The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shadur, District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Samuel Coleman ("Coleman") prevailed against each of the
remaining three defendants in this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section
1983") action, brought to challenge Coleman's firing as Special
Investigator for the Village of Robbins ("Robbins") and his
later arrest on charges of impersonating a police officer.
After entry of a default judgment as to liability against
defendants, a jury trial was held solely to determine Coleman's
damages. Verdicts were returned in the following amounts:
1. against former Robbins Mayor Marion Smith ("Smith"),
$250,000 in compensatory damages for physical, mental and
emotional injury and $100,000 in punitive damages;
2. against former Robbins Police Chief Gordon Frierson
("Frierson"), $125,000 in compensatory damages for physical,
mental and emotional injury and $100,000 in punitive damages;
3. against Robbins, $34,000 in lost wages and $14,842 in
4. against Frierson and Smith jointly and severally, $3,000
in compensatory damages for legal and medical
Coleman has now petitioned for an award of attorneys' fees
under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 ("Section 1988"). His petition is
granted, subject to the limitations stated in this opinion.
Parties are "prevailing" for Section 1988 purposes "if they
succeed on any significant issue in litigation which achieves
some of the benefit the parties sought in bringing suit."
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433, 103 S.Ct. 1933,
1939, 76 L.Ed.2d 40 (1983), quoting Nadeau v. Helgemoe,
581 F.2d 275, 278-79 (1st Cir. 1978). Because Coleman certainly
qualifies as a prevailing party in those terms, it remains only
to calculate a "reasonable" fee in the circumstances of the
case. For that purpose this Court must look first to "the
number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation
multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate," Hensley, 461 U.S. at
433, 103 S.Ct. at 1939, an inquiry that entails consideration
of such factors as the novelty and difficulty of the questions
involved, the amount involved and the results obtained, the
customary fee and the experience and ability of the attorney.
Id. at 430 n. 4, 103 S.Ct. at 1938 n. 4, citing Johnson v.
Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th Cir.
Affidavits filed by Coleman's attorneys, Abraham Goldman
("Goldman") and Steven Ackerman ("Ackerman"), set out in
scrupulous detail the time spent on this lawsuit from March
1982 through November 1984. They have taken special care to
deduct (1) time for duplicate effort and (2) time that has
already been compensated by sanctions under Fed.R.Civ.P.
("Rule") 37. After careful review of those affidavits, this
Court finds Goldman's 303.25 hours and Ackerman's 537.75 hours
over a two-year period represent a reasonable investment of
time — especially given the nature of the case and the
substantial problems created by defendants' and their counsel's
conduct of the litigation.*fn2
Coleman had a difficult factual case to prove. Because his
claim turned in part on Smith's and Frierson's intent — why
they acted as they did — Coleman's lawyers were confronted by
the always troublesome task of building on inferences.
Similarly, every effort to pierce the veil of governmental
action is likely to be hard, and that was doubly complicated
here because the events underlying Coleman's claim occurred in
the context of apparent conflict between the Robbins Board of
Trustees and various Robbins officials over the locus of
municipal authority and power. Goldman and Ackerman also had
the job of dealing with complicated questions about the
allocation of municipal power under state law. And all their
work called for piecing the facts together out of a welter of
deposition testimony. As already said, there can be no quarrel
with the reasonableness of the time spent.
As for the applicable hourly rate, Goldman seeks an award at
$150 per hour, while Ackerman has asked $100. Fair market value
is the standard for appraising those requests, Strama v.
Peterson, 561 F. Supp. 997, 999 (N.D.Ill. 1983), and that
standard is plainly met here:
1. Goldman has had extensive experience trying Section 1983
cases. In fact he was trial counsel for plaintiffs in
Winfield v. Murcia, 78 C 1792 (N.D.Ill. Oct. 30, 1981), the
first case prosecuted to a verdict against the City of
Chicago under the doctrine of Monell v. Department of Social
Services of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 692-93, 98
S.Ct. 2018, 2036-37, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978). Goldman has
submitted recent statements issued to other civil rights
clients reflecting the $150 hourly rate.
Robbins urges not all the time expended by Goldman and
Ackerman should be billed at their current hourly rates. On
that score the case law in this Circuit is clearly otherwise.
Gautreaux v. Chicago Housing Authority, 690 F.2d 601, 612-13
(7th Cir. 1982), specifically holds awards at current hourly
rates rather than historic rates are appropriate (and have been
widely approved elsewhere). And Chapliiwy v. Uniroyal, Inc.,
670 F.2d 760, 764 & n. 6 (7th ...