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COOK v. BLOCK

March 15, 1985

DOROTHY M. COOK, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
JOHN R. BLOCK, et al., Defendants


Robinson, Jr., Chief Judge


The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBINSON

I. INTRODUCTION

 Before the Court is the application of plaintiffs for attorney's fees incurred in connection with their successful employment discrimination suit. The parties settled this suit, as reflected in this Court's order of December 9, 1983. The terms of this settlement provided that plaintiff Cook receive a retroactive promotion to a GS-12 level with grade increases and full back pay, and that plaintiff Lewis receive a retroactive promotion to a GS-12 level and a cash payment. *fn1" The Court now must determine what attorney's fees are due plaintiffs.

 The attorney's fee provision of Title VII, under which plaintiffs sued for relief, permits a district court, in its discretion, to award attorney's fees and costs to a prevailing party. The statute provides in pertinent part:

 
In any action or proceeding under . . . [Title VII] the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party . . . a reasonable attorney's fee as part of the costs. . . ." *fn2"

 The purpose of awarding fees in civil rights litigation is "to encourage individuals injured by . . . discrimination to seek judicial relief by enabling them to obtain adequate counsel for their meritorious claims." *fn3" Where, as is the case here, plaintiffs have achieved relief by virtue of a negotiated settlement, rather than by a trial on the merits, the requirement that the recipient of the fees be a "prevailing party" is satisfied. *fn4" Therefore, plaintiffs in this action are eligible for an award of attorney's fees pursuant to the provisions of Title VII and the applicable case law.

 The 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." *fn5" This method of calculation, commonly termed the "lodestar" method, provides the district court with a lodestar figure that presumptively represents the amount of a reasonable fee award. *fn6" Although the amount is presumed reasonable, the fee in some cases may be adjusted to reflect various factors. *fn7"

 II. CALCULATION OF THE LODESTAR

 A. Hours Reasonably Expended

 An applicant for attorney's fees is entitled only to an award for time reasonably expended. "It does not follow that the amount of time actually expended is the amount of time reasonably expended. *fn8" Consequently, a court may not award fees where time was spent on unsuccessful claims, where an attorney engaged in nonproductive work, *fn9" or where extraneous time was billed because a case was overstaffed. *fn10" Applicants preparing an attorney's fee petition must use their professional "billing judgment" in arriving at the lodestar figure *fn11" and must be prepared to document their claim with "contemporaneous, complete and standardized time records which accurately reflect the work done. . . ." *fn12" The application need not present "the exact number of minutes spent," *fn13" but should enable the court to make "an independent determination whether or not the hours claimed are justified." *fn14"

 The Court in this case, after review of the time statements prepared by plaintiffs' counsel, finds that, with minor exceptions, the hours claimed were reasonably expended. Plaintiffs have requested compensation for 90 hours for Sheila Albright, who represented plaintiffs during the administrative phase of the litigation, and for 220 hours for David Lloyd, who represented plaintiffs during the trial preparation and settlement phases of the litigation. Defendants have objected only to 5.7 hours claimed by plaintiffs for Mr. Lloyd, urging that these hours were spent nonproductively or inefficiently. Based on these objections and the Court's independent review of the hours claimed, the Court finds that the hours claimed by Albright and Lloyd are reasonable, subject to the following reductions.

 1. Eliminated Hours

 a. Plaintiffs have requested 0.3 hours expended on December 5, 1982 on drafting a praecipe of counsel's address change. This item is not properly charged to the defendants. Maintaining proper records and informing those with whom one has a business relationship of an address change are incidental to engaging in a law practice and are costs which must be borne by the attorney. Therefore, the amount of the award will be reduced by 0.3 hours.

 b. Plaintiffs also have requested a total of 9.0 hours expended between September 14, 1983 and March 16, 1984 on preparation of time documentation. The Court believes that, as with the address change notification, this item is incidental to orderly maintenance of records and is not chargeable to the defendants. The Court has been careful not to eliminate hours spent on attorney's fee research or editing of the documents, but the Court is not prepared to permit plaintiffs to charge defendants nine hours for their lawyer keeping records of his time. The Court also takes judicial notice of the fact that many private law firms do not bill clients for the time expended in keeping daily log sheets ...


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