United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
A. Howell, Chief Judge.
plaintiffs, Open Communities Alliance and two individuals,
prevailed in their suit to enjoin the defendants, the U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban Development
(“HUD”) and HUD Secretary Ben Carson, see
Open Cmtys. All. v. Carson, 286 F.Supp.3d 148 (D.D.C.
2017), from delaying for two years, “without notice and
comment or particularized evidentiary findings, ”
id. at 152, the implementation of a final rule
regarding the calculation of voucher subsidies. Now,
following the entry of judgment in the plaintiffs' favor,
Stipulated Judgment and Order at 2, ECF No. 34, the
plaintiffs seek a total award of $154, 272.11 in
attorneys' fees and costs under the Equal Access to
Justice Act (“EAJA”), 28 U.S.C. §
2412(d)(1)(A), see Pls.' Mot. Atty's'
Fees & Costs (“Pls.' Mot.”), at 1, ECF
No. 35, for their 700.3 hours of attorney time and 103 hours
of paralegal time, plus costs, litigating this matter,
id. at 8. The defendants do “not dispute that
Plaintiffs are entitled to a fair and sizable award of
attorneys' fees, ” and do not “contest their
request for costs or  the billing rate they employ.”
Defs.' Opp'n Pls.' Mot. (“Defs.'
Opp'n”) at 3, ECF No. 36. The defendants dispute
solely “whether the amount of fees that Plaintiffs
request is reasonable and warranted, ” id. at
3, and argue that the plaintiffs are entitled only to
two-thirds of their request amounting to $102, 794.66,
Defs.' Suppl. Defs.' Opp'n (“Defs.'
Suppl.”) at 2, ECF No. 39. For the reasons set out
below, the plaintiffs' motion is granted in full.
noted, the plaintiffs seek fees for 700.3 hours of attorney
time, billed at $198 per hour, and 103 hours of paralegal
time, billed at $140 per hour. Pls.' Mot. at
8-10. The plaintiffs derive their attorney time
calculation from timesheets submitted by each of five
co-counsel organizations, which add up to 778.1 attorney
hours and 114.4 paralegal hours-a total that the plaintiffs
then voluntarily cut by 10 percent, or 77.8 attorney hours
and 11.4 paralegal hours, in order “to account for any
concerns that may arise regarding ‘block billing'
practices and to ensure that their bottom line figure is
reasonable.” Id. at 11-13.
addition to the timesheets from each co-counsel organization,
see Pls.' Mot., Exs. E-I, ECF Nos. 35-7-35-11,
which include more than 430 individual entries, the
plaintiffs submitted a detailed declaration that explains how
the plaintiffs chose which hours to bill by “carefully
review[ing] each time entry” and “exercis[ing]
billing judgment to forego recovery of certain work so as to
ensure that the fees requested are reasonable, ”
Pls.' Mot., Attach. 2, Decl. of Sasha Samberg-Champion,
Counsel, Relman, Dane & Colfax, PLLC (Mar. 15, 2018)
(“Pls.' Decl.”) ¶ 23, ECF No. 35-2.
Specifically, the plaintiffs excluded from their request
“all time expended by all attorneys except the primary
ones assigned to this case for each organization;  attorney
or paralegal time spent on calls, at hearing preparation
sessions, or at hearings for which that attorney or
paralegal's presence was not required;” time spent
“on witnesses that ultimately were not used;”
time spent “responding to press inquiries;” and
“substantial” amounts of time spent on
“co-counsel and client agreements.” Id.
¶ 24. In addition to then cutting their overall hours by
ten percent “to account for any concerns regarding
block billing or inefficiencies, ” id. ¶
27, the plaintiffs have not billed for any time worked after
January 5, 2018, including time spent on the instant motion,
id. ¶¶ 25-26.
EAJA provides, in pertinent part, that “a court shall
award to a prevailing party other than the United States fees
and other expenses . . . incurred by that party in any civil
action . . . including proceedings for judicial review of
agency action, ” 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)(1)(A), with
certain exceptions not relevant here, such as cases where the
government's position was “substantially
justified” or “special circumstances make an
award unjust.” As the Supreme Court has “often
recognized, ‘the specific purpose of the EAJA is to
eliminate for the average person the financial disincentive
to challenge unreasonable governmental actions.'”
Astrue v. Ratliff, 560 U.S. 586, 599 (2010)
(Sotomayor, J., concurring) (quoting Commissioner v.
Jean, 496 U.S. 154, 163 (1990)); see also
Scarborough v. Principi, 541 U.S. 401, 406 (2004)
(authorizing attorney's fee awards against the Federal
Government was intended “to eliminate the barriers that
prohibit small businesses and individuals from securing
vindication of their rights in civil actions and
administrative proceedings brought by or against the Federal
Government” (internal quotations and citation
omitted)); Sullivan v. Hudson, 490 U.S. 877, 883
(1989) (the EAJA was designed to address the problem that
“[f]or many citizens, the costs of securing vindication
of their rights and the inability to recover attorney fees
preclude resort to the adjudicatory process” (internal
quotations and citation omitted)).
role of the district court is “to determine what fee is
‘reasonable.'” Wash. All. of Tech.
Workers v. U.S. Dep't of Homeland Sec., 857 F.3d
907, 910 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (quoting Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)); see also
Id. at 911 (fee awards under EAJA are reviewed for abuse
of discretion). In making this determination, the district
court reviews “[t]he number of hours reasonably
expended on behalf of the prevailing party . . . by
evaluating the total number of hours expended and disallowing
unproductive time or time spent on unsuccessful claims”
and excluding from the calculation “hours that are
‘excessive, redundant, or otherwise
unnecessary.'” Murray v. Weinberger, 741
F.2d 1423, 1427 (D.C. Cir. 1984) (quoting Hensley,
461 U.S. at 434); Wash. All. of Tech. Workers, 857
F.3d at 910. Fee applications must “include
contemporaneous time records of hours worked and rates
claimed, plus a detailed description of the subject matter of
the work with supporting documents, if any.” In re
Donovan, 877 F.2d 982, 994 (D.C. Cir. 1989).
defendants contend that the plaintiffs' requested fee
award should be reduced by one-third because: (1) the
plaintiffs' use of block billing, including the improper
billing of time for administrative or clerical work, is
per se unreasonable, Defs.' Opp'n at 10-15;
and (2) the plaintiffs' timesheet entries are vague
and/or duplicative, id. at 4-10. Neither contention
The Plaintiffs' Did Not Submit Improper Bills
defendants argue that the plaintiffs' request
“should be reduced as a result of the significant
amount of block billing entries, ” Defs.' Opp'n
at 10, citing 148 such entries, Defs.' Suppl., Exs. A-B,
D, ECF Nos. 39-1, 39-2, 39-4, which the defendants posit
prevent the Court from determining the reasonableness of the
time spent on various tasks. Although block billing, where
“time records lump together multiple tasks, ” can
“mak[e] it impossible to evaluate their reasonableness,
” Role Models Am., Inc. v. Brownlee, 353 F.3d
962, 971 (D.C. Cir. 2004), contrary to the defendants'
view, such billing is not per se impermissible.
Instead, a fee petition “need not present the exact
number of minutes spent nor the precise activity to which
each hour was devoted nor the specific attainments of each
attorney.” Shaw v. Dist. of Columbia, 210
F.Supp.3d 46, 52 (D.D.C. 2016) (quoting Nat'l
Ass'n of Concerned Veterans v. Sec'y of Def.,
675 F.2d 1319, 1327 (D.C. Cir. 1982)).
billing is even less concerning where the plaintiffs have
prevailed on all of their claims, see DL v. Dist. of
Columbia, 256 F.R.D. 239, 245 (D.D.C. 2009),
rev'd on other grounds, 713 F.3d 120, 129 (D.C.
Cir. 2013), or where the block billing does not
“interfere with the [c]ourt's ability to evaluate
the reasonableness of billed hours spent on specific motions
or filings, ” Hernandez v. Chipotle Mexican Grill,
Inc., 257 F.Supp.3d 100, 112 (D.D.C. 2017) (citing
Role Models, 353 F.3d at 970). Ultimately, the test
of the plaintiffs' timesheets is whether they are
“of sufficient detail and probative value to enable the
court to determine with a high degree of certainty that such
hours were actually and reasonably expended.” Role
Models, 353 F.3d at 970 (quoting In re Olson,
884 F.2d 1415, 1428 (D.C. Cir. 1989)).
plaintiffs' timesheets meet that standard. The defendants
cite in their briefing three examples of block billing,
Defs.' Opp'n at 11-12, none of which poses any
difficulty in evaluating reasonableness. Indeed, many of the
148 entries identified by the defendants as block billed
simply provide significant detail about related tasks and the
defendants “appear to conflate entries in which
plaintiff[s'] counsel has provided greater detail with
impermissible block ...