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CASTLE v. BENTSEN

January 20, 1995

DIAN L. CASTLE, Plaintiff,
v.
LLOYD M. BENTSEN, Secretary of the Department of Treasury, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES R. RICHEY

 INTRODUCTION

 Before the Court are the Plaintiff's Petition for Award of Attorney Fees and Costs, the Plaintiff's Supplement to Petition for Award of Attorney Fees and Costs, as well as the Defendant's respective responses thereto. The Plaintiff seeks a total of $ 204,461.25 in fees and $ 9,958.39 in costs in her original fee application, and an additional $ 5,922.50 in fees and $ 815.32 in costs in her supplemental application. In response to the original application, the Defendant submits that the Plaintiff's request should be reduced by at least $ 24,452.50 in fees and $ 6,186.50 in costs. In response to the supplemental application, the Defendant contends that the Plaintiff's request for fees should be reduced by $ 1,837.50 and that she should not be able to recover any of the costs she seeks.

 Upon careful consideration of the Plaintiff's fee petition, as supplemented, as well as the Defendant's responses thereto, the applicable law, and the entire record herein, the Court finds that the Plaintiff shall be awarded $ 185,166.25 in attorneys' fees and $ 4,020.98 in costs for the above-captioned litigation. The Court finds these amounts to be fair and reasonable.

 BACKGROUND

 The Plaintiff, Dian L. Castle, was employed with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency ("OCC") from February 11, 1991 to January 10, 1992, on which date she was terminated during her probationary period. Tr. Exh. 19. On December 30, 1993, the Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging, in pertinent part, intentional discrimination on the basis of her sex and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended in 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 et seq., as well as handicapped discrimination under Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 791 et seq. By Order entered November 2, 1994, at the close of the Plaintiff's case-in-chief, the Court granted the Defendant's Motion for Judgment of a Matter of Law on the Rehabilitation Act claim, but denied the motion with respect to the Title VII claim. A jury trial was held on the Plaintiff's claims of sex discrimination and retaliation. On November 4, 1994, the jury returned a verdict finding that the Plaintiff had proved, by a preponderance of the evidence, each element of her claim of sex discrimination, but found that the Plaintiff had not proved her retaliation claim. The jury awarded the Plaintiff $ 75,000 in compensatory damages for emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life.

 On November 4, 1994, counsel for both parties entered into an oral stipulation that any and all unresolved issues concerning backpay, front pay and reinstatement shall be committed to the sole and sound discretion of the Court, sitting without a jury, to be determined on the basis of the entire record. On November 7, 1994, a hearing was held on the issue of the Plaintiff's entitlement to such equitable relief. In a Memorandum Opinion entered November 8, 1994, the Court found that the Plaintiff was entitled to backpay until September 30, 1992, the date upon which the Defendant discovered evidence of the Plaintiff's plagiarism of the book entitled The Coach and other on-the-job-training materials. The Court further found, in the exercise of its equitable discretion, that the Plaintiff was not entitled to front pay or reinstatement. Pursuant to the Court's Order of even date, the parties filed a Stipulation on November 17, 1994 as to the precise amount of backpay the Plaintiff may recover pursuant to the Court's findings.

 Thereafter, the Plaintiff filed a Motion to Amend Judgment and the Defendant filed a Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict. As set forth in the Court's Memorandum Opinion and Order entered January 18, 1995, the Court denied both motions. The only matter which remains to be resolved in this lengthy litigation is the instant fee petition as supplemented.

 DISCUSSION

 The principles governing the Court's award of attorneys' fees and costs are not in dispute. Title VII authorizes an award of attorneys' fees and costs to the "prevailing party." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5 (k). In determining a "reasonable" fee award, the Court must first ascertain the appropriate "lodestar" rate by multiplying "the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation . . . by a reasonable hourly rate." Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433, 76 L. Ed. 2d 40, 103 S. Ct. 1933 (1983); Anthony v. Sullivan, 299 U.S. App. D.C. 198, 982 F.2d 586 (D.C. Cir. 1993). "Where the documentation of hours is inadequate, the district court may reduce the award accordingly." Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433. "The district court also should exclude from this initial fee calculation hours that were not 'reasonably expended.'" Id. at 434 (quoting S. Rep. No. 94-1011, p. 6 (1976)). Furthermore, the fee applicant must exercise "billing judgment," such that "hours that are not properly billed to one's client also are not properly billed to one's adversary pursuant to statutory authority.'" Id. (quoting Copeland v. Marshall, 205 U.S. App. D.C. 390, 641 F.2d 880, 891 (D.C. Cir. 1980) (en banc)).

 Identification of the lodestar rate, however, does not end the Court's inquiry. "There remain other considerations which may lead the district court to adjust the fee upward or downward, including the important factor of 'the results obtained.'" Id. "This factor is particularly crucial where a plaintiff is deemed 'prevailing' even though she succeeded on only some of [her] claims for relief." Id. In addressing this situation, the Court must consider, first, whether the claims upon which the Plaintiff lost were unrelated to the claims upon which she succeeded and, second, whether the Plaintiff "achieve[d] a level of success that makes the hours reasonably expended a satisfactory basis for making a fee award." Id.

 Under these principles, the Court must first determine the appropriate lodestar rate. In a Praecipe filed on January 13, 1995 following a telephonic status call held on that date, the Plaintiff submits that the total number of hours worked by her counsel on this case was 1,020.75 -- a figure which includes 7.1 paralegal hours -- and that upon multiplying this figure by the various hourly rates applicable to each attorney or paralegal who worked on the case, the appropriate lodestar is $ 210,383.75. In a response submitted to the Court on January 18, 1995, the Defendant represents that he has no objection to the hourly rates charged. The Defendant further contends, however, that the number of hours should be reduced for the reasons set forth in the Defendant's Response to the Plaintiff's Petition.

 The Defendant's urges a reduction of the total fees and costs requested by the Plaintiff for hours not "reasonably expended." On this subject, the Hensley Court observed that "cases may be overstaffed, and the skill and experience of lawyers vary widely. Counsel for the prevailing party should make a good-faith effort to exclude from a fee request hours that are excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary. . . ." Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434.

 In the instant case, the Defendant submits a list of objectionable expenses, some of which, in the Court's view, fall into the category of charges not "reasonably expended." ...


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