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Biggs v. Horinko

August 1, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge


This action arises from the settlement agreement reached by Plaintiff and Defendant resolving all issues of dispute arising pursuant to Section 501 of the Rehabilitations Act and Section 102 of the Americans with Disability Act. See Settlement Agreement ("Settlement") at 1. Movant Steven M. Spiegel ("Movant" or "Spiegel") filed his Motion for Miscellaneous Relief ("Mot. for Relief") to recover attorney's fees for work that Spiegel allegedly performed on behalf of Plaintiff, as Plaintiff's attorney. See Mot. for Relief at 1. Upon considering the pleadings provided by Movant, Plaintiff, and Defendant, the Court shall deny Movant's Motion for Miscellaneous Relief.


On July 16, 2003, Plaintiff Richard Kirby Biggs filed a complaint against Defendant Marianne Horinko -- Acting Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") -- to challenge the allegedly discriminatory treatment by the EPA of employees whose health was detrimentally affected by toxic substances in the EPA's headquarters. See Compl. at 1; Plaintiff's Exhibit 1 attached to Plaintiff's Opposition to Steven M. Spiegel's Motion for Miscellaneous Relief ("Pl.'s Opp'n") (Retainer Agreement between Plaintiff and Plaintiff's counsel Terris, Pravlik, & Millian). Plaintiff pleaded that Defendant failed to properly ventilate the alternative work station, as mandated by the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 701, et seq., which caused physical harm to Plaintiff and impeded his performance at work. See Compl. at 1--6.

After the filing of a number of pleadings and motions, the Court issued an Order on November 3, 2004 dismissing the case without prejudice for a period of 30 days, pursuant to notification by the parties that the case had settled in principle. See Docket [19]. Thereafter, by a Settlement Agreement filed December 2, 2004, Plaintiff and Defendant agreed to settle the above-captioned case according to certain terms and conditions, as provided within the agreement. See Settlement at 1. The agreement clearly indicated that settlement of the dispute: shall not be construed as admissions of liability on the part of the Agency for any acts, omissions, allegations, charges, or claims which are the subject matter of the above-cited complaints and may not be used in any administrative or judicial legal proceeding except (a) as otherwise required by law or order of a court; (b) as necessary to enforce the agreement in this Court, and (c) the Agency's determination, as set forth in this settlement agreement, that plaintiff is a "qualified individual with a disability . . . .

Id. at 1, ¶ 1. Within the agreement, the parties agreed to terms acceptable to each for continuing Plaintiff's employment, and stipulated that the matter should be dismissed with prejudice by the Court. See Settlement at 3-6; Stipulation and Order of Dismissal ("Dismissal Order"). The parties also agreed that the Court should retain jurisdiction to enforce the provisions of the Settlement should any dispute arise, and the Court so ordered on December 2, 2004. See Dismissal Order at 5. Therefore, the Court retains jurisdiction to ensure that the agreement is followed as stipulated.

In the interim, upon receiving notification of the Court's order of November 3, 2004, movant Spiegel filed his Motion for Miscellaneous Relief on November 30, 2004. In the motion, Spiegel -- an attorney -- asserts that "he performed legal work" on behalf of Plaintiff, "under the supervision and direction" of Plaintiff's counsel, Mr. Terris. See Mot. for Relief at 1. As a result, Spiegel alleges that Plaintiff and his counsel "incurred an obligation to seek compensation for Mr. Spiegel's legal work at current market rates upon settlement of this case," which Spiegel contends they have failed to do. See id. Spiegel requests one of three forms of alternative relief: First, Spiegel asks the Court "for an additional 30 day period" prior to dismissing the case with prejudice, in which the parties could "confer to try to reach an agreement on the issue of fees." Id. In the alternative, Spiegel asks the Court to accept the settlement as final, and to enter an order pursuant to Local Civil Rule 54.2, "extending the time for submitting a fee application and commencing fee litigation." Id. Alternatively, Spiegel seeks an entry of an attorney's lien for his fees, "directing that any payment of attorneys' fees from defendant EPA be held by the Court for the payment of [Spiegel's] fees upon submission of his fee request." Id.


For the sake of organizational clarity, the Court shall first determine whether Spiegel has proper standing to bring a motion in this case. Next, the Court shall consider whether Spiegel may recover fees as a prevailing party in this case. Finally, the Court shall discuss whether Spiegel would have a likelihood of recovery on the merits.

A. Standing to Litigate

Spiegel asserts that he is entitled to an opportunity to either confer with the parties to resolve the fee issue or to litigate the question prior to a final entry of dismissal with prejudice in this matter. See Mot. for Relief at 1--2. He argues that as a result of having "performed legal work in this case on behalf of Mr. Biggs and under the supervision and direction of current plaintiff's counsel," he is entitled to seek redress for Plaintiff's failure to reimburse him for his services. Mot. for Relief at 1. Spiegel references Local Civil Rule 54.2, which deals with the determination of attorneys fees and indicates that:

In any case in which a party may be entitled to an attorney's fee from another party, the court may . . . enter an order directing the parties to confer and to attempt to reach agreement on fee issues.

Local Civil Rule 54.2 (emphasis added). Based upon said rule, Spiegel argues that the Court may order the parties to confer and extend the dismissal of the suit until the fee issue is resolved. Spiegel does not advance any authority to demonstrate that he is a valid party to this action.

In opposition, both Plaintiff and Defendant have filed responses to the motion presenting several arguments, which the Court finds persuasive. See Plaintiff's Opposition to Steven M. Spiegel's Motion for Miscellaneous Relief ("Pl.'s Opp'n), filed 12/03/04; Opposition to Steven ...

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