The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kessler, District Judge.
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion for
Attorneys' Fees and Costs [# 41]. Upon consideration of the
motion, opposition, reply, and the entire record herein, for the
reasons stated below, Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorneys' Fees and
Costs is granted in part and denied in part.
Plaintiffs, Joel Bolden and Len Silva, sued Defendant Muhammad
Mehmood, a cab driver, and J & R Incorporated, a cab company,
under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, the District of Columbia Human Rights
Act, D.C.Code § 1-2519, and local common law. Plaintiffs claimed
that they were refused taxicab service on the night of May 25,
1998, on the basis of Plaintiff Bolden's race. On June 21, 2000,
the jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiffs on their race
discrimination claims and on the breach of carrier duty claim,
and awarded them a total of $120,000. Specifically, Plaintiffs
each received $2,000 in compensatory damages and $18,000 in
punitive damages for each of their successful claims.*fn1
Plaintiffs now move for $91,132.80 in attorneys' fees and
$5,864.52 in costs.
An attorney's actual billing rate is presumptively deemed a
reasonable rate, provided that the rate is "in line with those
prevailing in the community for similar services by lawyers of
reasonably comparable skill, experience, and reputation."
Cumberland Mountains, Inc. v. Hodel, 857 F.2d 1516, 1518-1519
(D.C.Cir. 1988). Attorneys who do not charge a billing rate,
such as those employed with non-profit or public interest
groups, may be compensated at the hourly rates set forth in
Laffey v. Northwest Airlines, Inc. 572 F. Supp. 354, 371-372
(D.C. 1983), rev'd on other grounds, 746 F.2d 4 (D.C.Cir.
1984), cert. denied, 472 U.S. 1021, 105 S.Ct. 3488, 87 L.Ed.2d
Plaintiffs request the current Laffey rate for work
performed from June 1998 through June 2000 by attorneys Avis E.
Buchanan and Susan E. Huhta of the Washington Lawyers'
Committee, a nonprofit public interest organization. See Pl.'s
Fee Petition Ex. B ("Declaration of Susan E. Huhta"). Defendants
do not dispute reliance on Laffey as a general matter, but
argue that historic (i.e., year 1999 and year 2000 rates),
rather than current rates (i.e., year 2001 rates), should
apply to all work performed.
This suit was filed in May 1999, and a jury returned a verdict
less than fourteen months later in June 2000. Given the brief
period of time between initiation of this suit, subsequent to
which most of counsel's hours were expended, and final judgment,
Plaintiffs would not be prejudiced by application of historic
hourly rates. The progress of this case has not been protracted;
nor has it spanned multiple years. Consequently, it differs from
those cases which have permitted use of current hourly rates for
services rendered in the past. See e.g., Laffey, 572 F. Supp.
at 380 (adjustment for delay where case spanned thirteen years);
Missouri v. Jenkins 491 U.S. 274, 283, 109 S.Ct. 2463, 105
L.Ed.2d 229 (1989) (adjustment proper where there has been a
"substantial delay in payment."). Accordingly, the Court
concludes that the Laffey historic rates apply for all work
performed by Ms. Buchanan and Ms. Huhta.*fn2
Plaintiffs request attorneys fees for 863 hours expended by
Crowell and Moring and 232.7 hours expended by the Washington
Lawyers' Committee. Defendants make several ...