United States District Court, District of Columbia
E. BOASBERG, United States District Judge.
Ashraf-Hassan, a French citizen of Pakistani origin, recently
obtained a favorable verdict after a bench trial in her
workplace-discrimination suit against the Embassy of France,
her former employer. She now seeks attorney fees and costs
totaling $271, 786.15, which accounts for many - but not all
- of the hours and expenses her attorneys incurred over five
years of litigation. The Embassy opposes those fees, both
because it believes the verdict to be in error and because it
views the fees as unwarranted for various reasons. Concluding
that Plaintiff has met her burden of proving that the fees
and costs are reasonable, the Court will award the full sum
the fees cover numerous stages of this protracted suit, the
relevant background facts largely consist of its procedural
history. The Court will also identify the different attorneys
who represented Plaintiff throughout the litigation, as their
hours and rates form the basis of her fee calculation.
is a Muslim woman who was born in Pakistan, moved to France
as a child, and obtained French citizenship in the 1990s.
See Ashraf-Hassan v. Embassy of France
(Ashraf-Hassan VI), No. 11-805, 2016 WL 2626833, at
*2 (D.D.C. May 6, 2016) (reciting the Court’s oral
findings of fact). In the early 2000s, she obtained a job at
the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., and arrived in the
United States on an A-2 visa in October of 2001 to begin
working as an intern. Id. After her probationary
period ended in February 2002, she was hired as a local
employee and became an intern-program coordinator under the
supervision of Chantal Manes, the head of the Embassy’s
cultural program. Id. According to Plaintiff, over
the next four years, she suffered ill treatment and
harassment from her supervisors. Late in 2006, the Embassy
informed her that her contract would not be renewed,
requiring her departure at the end of January 2007.
Id. at *4.
four years later, in April 2011, Plaintiff brought suit in
this court, alleging a throng of wrongful-termination and
hostile-work-environment claims under Title VII - on the
basis of race, religion, national origin, pregnancy, or
retaliation for her engaging in protected activity. See
generally Am. Compl. The Embassy subsequently filed a
motion to dismiss, which the Court granted as to four counts
(pertaining to Plaintiff’s termination) but denied as
to the remaining four counts (which raised
hostile-work-environment claims). See Ashraf-Hassan v.
Embassy of France (Ashraf-Hassan I), 878
F.Supp.2d 164, 175 (D.D.C. 2012).
several months of discovery, the Embassy moved for summary
judgment in the summer of 2013, arguing that it was entitled
to prevail as a matter of law given the record adduced by the
parties. See ECF No. 32. It claimed that Plaintiff
had failed to develop sufficient proof of a hostile work
environment and that its various affirmative defenses
entitled it to judgment. See Ashraf-Hassan v. Embassy of
France (Ashraf-Hassan II), 999 F.Supp.2d 106,
113-17 (D.D.C. 2013). The Court denied that motion in full in
November 2013, id. at 117, and scheduled a bench
trial for mid-April 2014. See Minute Order of
12/17/2013. The Embassy moved for reconsideration,
see ECF No. 38, which the Court also denied on
January 16, 2014. See ECF No. 45 (Ashraf-Hassan
not achieved success on the substance of the dispute, the
Embassy next took a different tack, filing an eve-of-trial
motion to dismiss in which it argued - for the first time -
that the Court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction under the
Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. See ECF No. 51.
The Court promptly denied that motion, concluding that the
case fell “squarely within multiple exceptions to the
[FSIA].” Ashraf-Hassan v. Embassy of France
(Ashraf-Hassan IV), 40 F.Supp.3d 94, 97 (D.D.C.
2014). Defendant then filed an interlocutory appeal with the
D.C. Circuit, see ECF No. 59 (Notice of Appeal),
which affirmed this Court’s opinion in a summary
unpublished order on May 1, 2015, approximately one year
after the Embassy filed the appeal. See Ashraf-Hassan v.
Embassy of France (Ashraf-Hassan V), 610 F.
App’x 3 (D.C. Cir. 2015).
the mandate issued, this Court held a three-day bench trial
in January 2016, which proceeded apace notwithstanding an
ongoing snowstorm. See Minute Order of 1/25/16. On
February 11, 2016, the Court reconvened the parties to
deliver its oral verdict. See Minute Order of
2/11/16. It provided its findings of fact and conclusions of
law, ultimately holding that Plaintiff had succeeded on her
hostile-work-environment claim. See Verdict Trans.
at 15:8-17. It next considered her damages claim, awarding
her $30, 000. See id. at 18:19-20. The Court then
addressed Plaintiff’s counsel on the issue of attorney
fees, pointedly requesting that they file a “careful
and thoughtful” petition. Id. at 19:1.
after the verdict was announced, the Embassy filed two
post-trial motions, one seeking to amend the judgment and add
new findings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(b),
see ECF No. 86, and a separate “Motion for
Estoppel and, in the Alternative, Motion for a New
Trial.” ECF No. 87. A central focus of both was
Defendant’s position that Plaintiff had misled the
Court by providing inconsistent testimony on the date of one
event that the Court concluded was a contributing factor in
her hostile work environment. See Ashraf-Hassan VI,
2016 WL 2626833, at *3. The Court ultimately denied the
motions, concluding that the Embassy had identified no
“clear errors in [its] factual findings, ” and
that “no ‘manifest injustice’ or prejudice
was worked on the Embassy as a result of Plaintiff’s
testimonial inconsistency, ” which had already been
taken into account by the Court in its factual findings.
See id. at *1, *7. All matters of substance having
been decided, the Court is free to move on to fees.
has been represented by counsel since the filing of her
Complaint. On March 5, 2011, she contacted the Law Firm of
Gary M. Gilbert and Associates, P.C. (GMGA) and signed a
deferred-fee retainer agreement. See Mot. for Fees,
Exh. E at Bates Nos. 1-4 (Initial Retainer Agreement). From
2011 to 2015, Plaintiff was represented primarily by two
attorneys: Zachary Wright, a newly barred GMGA associate, and
Ari Wilkenfeld, a more seasoned practitioner. See
Mot., Exh. H (Affidavit of Zachary L. Wright); id.,
Exh. F (Affidavit of Ari Wilkenfeld). Another then-GMGA
attorney, Rosalind Herendeen, also contributed to
Plaintiff’s representation. See Mot. at 4.
2013, Wilkenfeld and Herendeen left GMGA to start the
Wilkenfeld Law Group, which subsequently became Wilkenfeld
Herendeen Law. See Wilkenfeld Aff., ¶ 4; Mot.,
Exh. J (Affidavit of Rosalind Herendeen), ¶ 4. The new
firm joined GMGA as co-counsel for Ashraf-Hassan in February
2014. See Mot., Exh. E at Bates Nos. 14-20
(Co-Counsel Agreement) at 20.
the Embassy brought its interlocutory appeal, Gary M.
Gilbert, GMGA’s principal, assigned one of his
then-junior associates, Katherine Atkinson (formerly
Katherine Atkinson Dave), to argue the case before the D.C.
Circuit, with assistance from GMGA senior counsel Valencia
Rainey. See Mot., Exh. G (Affidavit of Katherine R.
Atkinson), ¶ 16; Mot., Exh. I (Affidavit of Gary M.
Gilbert), ¶ 10. Prior to oral argument, Wright left
GMGA, and Atkinson took over as co-lead counsel with
Wilkenfeld. See Atkinson Aff., ¶¶ 16-18.
Atkinson then took the helm in preparing for trial in 2016,
with Wilkenfeld and, to a lesser extent, Gilbert providing
supervisory assistance. See id., ¶¶ 16-17;
Gilbert Aff., ¶ 9; Wilkenfeld Aff., ¶ 10. These
three attorneys were present throughout the trial.