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In re Illinois Congressional Districts Reapportionment Cases.

April 5, 1983

IN RE ILLINOIS CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICTS REAPPORTIONMENT CASES.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illnois. No. 81 C 3915 -- Frank J. McGarr, Chief Judge.

Author: Pell

Before PELL and POSNER, Circuit Judges, and BONSAL, Senior District Judge.*fn*

PELL, Circuit Judge. In this case we decide whether the district court properly increased a concededly appropriate civil rights attorney's fee award by a factor of three primarily because of the complexity of the case and the high quality of the legal work performed by the attorneys for the prevailing party. Appellants Illinois and the Illinois State Board of Elections contend that the multiplier used was excessive and unjustified.

I. FACTS

On June 30, 1981, plaintiff-appellee Earl Neil Otto, and Illinois resident, brought an action in the Circuit Court of Cook County against the Illinois State Board of Elections in which he claimed that Illinois congressional districting was unconstitutional because the state had not redistricted following the 1980 census. On July 1, Bernard J. Ysursa brought a similar reapportionment case in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. On July 10, George H. Ryan and others brought a reapportionment action in the Northern District of Illinois, and joined Otto as a defendant.

On July 13, the plaintiffs in Ryan moved to have a three-judge court convened and asked that Otto be enjoined from proceeding in his case. The court denied both motions and Ryan appealed to this court.

On July 13, the plaintiffs in Ryan moved to have a three-judge court convened and asked that Otto be enjoined from proceeding in is case. The court denied both motions and Ryan appealed to this court.

On July 20, the Attorney General of Illinois removed the Otto case to federal court. On August 7, Otto moved to remand the case to the state court. The district court granted the motion on August 18, but stayed the order pending an appeal to this court. On October 5, 1981, we reversed the district court's order granting a remand to state court and ordered that a three-judge panel hear the constitutional issues presented in the three cases. Ryan v. State Board of Elections, 661 F.2d 1130 (7th Cir. 1981). On October 19, 1981, the three-judge court consolidated the three cases and designated them In re Illinois Congressional Districts Reapportionment Cases.

Because the Board conceded the the prior districting plan was unconstitutional, the only issue at trial was determining which of the three proposed maps should be implemented -- the Otto map, the Ryan map, or the Howlett-Ogilvie map. Trial began on November 5, 1981 and ended on November 11. On November 23, 1981, the court issued its decision adopting the reapportioment plan proposed by Otto, with slight modifications. In re Illinois Congressional Districts Reapportionment Cases, No. 81 C 3915 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 23, 1981). On January 11, 1982, the Supreme Court summarily affirmed the district court's order. 454 U.S. 1130, 102 S. Ct. 985, 71 L. Ed. 2d 284 (1982) (mem.).

As the prevailing party in a civil rights action, Otto petitioned the district court to award attorney's fees under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1988. In a decision dated May 25, 1982, the court, no longer consisting of three judges, determined that plaintiffs would be compensated for 915.5 hours of legal work by three lawyers, for a "lodestar" rate of $128,215.*fn1 The Board did not challenge the hours spent or the rate of compensation.

The district court then increased the lodestar rate by a factor of three, for a total attorney's fees award of $385,645. The court directed an additional award or $3915 for paralegal work and $25,645.67 for costs, yielding a total award of $414,207.67.*fn2 The court explained its adoption of a multiplier by citing the magnitude and complexity of the case; the advancement of the public interest in the result by ensuring fair representation; the excellent quality of work done by plaintiff's lawyers; and the persuasiveness of plaintiff's plan. The court also noted the contingent nature of the fee arrangement and, as less significant, the preclusion of other employment because of the intense, expedited work necessary for preparing for trial.

II. THE MULTIPLIER

The award of attorney's fees is committed to the sound discretion of the trial court. Syvock v. Milwaukee Boiler Manufacturing Co., 665 F.2d 149, 162 (7th Cir. 1981). Thus we must uphold the district court's use of the multiplier unless we find that the court abused its discretion.

We have addressed the use of multipliers in attorney's fees awards in three cases, all of which suggest that the district courts should not lightly apply large multiplieres. The first case in this circuit to approve the use of a multiplier was Kamberos v. GTE Automatic Electric, Inc., 603 F.2d 598 (7th Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 1060, 70 L. Ed. 2d 599, 102 S. Ct. 612 (1981). There, the district court had applied a 50% multiplier because of the contingent nature of the fees and the high quality of the attorneys' work. Citing the standards for determining the reasonableness of fees as stated in the ABA Code of Professional Responsibility DR 2-106, we said that high quality and contingency were not enough to justify an award 50% in excess of the attorneys' hourly rate. We reduce the ...


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