The opinion of the court was delivered by: Aspen, District Judge:
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
After eleven years of litigation, the class in this Title VII case was
awarded and has been paid a judgment of more than $13 million — one
of the largest race discrimination money judgments ever paid in this
country. Presently before the Court is the petition of plaintiffs'
counsel ("petitioners") for attorney's fees and costs. For the reasons
set forth below, we find that petitionera are entitled to an award of
$451,208.69 in fees and costs from the State defendants.*fn1
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides that a court, "in
its discretion, may allow the prevailing party . . . a reasonable
attorney's fee as part of the costs. . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5 (k).
Pursuant to this statutory provision, petitioners request a total award
of $960,424.75 in attorney's fees and out-of-pocket costs from the
State. Petitioners reach the attorney's fee figure through a two-step
calculation. First, they multiply the number of hours they worked by
their requested hourly rates to obtain a "lodestar fee." Second,
petitioners increase most of the lodestar fee by a multiplier of 3.5,
which they contend is appropriate here. The State concedes that
petitioner's lodestar fee is reasonable. Thus, the only contested issue is
what, if any, multiplier is proper to yield an attorney's fee that is
reasonable under the circumstances of this case.
Both the Supreme Court and the Seventh Circuit have recently discussed
the use of multipliers in civil rights cases.*fn2 In Blum v. Stenson,
465 U.S. 886., 104 S.Ct. 1541, 79 L.Ed.2d 891 (1984), the Supreme Court
reaffirmed its holding that although the "product of reasonable hours
times a reasonable rate" normally provides a "reasonable" attorney's
fee, "in some cases of exceptional success an enhanced award may be
justified." Id., 465 U.S. at ___, 104 S.Ct. at 1548, quoting Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 435, 103 S.Ct. 1933, 1940, 76 L.Ed.2d 40
(1983). The Court then discussed some of the factors which might be used
to increase the lodestar figure.
The Blum Court first rejected the use of the novelty or complexity of
the issues to enhance a fee award. The Court reasoned that these factors
presumably are reflected already in the number of billable hours recorded
by counsel. Moreover, any special skill of the attorney in handling novel
or complex issues should be reflected in the reasonableness of the
attorney's hourly rates. Blum, 465 U.S. at ___, 104 S.Ct. at 1548-49.
Similarly, the Court noted that the quality of representation is
generally reflected in the reasonable hourly rate. However, this factor
may warrant an upward adjustment in rare cases where the fee applicant
offers specific evidence that the quality of legal services rendered was
superior to that one reasonably should expect in light of the hourly
rates charged and that the success was "exceptional." Id., 465 U.S. at
___, 104 S.Ct. at 1549.
The Court also considered whether a fee award should be increased
because of the "results obtained." In Hensley, the Court had noted that
this factor was especially important in determining reasonable attorney's
fees where the plaintiff prevailed only on some of his claims for
relief. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 436, 103 S.Ct. at 1940. However, in Blum the
Court held that the results obtained "normally should not provide an
independent basis for increasing the fee award" because the results
generally will be subsumed within other factors used to calculate a
reasonable fee. Blum, 465 U.S. at ___, 104 S.Ct. at 1549.*fn3
Thus, in Blum the Supreme Court repeated its statement that the use of
a multiplier may be justified in "some cases of exceptional success," and
it left open the possibility that the risk of nonpayment may require an
upward adjustment to provide a reasonable fee. Unfortunately, the Court
did not explain what constitutes a case of exceptional success. Rather
than defining the term, the Court simply ruled out certain factors which
do not justify using a multiplier: novelty, complexity and, in most
cases, quality of representation and the results obtained.
Although the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has not had occasion to
define "cases of exceptional success" subsequent to Hensley and Blum,
earlier Seventh Circuit opinions have discussed at some length the use of
multipliers. In In re Illinois Congressional Districts Reapportionment
Cases, 704 F.2d 380 (7th Cir. 1983), the Seventh Circuit noted that
although the award of attorney's fees is committed to the sound
discretion of the district courts, they should not lightly employ
multipliers in making fee awards. Rather, multipliers "should be given
only in cases that are significant and where the quality of the
attorney's work is considerably above average." Id. at 384.
In that case, the Seventh Circuit approved the use of a multiplier
based upon several factors. These included: the contingent nature of the
attorney's fee,*fn4 the magnitude and complexity of the case, the
excellent quality of the attorneys' work, the public interest served by
plaintiff's counsel and the preclusion of plaintiff's attorneys from other
employment because of the case. Id. at 382-83. This approach is
consistent with that established by the Seventh Circuit in previous cases
— after calculating the lodestar fee, the court may make
adjustments for various other factors set out in the Code of Professional
Responsibility as adopted by the American Bar Association.*fn5 E.g.,
Chrapliwy v. Uniroyal, Inc., 670 F.2d 760, 763-64 n. 5, 769 (7th Cir.
1982), cert. denied, 461 U.S. 956, 103 S.Ct. 2428, 77 L.Ed.2d 1315
(1983); Muscare v. Quinn, 614 F.2d 577, 579 (7th Cir. 1980).
After the Supreme Court's opinion in Blum, however, some of the factors
previously considered by the Seventh Circuit should no longer be used to
justify the use of a multiplier. For example, the Blum Court clearly
barred the use of the complexity or novelty of the issues. Blum, 465
U.S. at ___, 104 S.Ct. at 1549. The Seventh Circuit has not yet addressed
the question of what factors should be considered still, nor has it had
the occasion to
explain its interpretation of the Supreme Court's phrase "cases of
Perhaps the most detailed attempt so far to define "exceptional
success" has been that of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Ramos v.
Lamm, 713 F.2d 546 (10th Cir. 1983). The Tenth Circuit stated that
"`[e]xceptional success' justifying an enhanced fee may be based upon the
performance of counsel — for example, victory under unusually
difficult circumstances or with an extraordinary economy of time —
or upon the result achieved — total victory or establishment of
significant new law." Id. at 557. However, like the Illinois
Reapportionment Cases, Ramos was decided a year before Blum, and its
explanation of "exceptional success" has been limited to some extent by
the Supreme Court. In particular, the Supreme ...