 241 U.S. App. D.C. 11, 746 F.2d 4 (D.C. Cir. 1984) (" Laffey II "), requires that "any award to plaintiff's counsel . . . must be at rates between $ 20 and $ 40 per hour." Defendants' propose these lower rates because these rates signify the rate originally set in the retainer agreement between plaintiff and her lawyers. In this Court's order of May 24, 1984, plaintiff was awarded rates between $ 85.00 and $ 125.00 an hour, based on this Court's determination of the prevailing community rate. Since Laffey II, the reasonable hourly rate for counsel for prevailing parties presumptively is the hourly rate customarily charged by the lawyer. However, defendants' err in relying upon rates negotiated in 1976 between plaintiff and her lawyers. A reasonable hourly rate reflects the rate in effect at the time the fees are awarded, not the rate in effect when the fee agreement was signed. Copeland v. Marshall, 205 U.S. App. D.C. 390, 641 F.2d 880, 896 (D.C. Cir. 1980). Therefore, the reasonable hourly rate for plaintiff for the services under consideration is the firm's usual billing rate of $ 100.00 an hour. In addition, plaintiff is entitled to compensation for the work of a paralegal, and for costs for photocopying ($ 24.00), postage ($ 4.15), and messenger ($ 43.50) incurred in this phase of the litigation. Therefore, the total compensation for attorney's fees is: Fees 25.1 hours x $ 100.00 an hour = $ 2,510.00 Paralegal 1.0 hour x $ 15.00 an hour = $ 15.00 Costs = $ 71.65 TOTAL $ 2,596.65

19850308

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