Not what you're
looking for? Try an advanced search.
Buy This Entire Record For
RYBICKI v. STATE BD. OF ELECTIONS OF STATE OF ILL.
April 27, 1984
CHESTER J. RYBICKI, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
THE STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS. MIGUEL DELVALLE, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS, V. THE STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS. BRUCE CROSBY, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS, V. THE STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
Before Cudahy, Circuit Judge, and Grady, and Bua, District
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bua, District Judge.
These lawsuits, consolidated before this three-judge panel
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2284(a), were brought by three groups of
plaintiffs against the State Board of Elections of the State of
Illinois ("the Board"), members of the Board individually and in
their official capacities, the Legislative Redistricting
Commission ("the Commission"), members of the Commission
individually and in their official capacity, and James Edgar, the
Illinois Secretary of State in his official capacity. Each of the
three groups of plaintiffs challenged the 1981 legislative
redistricting plan for election of candidates to the Illinois
General Assembly ("the Commission Plan").
In Rybicki v. State Board of Elections, No. 81 C 6030,
plaintiffs alleged that the Commission Plan unlawfully
discriminated against suburban voters in the Chicago area by
disproportionately concentrating voting power in the City of
Chicago. The Rybicki plaintiffs also alleged that the Commission
Plan was politically unfair, contained noncompact districts and
unnecessarily fractured political subdivisions. Plaintiffs in
Crosby v. State Board of Elections, No. 81 C 6093, alleged that
the Commission Plan intentionally discriminated against black
voters by diluting their voting strength and providing white
voters a disproportionate opportunity to elect candidates of
their choice. Plaintiffs in DelValle v. State Board of Elections,
No. 81 C 6052, alleged that the Commission's redistricting effort
similarly diluted the voting power of Hispanics.
Following a nine-day trial in which the Court heard testimony
from 25 witnesses and received into evidence more than 200
exhibits, the Court, on January 12, 1982, issued written findings
of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a).
Rybicki v. State Board of Elections, 574 F. Supp. 1082 (N.D.Ill.
1982) ("Rybicki I"). In Rybicki I, the Court rejected the Rybicki
plaintiffs' claims, on behalf of Republican and suburban voters,
of noncompactness, partisan unfairness and impermissible
fracturing of political subdivisions. See Rybicki I, 574 F. Supp.
at 1096-1104. Regarding the Crosby plaintiffs' claims brought on
behalf of black voters, the Court held that the Commission Plan
purposefully diluted black voting strength in several significant
instances. Id. at 1108. Specifically, the Court found evidence of
"retrogression" in certain Senate districts (id. at 1108-09),
evidence of purposeful racial discrimination in two additional
Senate districts (id. at 1110), and evidence of racial vote
dilution in three West Side Senate districts (id. at 1111).
Rybicki I, however, rejected the Crosby plaintiffs' claims that
"packing" certain black votes on Chicago's South Side and the
creation of a "wall" separating black and white residential areas
on Chicago's South Side constituted purposeful racial
discrimination as defined by City of Mobile v. Bolden,
446 U.S. 55, 100 S.Ct. 1490, 64 L.Ed.2d 47 (1980). Id. at 1114-22.
Finally, the Court in Rybicki I approved a settlement agreement
entered into between the defendants and the DelValle plaintiffs
on behalf of Hispanic voters. After reviewing the settlement
proposal, the Court concluded that the DelValle settlement
agreement was "fair, adequate and reasonable to Hispanics and
affords them a fair opportunity to elect candidates
of their choice to the General Assembly." Id. at 1124.
After Rybicki I was issued, however, and while various
post-trial motions were pending before the Court, Congress
amended the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973 (1976), as
amended on June 29, 1982, by Pub.L. No. 97-205, § 3, 96 Stat. 134
(1982), 42 U.S.C.A. § 1973 (West.Supp. 1983). In light of these
amendments, the Court reconsidered the portion of Rybicki I which
rejected certain claims presented by the Crosby plaintiffs.
Utilizing the "results" test of the amended Voting Rights Act,
the Court held that further relief was necessary to eradicate the
"result" of vote dilution in voting districts in which the
"packing" of black voters was proven at trial. Rybicki v. State
Board of Elections, 574 F. Supp. 1147 (N.D.Ill. 1983) ("Rybicki
II"). Accordingly, the Court requested that the Commission submit
new district lines in several areas to implement the requirements
of Rybicki II under the amended Voting Rights Act. Id. at 1158.
Following our decision in Rybicki II, the Crosby plaintiffs and
defendants reached agreement on new district lines. After
reviewing the parties' proposed Settlement Map, and finding that
the proposed changes substantially increased black voting
strength in the South Side districts, the Court approved the
Crosby settlement agreement and incorporated its terms into the
redistricting plan ordered in Rybicki I. Rybicki v. State Board
of Elections, 574 F. Supp. 1161 (N.D.Ill. 1983) ("Rybicki III").
Presently before the Court are petitions submitted by all
plaintiffs requesting attorneys' fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 and
costs under Rule 54(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
The Rybicki plaintiffs request $226,030.50 in attorneys' fees and
$31,018.18 in costs. The Crosby plaintiffs request $357,688.80 in
fees and $71,378.10 in costs. The DelValle plaintiffs request
$102,068.90 in fees and $2,600*fn1 in costs. The Commission
objects to any fee award to the Rybicki plaintiffs but, in a
letter to the Court dated June 6, 1983, has withdrawn its earlier
objections to the Crosby and DelValle petitions. Defendants Edgar
and the State Board of Elections object to any fee award to the
Rybicki and Crosby plaintiffs and, although conceding that the
DelValle plaintiffs are entitled to a portion of their requested
fees, object to the amount of fees and costs the DelValle
plaintiffs have requested. Although the Commission believes the
Crosby and DelValle plaintiffs' request for a 20-percent
multiplier is reasonable, the remaining defendants strenuously
object to the award of any multiplier in these cases.*fn2
For the reasons stated below, we deny the Rybicki plaintiffs
fees and costs, as they did not prevail in their lawsuit. We
award the Crosby plaintiffs $255,795.25 in attorneys' fees and
$71,378.10 in costs. The DelValle plaintiffs are awarded $78,580
in attorneys' fees and $2,600 in costs.
The Civil Rights Attorneys' Fees Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1988, allows
federal courts discretion to award reasonable attorneys' fees to
prevailing parties in federal civil rights actions. In this
Circuit, a plaintiff will be considered a prevailing party if the
plaintiff has succeeded "`on any significant issue in litigation
which achieves some of the benefit the part[y] sought in bringing
suit.'" Illinois Welfare Rights Organization v. Miller,
723 F.2d 564, 566 (7th Cir.
1983), (quoting Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 103 S.Ct.
1933, 1939, 76 L.Ed.2d 40 (1983)). The threshold question of
whether a party prevailed should not, however, involve a highly
technical determination, but rather should be resolved in a
"practical sense." Dawson v. Pastrick, 600 F.2d 70, 78 (7th Cir.
A. The Rybicki Plaintiffs
In Rybicki I, we rejected each of the Rybicki plaintiffs'
theories of liability, brought on behalf of Republican and
suburban interests, of noncompactness, partisan unfairness and
impermissible fracturing of counties and suburban communities.
Rybicki I, 574 F. Supp. at 1089-92. In regard to the interests of
Republican and suburban voters, therefore, the Rybicki plaintiffs
failed to prevail on any claims presented to this Court. The
Rybicki plaintiffs, however, assert that because the final
Commission Plan ordered by this Court ultimately benefitted
Republican and suburban interests, they should be considered
prevailing parties under the "catalyst" principle articulated in
Stewart v. Hannon, 675 F.2d 846 (7th Cir. 1982). Similarly, the
Rybicki plaintiffs contend that they should be considered
prevailing parties because their complaint acted as a "catalyst"
in forcing defendants to grant the Crosby and DelValle plaintiffs
In Stewart, the court recognized that a prevailing party need
not always prevail by pursuing the lawsuit to a favorable verdict
in order to obtain fees under § 1988. In fact, a plaintiff will
be considered a prevailing party for purposes of § 1988 if "the
lawsuit acted as a catalyst, or was a material factor in the
defendant's decision to change the disputed practices. . . ."
Stewart, 675 F.2d at 851. This principle was recently reaffirmed
in Illinois Welfare Rights Organization v. Miller, 723 F.2d 564
(7th Cir. 1983). In that case, the Seventh Circuit stated that:
[t]he test for whether a plaintiff is a prevailing
party in a settled case is two-fold. First, "the
plaintiff['s] lawsuit must be causally linked to the
achievement of the relief obtained," and second, "the
defendant must not have acted wholly
gratuitously. . . ."
Although the Rybicki plaintiffs have failed to specify exactly
what relief they obtained for Republican and suburban voters, we
presume their reference is to Court Exhibits 1A, 2A and 2E which
were presented by the Commission at trial in response to the
suburban objections. Any benefit, however, which the Republican
and suburban objections. Any benefit, however, which the
Republican and suburban interests obtained as a result of these
changes was simply not the result of the Rybicki lawsuit. Court
Exhibit 2A was adopted, in part, to alleviate certain ancillary
effects of our decision to grant the Crosby and DelValle
plaintiffs relief. See Rybicki I, 574 F. Supp. 1082, 1125 n. 107
(N.D.Ill. 1982). Furthermore, any other resulting benefit to the
Republican and suburban interests was not required by law as
indicated by our rejection of the Rybicki plaintiffs' claims at
trial. Although the Commission changes may have benefitted the
Republican and suburban interests, they were not required by
Rybicki I and therefore cannot substantiate a finding that the
Rybicki plaintiffs prevailed in this action. See Nadeau v.
Helgemoe, 581 F.2d 275, 281 (1st Cir. 1978).
Finally, the Rybicki plaintiffs urge this Court to consider
them prevailing parties because their lawsuit also alleged racial
vote dilution as a ground challenging the Commission Plan. The
Rybicki plaintiffs, however, admit that before trial they agreed
to have the Crosby and DelValle plaintiffs "principally pursue
those claims." Rybicki Reply Memorandum filed April 22, 1982, at
8. For all practical purposes, the Rybicki plaintiffs sought
relief for Republican and suburban interests and not black or
Hispanic interests. Although the Rybicki plaintiffs brought
considerable legal talent and financial resources to the
litigation, we decline to consider them as prevailing parties
merely because their complaint included minority claims.
Viewing this litigation in a "practical sense," the Rybicki
plaintiffs failed to prevail on any claims they presented at
trial. Furthermore, in light of the Crosby and DelValle
plaintiffs' participation in this litigation, we decline to
accept the proposition that the Rybicki lawsuit acted as a
"catalyst" in obtaining relief for any plaintiffs in these cases.
Cf. Dawson v. Pastrick, 600 F.2d 70, 79 (7th Cir. 1979). The
petitions for fees and costs filed on behalf of the Rybicki
plaintiffs are therefore denied.
Although the Commission does not object to any aspect of the
Crosby plaintiffs' fee request, the remaining defendants argue
that the Crosby plaintiffs are not prevailing parties and
therefore not entitled to any portion of the fees they have
requested. Alternatively, the remaining defendants argue that the
amount of fees and costs the Crosby plaintiffs request is
excessive and should be reduced. We address the prevailing party
issue first and quite simply.
Defendants contend that because the Crosby plaintiffs were
unsuccessful in persuading this Court to strike the entire
Commission Plan as unconstitutional, they failed to contribute
"in a significant way to the outcome of the suit, and thus have
[not] prevailed in their suit." Memorandum filed April 5, 1982,
at 5-6. The Crosby plaintiffs, however, have prevailed in their
lawsuit for two reasons. First, the relief obtained by the Crosby
plaintiffs in Rybicki I and Rybicki II clearly satisfies the
threshold prevailing party requirement as defined in Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 103 S.Ct. 1933, 1939, 76 L.Ed.2d 40
(1983). In Rybicki I, the Crosby plaintiffs were successful in
showing that the Commission Plan, in several significant
instances, purposefully diluted black voting strength. In Rybicki
II, the Crosby plaintiffs established that the Commission Plan,
in several instances, would be suspect under the amended Voting
Rights Act. Clearly, the issues that the Crosby plaintiffs
prevailed upon in Rybicki I and II were "significant" and
achieved "some of the benefit" the Crosby plaintiffs sought in
bringing their lawsuit. See Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. at
___, 103 S.Ct. at 1939 (1983); Illinois Welfare Rights
Organization v. Miller, 723 F.2d 564, 566 (7th Cir. 1983).
Second, the Crosby plaintiffs are prevailing parties due to the
settlement agreement approved by this Court in Rybicki III. The
settlement agreement, which accorded the Crosby plaintiffs even
greater relief than they had obtained in Rybicki I, clearly
represents a vindication of the Crosby plaintiffs' rights. See
Illinois Welfare Rights Organization v. Miller, 723 F.2d at 566.
The Crosby plaintiffs have therefore prevailed in this litigation
and are entitled to a reasonable attorneys' fee award and costs.
Having concluded that the Crosby plaintiffs prevailed in their
lawsuit, we next address defendants' argument that the amount of
fees and costs requested is excessive and should be reduced.
Defendants argue that the § 1988 fee award should be reduced
because: (1) a substantial portion of the fee petition seeks
compensation for time and effort spent on unsuccessful claims;
(2) a substantial portion of the requested fees are derived from
duplicative efforts; (3) the hourly rates requested are
excessive; (4) certain costs which are requested are not properly
recoverable; (5) two of the Crosby plaintiffs' attorneys should
not be entitled to any fees; and (6) a multiplier of 20 percent
is not justified. Each argument is addressed below.
We first determine whether the Crosby plaintiffs are entitled
to recover fees attributable to unsuccessful claims. The
resolution of that issue requires a two-step analysis. First, we
must determine whether the unsuccessful claims were related to
the claims on which the plaintiff succeeded. If so, we must then
a second analysis to determine whether the overall results
obtained justify compensating the Crosby plaintiffs for the hours
spent on the related but unsuccessful claims. Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, ___, 103 S.Ct. 1933, 1940, 76 L.Ed.2d 40
(1983); Illinois Welfare Rights Organization v. Miller,
723 F.2d 564, 567 (7th Cir. 1983). Successful and unsuccessful claims will
be considered "related" if they involve a "common core of facts"
or "related legal theories." Id. An unsuccessful claim will be
considered unrelated to a successful claim when "the relief
sought on the unsuccessful claim is intended to remedy a course
of conduct entirely distinct and separate from the course of
conduct that gave rise to the injury on which the relief granted
is premised." Mary Beth G. v. City of Chicago, 723 F.2d 1263,
1279 (7th Cir. 1983).
Defendants Edgar and the Board argue that the Crosby
plaintiffs' fee petition should be reduced by the amount of fees
attributable to the Crosby plaintiffs' unsuccessful claim that a
racially defined "wall" around the black communities constitutes
invidious discrimination under the Fourteenth Amendment. We
disagree. Throughout this litigation, the Crosby plaintiffs have
sought to increase black voting strength by proving that the
defendants, by adopting the Commission Plan, unlawfully
discriminated against black voters. Plaintiffs' unsuccessful
"racial wall" argument was factually and legally related to their
successful "retrogression" and "packing" theories of liability
also presented at trial. Much of the research devoted to the
"retrogression" and "packing" theories undoubtedly overlapped the
"racial wall" theory of liability. In fact, an analysis factually
involving the "wall" but specifically tied to considerations of
"packing" resulted in Rybicki II in the redrawing of the lines
which the Crosby plaintiffs characterized as a "wall." Also, the
racially-defined "wall" theory of liability was, in large part,
an alternative legal theory of liability properly presented at
trial and therefore properly included within the Crosby
plaintiffs' fee petition. Rejecting an alternative legal argument
brought in good faith is not a sufficient reason to reduce a fee
award under § 1988. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, ___, 103
S.Ct. 1933, 1940, 76 L.Ed.2d 40 (1983). In any event, the "racial
wall" claim was not intended to remedy a course of conduct
"entirely distinct and separate" from the "retrogression" and
"vote packing" claims presented at trial. Cf. Mary Beth G. v.
City of Chicago, 723 F.2d 1263, 1278-82 (7th Cir. 1983).
Having found that the Crosby plaintiffs' unsuccessful "racial
wall" claim was related to their successful claims, we must next
determine whether the overall results obtained justify
compensating the Crosby plaintiffs on the "racial wall" claim.
Illinois Welfare Rights Organization v. Miller, 723 F.2d 564, 567
(7th Cir. 1983). "If the plaintiff has achieved only partial
success, . . . compensating the plaintiff for all hours expended
on the litigation may be excessive." Id. If, however, the
plaintiff has ...