the government in its opposition to the motion for an interim award.
The government does not dispute that plaintiffs are entitled to recover attorneys' fees as the prevailing party in this litigation or that an interim award of some kind is permissible. When a party has succeeded in obtaining substantial interlocutory relief, an interim award of fees may be made. See Bradley v. School Board of City of Richmond, 416 U.S. 696, 723, 40 L. Ed. 2d 476, 94 S. Ct. 2006 (1974); Grubbs v. Butz, 179 U.S. App. D.C. 18, 548 F.2d 973, 976-77 (D.C. Cir. 1976). Defendant objects, however, to the amount of the interim award proposed by the plaintiffs.
I. The Lodestar
It is well established in this Circuit that the first step in determining the appropriate amount of attorneys' fees in a particular case is the calculation of a "lodestar" figure. This is done by multiplying the reasonable hourly rates for the attorneys to whom fees are to be awarded by the number of hours reasonably devoted to the litigation by each attorney. See Laffey v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., 241 U.S. App. D.C. 11, 746 F.2d 4 (D.C. Cir. 1984, cert. denied, 472 U.S. 1021, 105 S. Ct. 3488, 87 L. Ed. 2d 622 (1985); National Association of Concerned Veterans v. Secretary of Defense ("NACV"), 219 U.S. App. D.C. 94, 675 F.2d 1319 (D.C. Cir. 1982); Copeland v. Marshall, 205 U.S. App. D.C. 390, 641 F.2d 880 (D.C. Cir. 1980) (en banc). While the lodestar methodology was first developed in cases where fees were to be awarded from monetary settlements or verdicts in class actions, the Supreme Court has implicitly approved the practice in statutory fee cases such as Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 76 L. Ed. 2d 40, 103 S. Ct. 1933 (1983), and Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 79 L. Ed. 2d 891, 104 S. Ct. 1541 (1984). See Court Awarded Attorney Fees: Report of the Third Circuit Task Force, 108 F.R.D. 237, 241-46 (1985).
Part of the advantage of the lodestar method is that it gives an air of objectivity to the determination and thus should forestall a "second major litigation," Hensley, 461 U.S. at 437, on the question of fees. Without question, prolonged, petty disputes over fees are wasteful of the courts' resources and have a damaging impact on the morale, not to mention the reputation, of the legal profession as a whole. See id. at 442 (Brennan, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part) (characterizing appeals from fee awards as "one of the least socially productive types of litigation imaginable"). Despite the warnings of our Circuit Court against nit-picking disagreements, intransigence, and unreasonable negotiating positions, e.g., Commonwealth of Puerto Rico v. Heckler, 240 U.S. App. D.C. 333, 745 F.2d 709, 714 (D.C. Cir. 1984); NACV, 675 F.2d at 1338 (Tamm, J., concurring), the government has fought attorneys' fees petitions "tooth and nail." This proceeding is no exception. In reviewing this petition, the Court has endeavored to fairly and equitably assess all reasonable challenges to plaintiffs' claims, but has resisted and will continue to resist the government's invitation to undertake a line by line examination of the fee request and "pleading by pleading examination of the copious files in this case." Copeland, 641 F.2d at 903. The parties are advised that, unless directed to the contrary by appellate authority, the Court will employ a similar approach in evaluating subsequent petitions in this case, including requests for fees for the numerous pleadings filed relating to this interim petition.
A. Reasonable Hourly Rates
1. Compensation for Delay
Much of the briefing on this interim fee petition concerned an issue which was, to a great extent, recently resolved by the Supreme Court. Plaintiffs consistently maintained that the government would not be prejudiced by the award of the full amount requested in their interim petition, based on historical rates, because a final award would undoubtedly include a multiplier or use current hourly rates in order to compensate for the long delay in payment.
This argument was fully consistent with the law in this Circuit, particularly the decision in Murray v. Weinberger, 239 U.S. App. D.C. 264, 741 F.2d 1423, 1433 (D.C. Cir. 1984); see also Laffey, 746 F.2d at 20 n.104; Copeland, 641 F.2d at 893 n.23.
However, on July 1, 1986, in Library of Congress v. Shaw, 478 U.S. 310, 106 S. Ct. 2957, 92 L. Ed. 2d 250 (1986), the Supreme Court held that in enacting the attorneys' fees provision of Title VII, Congress did not waive the federal government's traditional immunity from interest awards. Thus it disallowed an award of attorneys' fees that included a 30 percent multiplier to compensate for a delay in payment. An introductory section of the opinion noted that Judge Ginsburg, dissenting from our Court of Appeals' opinion approving the multiplier, felt that the use of current rates to compensate for delay, as approved in Murray v. Weinberger, would not violate the no-interest rule. 106 S. Ct. at 2961. The Court later held that whether the multiplier applied by the district court was characterized as interest or compensation for delay was irrelevant:
Interest and a delay factor share an identical function. They are designed to compensate for the belated receipt of money. . . . Thus, whether the loss to be compensated by an increase in a fee award stems from an opportunity cost or from the effects of inflation, the increase is prohibited by the no-interest rule.