Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Tridico v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 30, 2017

PHILIP J. TRIDICO, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ELLEN SEGAL HUVELLE United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Philip Tridico has moved for attorney's fees and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k) and 38 U.S.C. § 4323(h)(2), under which the Court has discretion to award reasonable fees to a prevailing party. (Pl.'s Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Attorneys' Fees and Costs [ECF No. 75] at 3 (“Pls.' Mot.”).) Defendant, the District of Columbia (the “District”), does not dispute that plaintiff is entitled to fees, but it argues that Tridico's request of $314, 734.62 in fees and $2, 797.56 in costs is unreasonable and should be denied in part. (See Def.'s Opp'n Br. [ECF No. 79] at 1; Pl.'s Reply Br. [ECF No. at 23].) The District proposes various reductions in fees and costs, for a total recovery of no more than $151, 061.97. (Def.'s Opp'n Br. at 2-3.) The Court agrees that Tridico is not entitled to the full amount requested, though he is entitled to more than the District proposes to pay. Therefore, Tridico's motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         BACKGROUND

         The background of this case has been laid out in great detail in the Court's previous Memorandum Opinion. See Tridico v. Dist. of Columbia, 130 F.Supp.3d 17, 19-23 (D.D.C. 2015). The Court will therefore recite only the facts relevant to Tridico's fee petition.

         Tridico, a Roman Catholic who previously served in the United States Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Reserves, became a police officer in the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department in 2006. In 2013, Tridico brought this action against the District, alleging that he was subjected to discrimination, retaliation, and a hostile work environment on the basis of his religion, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §§2000e, et seq., and on the basis of his prior military service, in violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (“USERRA”), 38 U.S.C. §§ 4301, et seq. (Compl., June 21, 2013, [ECF No. 1] at 10-12.).[1]

         The District moved for summary judgment, which the Court granted in part and denied in part. See Tridico, 130 F.Supp.3d at 19. Following summary judgment, four of Tridico's five surviving claims went to trial: (1) hostile work environment under Title VII; (2) retaliation under Title VII; (3) hostile work environment under USERRA; and (4) retaliation under USERRA. (Order, Dec. 23, 2015 [ECF No. 49].) A jury heard the case over four days beginning on December 11, 2015.

         After deliberations, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Tridico on his Title VII claims. (See Verdict Form [ECF No. 70].) Specifically, the jury found that Tridico proved by a preponderance of the evidence that (1) the District “subjected [Tridico] to unwelcome harassment based on his religion that was so severe or pervasive . . . as to affect a term, condition, or privilege of [Tridico's] employment;” (2) Tridico “complained to his superiors about harassment . . . and [the District] subjected [Tridico] to an adverse employment action when it transferred him out of the VICE unit;” and (3) the District “would not have transferred [Tridico] out of the VICE unit but for his complaint about harassment based on his religion.” (Id. at 1-2.) As a result of its finding on the Title VII claim, the jury awarded Tridico $20, 000 in compensatory damages for “emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, and/or other non-monetary losses.”[2]

         By contrast, the jury found in favor of the District on Tridico's USERRA claims. The jury determined that Tridico proved by a preponderance of the evidence that (1) the District “subjected [Tridico] to unwelcome harassment based on his prior military service that was so severe or pervasive . . . as to affect a term, condition, or privilege of [Tridico's] employment, ” and (2) Tridico “complained to his superiors about harassment . . . based on his prior military service, and that [the District] subjected [Tridico] to an adverse employment action when it transferred him out of the VICE unit.” (Id. at 2.) However, the jury did not find that Tridico proved causation-that his complaint about harassment “was a substantial or motivating factor” in the adverse employment action. (See id.) Thus, the jury did not award any damages for Tridico's USERRA claim. (Id. at 3.)[3]

         LEGAL STANDARD

         The Court has discretion to award a prevailing party reasonable attorneys' fees and costs in Title VII and USERRA actions. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k) (“In any action or proceeding under [Title VII], the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party . . . a reasonable attorney's fee”); 38 U.S.C. § 4323(h)(2) (“In any action or proceeding to enforce a provision of [USERRA] . . ., the court may award any such person who prevails in such action or proceeding reasonable attorney fees, expert witness fees, and other litigation expenses”). A party seeking attorneys' fees and expenses must file a motion to the Court which “specif[ies] the judgment and the statute, rule, or other grounds entitling the movant to the award” and stating the amount sought. Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d)(2)(B).

         In a fee petition, the moving party “bears the burden of establishing entitlement to an award, documenting the appropriate hours, and justifying the reasonableness of the rates.” Covington v. Dist. of Columbia, 57 F.3d 1101, 1107 (D.C. Cir. 1995). The movant may satisfy this burden by presenting evidence of “the attorneys' billing practices; the attorneys' skill, experience, and reputation; and the prevailing market rates in the relevant community.” Id. After such evidence has been presented, the burden shifts to the party opposing the fee petition to rebut the reasonableness of the requested award. Id. at 1109-10.

         In evaluating a fee petition, the Court first determines whether the movant was the prevailing party, and second whether the movant's fee request is reasonable. Does I, II, III v. D.C., 448 F.Supp.2d 137, 140 (D.D.C. 2006). To determine whether the fee request is reasonable, courts engage in a three-step analysis: “(1) determination of the number of hours reasonably expended in litigation; (2) determination of a reasonable hourly rate or ‘lodestar'; and (3) the use of multipliers as merited.” Covington, 57 F.3d at 1107 (quoting Save Our Cumberland Mountains, Inc., et al. v. Hodel, 857 F.2d 1516 (D.C. Cir 1988)). Even after courts determine the lodestar figure, they may reduce the overall award to account for, inter alia, limited success on the merits and unreasonable billing practices. See, e.g., Craig v. Dist. of Columbia, No. CV 11-1200, 2016 WL 3926253, at *9 (D.D.C. July 15, 2016).

         ANALYSIS

         The District does not dispute Tridico's entitlement to attorneys' fees based on the jury's verdict in Tridico's favor on his Title VII claims. Nevertheless, the District argues that the award requested by Tridico is unreasonable on several grounds and proposes various reductions. After considering whether Tridico has met his initial burden to “document[] the appropriate hours, and [to] justify[] the reasonableness of the rates, ” see Covington, 57 F.3d at 1007, the Court will proceed to address the District's specific arguments.

         I. TRIDICO'S DOCUMENTATION OF APPROPRIATE HOURS AND JUSTIFICATION OF REASONABLE RATES

         In support of his fee petition, Tridico submitted the following evidence: (1) the declaration of Brian J. Markovitz, partner at Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, P.A. (“JG&L”), the firm that represented Tridico on a contingency basis beginning October 2012; (2) the declaration of Nicholas Woodfield, the principal at the Employment Law Group, P.C.; (3) and the declaration of Linda Thatcher, an experienced employment litigator.

         Over the first nine and a half pages of his declaration, Markovitz details the experience of the JG&L attorneys that worked on Tridico's case, attests to JG&L's billing and record-keeping practices, and declares that those practices were followed in this case. (See Markovitz Decl. [ECF No. 75-4], ¶¶ 1-25.) Markovitz also submitted daily billing records for each JG&L professional's fees and the costs incurred by the law firm. (See Id. at 12-39.) Both Woodfield and Thatcher's declarations speak to the reasonableness of the fees requested by JG&L, based on their experience in employment litigation, their work with JG&L professionals, and the prevailing market rates for similar work. (See Woodfield Decl. [ECF No. 75-5]; Thatcher Decl. [ECF No. 75-6].) Thus, as to the legal work performed by JG&L, Tridico carried his initial burden of demonstrating “document[ation of] the appropriate hours, and justif[ication of] the reasonableness of the rates.” See Covington, 57 F.3d at 1107.[4]

         By contrast, Markovitz devotes only two paragraphs of his declaration to justifying the fees incurred by Berry & Berry, PLLC, the firm that represented Tridico in his DCHRA claims before DCOHR. (See Markovitz Decl. ¶¶ 26-27.) Although Markovitz submits “recorded hours and expenses of work performed” by Berry & Berry, the request for fees for Berry & Berry's legal work is otherwise unsubstantiated. (See id.) Based on the time records of Berry & Berry, the Court cannot discern even the full name of the attorneys who worked on Tridico's case, let alone the attorneys' education and experience. Woodfield and Thatcher do not address the reasonableness of the fees reported by Berry & Berry or attest to those attorneys' skill, expertise, or reputation. (See Woodfield Decl.; Thatcher Decl.)

         With respect to the legal work performed by Berry & Berry, Tridico has therefore failed to carry his initial burden: Tridico submitted no evidence of “the [Berry & Berry] attorneys' billing practices; the [Berry & Berry] attorneys' skill, experience, and reputation.” See Covington, 57 F.3d at 1107. As a result, the Court will reduce Tridico's requested fees by $20, 163.00, the amount he requested for Berry & Berry's legal work.[5] For the same reason, ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.