Cir. 1990) ("hourly rates near the top of the scale will . . . be inappropriate if in the particular context the task could have been properly accomplished with greater overall cost efficiency by competent personnel. . . .") The court agrees and awards this time at $ 75 per hour.
B. Hourly Rate
Plaintiff has proffered a rate of $ 150 per hour as a fair measure of hourly compensation. Since no objection has been raised to this hourly rate, the court will adopt it for the majority of the lodestar hours. With regard to those hours the court has deemed "clerical", plaintiff may only recover $ 75 per hour, as suggested by counsel.
By the court's calculations, plaintiff is entitled to 593.75 hours with an additional 41 hours added back to the equation for time spent on state claims. When multiplied by the $ 150 hourly rate, the total is $ 95,212.50. Additionally, 78.5 hours, termed as clerical, multiplied by $ 75 leads to a result of $ 5887.50. The lodestar total, then, is $ 101,100.
III. Lodestar Reduction
Once the lodestar total has been calculated, the court may reduce the total to reflect only a partial victory. The Supreme Court gave its imprimatur to such an approach in Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 76 L. Ed. 2d 40, 103 S. Ct. 1933 (1983). "Considerations . . . may lead the district court to adjust the fee upward or downward, including the important factor of the 'results obtained.' . . . If . . . a plaintiff has achieved only partial or limited success, the product of hours reasonably expended on the litigation as a whole times a reasonable hourly rate may be an excessive amount." Id. at 434-436. Where a case involves a multitude of claims based on related legal theories, it may be difficult to determine how much of counsel's time was devoted to any singular issue. In that circumstance, the court "may simply reduce the award to account for the limited success." Id. at 436; Texas State Teachers Ass'n. v. Garland Independent School Dist., 489 U.S. 782, 109 S. Ct. 1486, 1492, 103 L. Ed. 2d 866 (1989); First Commodity Traders, Inc. v. Heinold Commodities, Inc., 766 F.2d 1007, 1015 (7th Cir. 1985) ("district court did not abuse its discretion when it reduced [plaintiff's] award of attorney's fees in proportion to [plaintiff's] success on one of the seven claims"). Such is the case here. The Bethune suit involves many claims based on both state and federal law. The amount of time spent on state or federal issues for any particular claim is difficult to parcel out. For instance, when trying to separate hours spent on state claims - a major portion of the complaint - counsel could only designate 41 out of 634.75 hours as related to state issues. Therefore, the court will reduce the lodestar by a percentage to reflect partial success.
There is no question that plaintiff only achieved partial success in its suit. The Seventh Circuit found that the "time devoted to the pursuit of [the state agency notice issue under state law] is not compensable." Bethune Plaza, Inc., 863 F.2d at 530. The court finds that plaintiff's suit was two-thirds successful. In essence, plaintiff received relief in roughly 6 of its 10 claims and/or requests for remedies. (Count II was dismissed.) Of the claims raised in the complaint, plaintiff was only able to succeed on those which contemplated "postponing the penalty [imposed by the state agency] until after the hearing." Id. at 528. Plaintiff was not able to receive the additional relief it sought -- declaring the state's imposition of violations and assessment of fines in this situation illegal. Since plaintiff only achieved success in two-thirds of its claims, the lodestar figure is decreased to reflect only two-thirds success. The final award totals $ 66,726 ($ 101,100 x 66%).
Thus ends the struggle. Plaintiff is entitled to $ 66,726 in attorney's fees along with $ 541.92 in costs.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
© 1992-2004 VersusLaw Inc.