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SPEGON v. CATHOLIC BISHOP OF CHICAGO

April 8, 1998

KENNETH SPEGON, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CATHOLIC BISHOP OF CHICAGO, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MAROVICH

 This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Kevin Spegon's ("Spegon") Motion for Attorney's Fees under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FSLA"), 29 U.S.C. ┬ž 216(b). Spegon filed this action against his former employer, Defendant, the Catholic Bishop of Chicago (the "Bishop"), alleging that he was not compensated for overtime wages and was discriminatorily discharged for expressing his opposition to this practice. After accepting the Bishop's offer of judgment for $ 1,100.00, Spegon's counsel, Ernest T. Rossiello ("Rossiello"), now moves for $ 7,280.00 in fees and costs. For the reasons set forth below, this Court grants Rossiello's motion for fees and costs in the amount of $ 752.70.

 BACKGROUND

 On February 20, 1997, Spegon filed a Class Action Complaint against the Bishop alleging that during the time that he was employed as a maintenance person at St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church ("St. Agnes"), he was insufficiently compensated for his overtime wages. Specifically, Spegon claimed that St. Agnes was only paying his regular hourly rate for overtime instead of time-and-a-half which he was due under the FSLA and Illinois law. Spegon also claims that he was "discriminatorily discharged from his employment, in whole or in part" for expressing his opposition to the overtime wages he received. Although Spegon's Complaint was styled as a class action, it contained no class allegations.

 On April 3, 1997, the parties appeared before the Court for their first status hearing. Maureen Murphy ("Murphy") appeared on behalf of the Bishop and St. Agnes while Rossiello appeared on behalf of Spegon. At the hearing, Murphy represented to the Court:

 
We are not disputing the overtime, that $ 350. We checked the time sheets. And as soon as we were served with the lawsuit, I called Mr. Rossiello and asked why nobody called us before filing. The parish business manager did not realize that she had to pay time and a half. She paid him straight time for the overtime hours, did not realize it. So it's easy to rectify the problem.

 Acknowledging the Bishop's dilemma, the Court observed:

 
I can't help but say to you that if it was a common practice of people to call up on the telephone and say, you know, this is the problem and what can we do about it, as opposed to making a rush to the courthouse door, I might have a part-time job. That's just an observation.
 
* * *
 
We have become very litigious in the area that involves fee shifting in particular. It distresses me, and that is no secret to anybody who has ever appeared in this courtroom, because many $ 350 claims have got fees on them that are in many multiples of 350.

 On June 10, 1997, the parties made their next appearance before the Court. After informing the Court that Rossiello had made a $ 6,600 settlement demand, counsel for the Bishop protested:

 
We're not trying to fight this. As I said before, the problem with this case was that no one before filing this lawsuit ever called us to explain the problem. We could have resolved it then . . . Judge, my predicament is that I am asking a small parish in Chicago Heights to pay $ 6,600 for a $ 200 mistake. $ 6,600 may not be a lot to me or you, but it's a lot to that parish.

 Counsel for the Bishop went on to explain that she believed it was "unreasonable" for Rossiello to extract thousands of dollars in attorney's fees for a several hundred dollar mistake on the part of the parish. The Court suggested that the Bishop make an offer of judgment and dispute the fees with Rossiello at a later date.

 The Bishop took the Court's suggestion to heart and made an offer of judgment two days later. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 68. The offer of judgment allowed Spegon to take judgment against the Bishop for "$ 1,100 plus court costs and a reasonable attorney's fee to be determined by the Court." The Bishop's offer of judgment was accepted by Spegon shortly thereafter. After preliminary matters involving the merits of Spegon's claims were resolved, the real battle began in earnest. Rossiello has filed his motion for attorney's fees asking this Court to award him $ 7,280.70 in fees and costs. Rossiello's fees and costs are summarized as follows: TIME THROUGH JUNE 18, 1997 ERNEST T. ROSSIELLO, 13.7 hours at $ 320/hr. = $ 4,384.00 ASSOCIATE LAWYER, .6 hours at $ 220/hr. = $ 132.00 PARALEGAL TIME, 5.1 hours at $ 102.50/hr. = $ 512.50 EXPENSES OF SUIT = $ 195.40 TIME BETWEEN JUNE 19, 1997 AND AUGUST 29, 1997 ERNEST T. ROSSIELLO, 6.3 hours at $ 320/hr. = $ 2,016.00 EXPENSES OF SUIT = $ 40.80 TOTAL FEES/COSTS REQUESTED: = $ 7,280.70

 Needless to say, the Bishop raises a host of objections to Rossiello's request for fees and costs. Chief among them, the Bishop contends that Rossiello's request is unreasonable both in terms of the hours asserted and in ...


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