appropriate, the court will award plaintiffs their requested $ 80 per hour for Mr. Lane's time on administrative tasks.
B. Reasonable Number of Hours
In general, plaintiffs' counsel appear to have used good billing judgment. For example, they have declined to bill ABC for their travel time
or for at least 500 hours of their paralegal time.
However, several problems with plaintiffs' counsel's time records make this court suspect that his bill is somewhat inflated, and accordingly the court will award counsel compensation for only ninety percent of his claimed time. To save scarce judicial resources, district courts may shave a percentage of counsel's hours instead of "deciding, for example, whether a particular motion could have been done in 9.6 hours instead of 14.3 hours."
A ten percent cut is clearly within this court's power.
Plaintiffs' counsel's time is not documented as well as the court has a right to expect. The billing statement that plaintiffs produced in their initial fee application on May 22, 1992 describes counsel's services much more sparsely than their more recent fee application.
Details later added to plaintiffs' counsel's time records make this court suspect that sufficiently detailed time records were not kept here in the first place. Attorneys who anticipate shifting their fees lack a direct incentive to keep their hours reasonably low, so courts must insist that such attorneys keep very detailed time records to prove that their time was well-spent.
Further, plaintiffs' counsel have submitted conflicting and contradictory fee requests. One of the sharpest such disputes between plaintiffs' counsel is the battle between Mr. Lane and Ms. McPheters over credit for the drafting of the complaint. Mr. Lane claims that he spent 64.75 hours preparing the complaint.
In a sworn declaration accompanying his statement of hours, he states that he "participated" in drafting the complaint.
In another sworn declaration filed shortly afterwards, he states that "during the short period of time that Ms. McPheters was associated with the case . . . Ms. McPheters typed the pleadings and often I dictated them at my offices."
Ms. McPheters claims that she alone prepared the complaint, and that she spent only 18.00 hours doing it.
She states in her August 16, 1994 reply to plaintiffs' fee submissions that she drafted the complaint, shared her completed draft with Mr. Lane and the plaintiffs for their review, made the minimal changes recommended, and filed the complaint almost exactly as she drafted it. She denies that Mr. Lane ever dictated the complaint to her for typing.
The fact that two of plaintiffs' lawyers do not trust each others' time records makes the court hesitate to trust any of the records.
Although his statement of hours is unsworn, Mr. Lane affirms its accuracy in his sworn declaration filed the same date (Ex. C to Pls.' Application). In that sworn declaration, he states that "that statement is based upon the hours expended on behalf of my clients in this case" (P 16), that "the hours which I devoted to this case comprised only that time which I was constrained to devote to the case in the interests of my client" (P 17), and that he "continually used sound billing judgment in an effort to minimize the time spent" (P 17).
Lastly, ABC objects that plaintiffs' bill for more than $ 47,000.00 for preparing the reply on the fees issue is unreasonably large, larger than the fees Mr. Lane has collected in many other cases. (Def.'s Supp. Opp'n at 9.) Yet fee applicants are entitled to reasonable attorney's fees expended pursuing a fee award,
and plaintiffs here are entitled to reasonable attorney's fees their lawyers expended not only in preparing the reply on the fee issue, but in preparing the fee application and the supplemental reply. The amount a fee applicant has collected from other clients in the past on unrelated matters is no cap on the amount he can collect for his reasonable efforts in fee litigation. Because this blunderbuss attack of ABC's adds little to the more specific critiques above, the court will not view plaintiffs' fee-for-fees bill any more critically than the rest of plaintiffs' billing. However, ABC's more specific critiques above persuade this court to reduce plaintiffs' counsel's hours -- expended both on the merits of this case and on the fee litigation -- by ten percent.
ABC does not object to an award of $ 2,910.03 of plaintiffs' claimed costs in this litigation.
Plaintiffs have dropped all outstanding contested costs
except for one pair of related expenses: the $ 3,825.00 paid to Dr. Hamlin for his opinion on plaintiff Shepherd's post-traumatic stress disorder, and the costs related to Dr. Hamlin's deposition ($ 595.60 for a transcript and $ 72.23 for PIP Printing).
Hours devoted to unsuccessful issues should not be compensated,
and ABC argues by analogy that plaintiffs' costs expended in pursuing this losing claim should also be disallowed.
Here, ABC argues that the court's finding that Ms. Shepherd's post-traumatic stress disorder claim failed as a matter of law
renders the costs non-compensable. Yet because Dr. Hamlin's deposition testimony formed part of the basis for Shepherd's other, successful claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress,
these costs were not expended wastefully and ABC's argument fails. Accordingly, plaintiffs shall be awarded $ 7,402.86 in costs.
IV. MOTION FOR AN EVIDENTIARY HEARING
On August 23, 1994, ABC filed a motion for an evidentiary hearing to resolve the heated dispute between Mr. Lane and Ms. McPheters over credit for time spent on tasks in this case. The motion was prompted by what ABC calls the "startling assertions" of Ms. McPheters' August 16, 1994 reply, presumably her statements that she, not Mr. Lane, is solely responsible for such tasks as drafting the complaint in this case.
However, ABC knew about the fight between Mr. Lane and Ms. McPheters over credit for drafting the complaint and other tasks long before Ms. McPheters filed her August 16, 1994 reply, and partly relied upon it in its opposition to the fee award.
ABC knew about the substance of Ms. McPheters' objections from a letter she wrote to plaintiffs on November 12, 1987, which stated that "I have been solely responsible for all aspects of your representation from the outset to the present time, including: initial interviews and investigation, preparation of the complaint filed in the Superior Court" and other tasks.
ABC also had Mr. Lane's response to Ms. McPheters' claims, stating that "Ms. McPheters' past efforts included seeking credit for the work in this case, withdrawing from the case against the wishes of her clients and co-counsel, refusing to return those files in her possession to their clients until a complaint was filed against her with the Bar Association, the filing of a lien by her against her clients in this case and other conduct of a surprising nature."
ABC stated in its opposition that its proposed solution to the dispute was simply to cut the number of Mr. Lane's hours by some fraction and to award Ms. McPheters compensation for all of her claimed hours.
Although Ms. McPheters' recent filing may add some new cumulative information to this dispute, it adds nothing startling and nothing demanding a fresh inquiry into the facts. This fee litigation must not be derailed by the conflicting affidavits of a pair of disgruntled former colleagues who have had a bitter parting of the ways. Ruling otherwise would permit satellite litigation galore and would transform this already lengthy fee dispute into a second major litigation. Accordingly, the court shall take ABC's original suggestion to reduce the number of hours and shall deny ABC's recent motion for an evidentiary hearing.
The court extends its commendation to Mr. Lane and Ms. Taifa for obtaining exceptional results for their clients in this case against a powerful opponent. Counsel contributed to the development of the law of sanctions in this Circuit and served the court in the highest tradition of the bar. A separate order shall issue this date awarding plaintiffs $ 518,711.91 in attorney's fees and costs in accordance with this opinion.
Royce C. Lamberth
United States District Judge
Upon consideration of the Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File a Sur-Reply to Response of ABC to Plaintiffs' Opposition to ABC's Request for an Evidentiary Hearing on Plaintiffs' Fee Petition, the statement that ABC does not oppose Plaintiffs' Motion and the entire record, it is hereby
ORDERED that the Motion for Leave to File a Sur-Reply is granted and the Sur-Reply shall be filed.
Royce C. Lamberth
United States District Judge
This case comes before this court on plaintiffs' application for attorney's fees and costs under the District of Columbia's Human Rights Act, 2 D.C.C. §§ 1-2501 et seq., and defendant American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.'s ("ABC") motion for an evidentiary hearing. For the reasons stated in a memorandum opinion issued this date, it is hereby ORDERED that
1. Defendant's motion for an evidentiary hearing is DENIED.
2. Plaintiffs are awarded $ 518,711.91 in attorney's fees and costs, in accordance with the chart below:
Name Hours Hourly Rate Total
Mark Lane 1,137.65 n1 $305.00 $346,983.25
Nkechi Taifa 624.87 n2 $215.00 $134,347.05
Linda Huber McPheters 219.25 $135.00 $29,598.75
Administrative Tasks 4.75 $80.00 $380.00
Total Fees $511,309.05
Total Costs $7,402.86
Total Fees and Costs $518,711.91
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