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PARK v. HOWARD UNIV.

February 23, 1995

SOON Y. PARK, Plaintiff,
v.
HOWARD UNIVERSITY, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: OLIVER GASCH

 Plaintiff was awarded a judgment following a bench trial in the amount of $ 150,000. Pursuant to the outcome of the case, counsel has filed a motion for the award of an appropriate fee. The Supreme Court in 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), discussed this subject and what constitutes a reasonable fee. The Court of Appeals for this Circuit in an en banc opinion, Save Our Cumberland Mountains, Inc. v. Hodel, 857 F.2d 1516 (D.C. Cir. 1988), discussed these two Supreme Court opinions and with some specificity enunciated the rule on this subject as follows:

 
Henceforth the prevailing market rate method heretofore used in awarding fees to traditional or private firms and public interest legal services organizations shall apply as well to those attorneys who practice privately and for profit but at reduced rates reflecting noneconomic goals.

 Id. at 1524.

 Plaintiff's counsel, with these decisions in mind, has afforded the Court substantial information as to what constitutes the prevailing market rate for cases of the character of this law suit in this jurisdiction. He has supplied affidavits and declarations of experienced counsel in this field of litigation--both those in general private practice firms and those who specialize in civil rights cases. Generally, they concur that the requested fee of $ 300 an hour is entirely reasonable for one having the experience in civil rights matters and the expertise in that field as plaintiff's counsel.

 Mr. Barrett graduated from the University of California Law School at Berkeley in 1948 and was admitted to the California Bar in 1949. He served as deputy district attorney in Alameda County through the end of 1954. In January 1955, he was appointed and served in an executive position as trial attorney at the Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. He was appointed chief of the Civil Rights Section of the Criminal Division in 1957. When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted, he was designated executive assistant to the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the newly established Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. During this period, he tried many civil rights cases before three-judge courts throughout the country. Judge Joseph M. F. Ryan served as Acting Assistant Attorney General during a portion of this time and enthusiastically commended as outstanding the character of Mr. Barrett's service. The Court's colleague, Judge Harold Greene, who was Mr. Barrett's colleague in the Civil Rights Division, was equally enthusiastic about the service rendered by Mr. Barrett. In 1967, he was appointed Deputy General Counsel in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. This position he held for ten years. In private practice in 1977, he spent most of his time on appeals in antitrust matters. In 1982, he opened his own law office, specializing in civil rights matters, particularly, employment discrimination cases. He accepts cases on a pro bono basis from the Washington Clinic for the Homeless, Legal Counsel for the Elderly, and The Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Depending on a client's ability to pay, he has agreed to accept compensation ranging from $ 50 to $ 125 an hour.

 Counsel's retainer agreement with the plaintiff contains the following language:

 
If Dr. Park obtains relief on her complaint, either by administrative order, by court judgment, or by settlement to which she agrees, she will pay Mr. Barrett $ 125 per hour of his professional services; provided: that if attorney's fees are allowed in any proceeding against Howard University, the amount that Dr. Park will be obliged to pay shall be the amount so awarded. If Dr. Park is neither awarded any relief on her complaint nor agrees to any settlement, Mr. Barrett will be entitled to no fee.

 Ignoring the proviso, defense counsel argued that since the first part of this agreement contained the rate of $ 125 per hour, that is the controlling rate. This interpretation ignores the proviso and is contrary to the decision of the Supreme Court in Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895, 79 L. Ed. 2d 891, 104 S. Ct. 1541, and Save Our Cumberland Mountains, Inc., 857 F.2d at 1519.

 Generally, a reasonable fee in matters of this kind is determined by multiplying the number of hours reasonably spent on the project by the figure which represents the prevailing market rate for the services of the lawyer in the category of the applicant.

 In Howard University's opposition to plaintiff's motion for attorney's fees and costs, filed October 17, 1994, note 3, page 4, reads as follows: "The University does not challenge the number of hours Park's lawyer spent on this case nor does it challenge the costs requested."

 With this concession in mind, the remaining issue is the determination of a reasonable rate for Mr. Barrett's services. The Laffey matrix, as modified to conform to the Save Our Cumberland Mountains en banc decision, provides for a fee of $ 300 an hour for one with 20 years or more of experience for services rendered in the years 1992 and 1993. This computation was done by Mr. Daniel F. Van Home, Assistant United States Attorney, and incorporated as Exhibit A to Mr. Barrett's second supplemental submission filed on January 18, 1995.

 Filed as Exhibit B to this submission is the Declaration of Mr. John C. Keeney, Jr., a partner in the law firm of Hogan & Hartson, in charge of the firm's community services department. He filed this declaration on behalf of the plaintiffs in Terence Manuel, et al. v. P & D's Flying Circus, Inc., d/b/a World Gym of Wheaton, Civil Case No. S-89-3538 in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. Mr. Keeney, in a lengthy declaration, advised the Court that he was a 1976 cum laude graduate of the Harvard Law School and had extensive experience with fee matters in civil rights cases and based on current rates, he had submitted a bill in the amount of $ 240 per hour for services rendered and that he had approved a bill for Mr. Stephen Routh, who graduated from the Harvard Law School magna cum laude in 1983 and since 1991, a partner in Hogan & Hartson, at the reduced rate of $ 195 a hour. The bill of Mr. Stephen Hollman, a 1983 graduate of the University of Virginia Law School, was approved by Mr. Keeney for a rate of $ 185 an hour.

 Mr. Keeney qualifies as an expert in determining fees in civil rights litigation cases. In the case of Cheryl Feeling, et al. v. Sharon Pratt Kelly, et al., Civil Action No. 82-2994, in this Court, an affidavit by him as to the value of counsel's time revealed the following conclusions. Mr. Cunningham had approximately twenty years' experience in 1992 and Mr. Berlow, who had approximately sixteen years' experience, were rated at $ 295 per hour and $ 250 per hour, respectively. His affidavit also reflected that Hogan & Hartson would bill $ 300 for Mr. Cunningham and $ 275 per hour for Mr. Berlow for services rendered in ...


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