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STRAMA v. PETERSON

January 6, 1982

THOMAS J. STRAMA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PAUL Q. PETERSON, M.D., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shadur, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Thomas J. Strama ("Strama") originally sued former Director of Illinois Department of Public Health ("IDPH") Paul Peterson; Coordinator of IDPH's Mobile Intensive Care Program ("MICP") Karen Swanson; Chief of MICP at Billings Hospital Frank Baker; and former City of Chicago Fire Commissioner Richard Albrecht ("Albrecht") because of their involvement in the allegedly unlawful suspension of Strama's paramedic license and his consequent loss of employment. Strama and Albrecht were able to reach a settlement under which Strama was reinstated as a Fire Department paramedic with full back pay. As a "prevailing party" Strama now seeks attorneys' fees and expenses from Albrecht under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 ("Section 1988"). For the reasons stated in this memorandum opinion and order Albrecht is ordered to pay Strama $45,551.56 in fees and expenses.*fn1

"Lodestar" and the Multiplier

As is so often the case under Section 1988, the real question is not whether but how much in fees should be awarded. Albrecht cannot seriously contest Strama's right, at a minimum, to recover the "lodestar" figure*fn2 of attorneys' fees generated by the suit against Albrecht. Strama's counsel provided high quality legal work that resulted (by settlement) in complete vindication of Strama's rights.

Fees are clearly awardable under the standards approved in Harrington v. DeVito, 656 F.2d 264, 266-67 (7th Cir. 1981). This action triggered the settlement. There is no evidence that any time spent was wasted or unnecessary. Nor was Strama's complaint frivolous: It withstood motions of various defendants (three by Albrecht himself) for dismissal and summary judgment, and Strama has obtained reinstatement and full backpay with the litigation not yet over. Cf. Bonner v. Coughlin, 657 F.2d 931, 934 (7th Cir. 1981) (plaintiff recovered only nominal damages, yet was entitled to a reasonable fee award).

Strama poses a more difficult question by his request for a multiplier of 1.5. Cases seldom discuss the appropriateness of a multiplier and the standards for its determination. In Kamberos v. GTE Automatic Electric, Inc., 603 F.2d 598, 604 (7th Cir. 1979), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 102 S.Ct. 612, 70 L.Ed.2d 599 (1981), our Court of Appeals approved the use of a 1.25 multiplier. Although Kamberos was a Title VII case, the same court has implicitly approved the use of multipliers and the Kamberos standards in Section 1983 cases. Bonner v. Coughlin, 657 F.2d 931, 936-37 (7th Cir. 1981).

As a starting point Kamberos looked to Code of Professional Responsibility DR 2-106:

  Factors to be considered as guides in determining
  the reasonableness of a fee include the
  following:
    (1) The time and labor required, the novelty
  and difficulty of the questions involved, and the
  skill requisite to perform the legal service
  properly.
    (2) The likelihood, if apparent to the client,
  that the acceptance of the particular employment
  will preclude other employment by the lawyer.
    (3) The fee customarily charged in the locality
  for similar legal services.
    (4) The amount involved and the results
  obtained.
    (5) The time limitations imposed by the client
  or by the circumstances.
    (6) The nature and length of the professional
  relationship ...

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