United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division
March 29, 1999
CRYSTAL INGRAM, CARLOS INGRAM, A MINOR, BY AND THROUGH CRYSTAL INGRAM, HIS MOTHER AND NEXT FRIEND, AND MONIQUE INGRAM, A MINOR, BY AND THROUGH CRYSTAL INGRAM, HER MOTHER AND NEXT FRIEND, PLAINTIFFS,
FRANK J. JONES, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A POLICE OFFICER FOR THE VILLAGE OF BELLWOOD POLICE DEPARTMENT, DONALD T. SLEDGE, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A POLICE OFFICER FOR THE VILLAGE OF BELLWOOD POLICE DEPARTMENT, JEANETTE JOHNSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A POLICE OFFICER FOR THE VILLAGE OF BELLWOOD, JOE WEBER, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A POLICE OFFICER FOR THE VILLAGE OF BELLWOOD POLICE DEPARTMENT, KEVIN S. DAVIS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A POLICE OFFICER FOR THE VILLAGE OF BELLWOOD, ALVIN PEREZ, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS POLICE OFFICER FOR THE VILLAGE OF BELLWOOD, RUSSELL F. MANGANO, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A POLICE OFFICER FOR THE VILLAGE OF BELLWOOD POLICE DEPARTMENT, JOHN DOE DEFENDANTS 1-9, OF THE VILLAGE OF BELLWOOD POLICE DEPARTMENT, ALL UNKNOWN INDIVIDUALS, AND THE VILLAGE OF BELLWOOD, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Keys, United States Magistrate Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Petition for
Attorneys Fees and Costs, and Plaintiffs' Supplemental Petition
for Attorneys Fees and Costs. For the following reasons, this
Court grants in part, and denies in part, the two petitions.
Thus, this Court enters, in favor of Plaintiffs and against
Defendants, an award of attorneys' fees and costs totalling
This case stems from the August 6, 1993 arrest of Plaintiff
Crystal Ingram, following a traffic stop outside of her home in
Bellwood, Illinois. Her minor children, Plaintiffs Carlos and
Monique Ingram, were present during the arrest. Ms. Ingram was
charged with several traffic violations, along with misdemeanor
charges of battery and resisting arrest. On June 17, 1994, those
charges were dismissed on the prosecutor's motion. On May 2,
1995, Plaintiffs filed the instant civil rights claim in federal
The First Amended Complaint*fn1 included the following seven
counts: False Arrest;
Excessive Force During Arrest; Sexual Harassment; Conspiracy; and
IIED as to each of the three Plaintiffs. Judge Nordberg dismissed
the Village as a Defendant and dismissed all counts against the
remaining Defendants, in their official capacities. Ingram v.
Jones, No. 95 C 2631, 1996 WL 355365, at *5 (N.D.Ill. June 21,
1996). Judge Nordberg also dismissed the Conspiracy count in its
entirety, and granted summary judgment to Defendants Johnson,
Davis, Perez, and Mangano on the False Arrest, Excessive Force,
Sexual Harassment, and IIED counts.*fn2 Ingram v. Jones, 1996
WL 355365, at *5.
After discovery progressed, on October 22, 1996, Plaintiffs
moved for reconsideration of the dismissal of the conspiracy and
malicious prosecution counts of their (original) Complaint (and
for leave to file a Second Amended Complaint adding these counts
back in since they were not included in the First Amended
Complaint). Judge Nordberg denied the motion and found that parts
of the motion "misstate[d]" the law and made "frivolous"
arguments. Ingram v. Jones, No. 95 C 2631, 1997 WL 323538, at
*2-3 (N.D.Ill. June 9, 1997).*fn3
In April of 1997, the case settled for a total of $57,500:
$40,000 for Crystal Ingram; $10,000 for Carlos Ingram; and $7,500
for Monique Ingram. This settlement was then the subject of
further disagreement between the parties. A motion to enforce
settlement was presented by Plaintiffs on September 10, 1997, and
was ultimately denied by Judge Nordberg on January 8, 1998.
Further settlement discussions were held by this Court, and final
settlement was eventually reached as to the damages claims. The
parties then consented to this Court's jurisdiction with respect
to the attorneys' fees and costs sought by Plaintiffs; Plaintiffs
(combining the initial petition and the supplemental one) seek a
total of $192,521.83 for fees and costs.*fn4
Title 42 U.S.C. § 1988 (" § 1988") provides, in relevant part,
that "[i]n any action or proceeding to enforce a provision of
section . . . 1983 . . . of this title . . ., the court, in its
discretion, may allow the prevailing party . . . a reasonable
attorney's fee as part of the costs." In order for a party to
collect attorneys' fees under § 1988 the party must show: (1)
that it has prevailed; and (2) that its fee request is
reasonable. Farrar v. Hobby, 506 U.S. 103, 109-14, 113 S.Ct.
566, 121 L.Ed.2d 494 (1992).
A. Legal Standard to Determine Prevailing Party Status
Generally, plaintiffs are considered to be prevailing parties
"if they succeed on any significant issue in litigation which
achieves some of the benefit the parties sought in bringing the
suit." Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433, 103 S.Ct. 1933,
76 L.Ed.2d 40 (1983); Estate of Borst v. O'Brien, 979 F.2d 511,
515 (7th Cir. 1992). However, even where the plaintiffs do not
"win" on a significant issue in the litigation, if they obtain
some of the relief originally sought by bringing the lawsuit,
they may be prevailing parties. See Maher v. Gagne,
448 U.S. 122, 129, 100 S.Ct. 2570, 65 L.Ed.2d 653, (1980).
The equivalency doctrine permits a party to "prevail"
and recover attorneys fees if the lawsuit "produces
voluntary action by the defendant that affords the
plaintiff all or some of the relief he
sought through a judgment — e.g., a monetary
settlement or a change in conduct that redresses the
Stewart v. McGinnis, 5 F.3d 1031
, 1039 (7th Cir. 1993) (quoting
Hewitt v. Helms, 482 U.S. 755
, 760-61, 107 S.Ct. 2672, 96
L.Ed.2d 654 (1987)). Thus, a two-part test is applied to
determine whether plaintiffs have "prevailed through settlement
prior to a full litigation on the merits" (such that attorneys'
fees may be available): 1) the plaintiffs' "lawsuit must be
causally linked to the achievement of the relief obtained"; and
2) the defendant "must not have acted wholly gratuitously, i.e.,
the plaintiffs' claims, if pressed, cannot have been frivolous,
unreasonable, or groundless." Nanetti v. University of Ill. at
Chicago, 867 F.2d 990
, 992-93 (7th Cir. 1989).
Here, it is evident that the litigation was a causal link to
the achievement of the relief obtained,*fn5 and that Defendants
did not act wholly gratuitously. The Court also finds that,
despite Defendants obligatory arguments to the contrary, this was
not a nuisance value settlement.*fn6
B. Calculation of Reasonable Attorneys' Fees to Which
Plaintiffs are Entitled
The above finding, that Plaintiffs prevailed, brings them over
the statutory threshold (i.e. indicating that an award of
attorneys' fees is potentially available). Next, the
reasonableness of the attorneys' fees, costs, and expenses that
Plaintiffs seek to collect must be determined.
1. Legal Standard to Determine Reasonableness of Fees
Determination of a fee award is left to the court's discretion.
Eddleman v. Switchcraft, Inc., 965 F.2d 422, 424 (7th Cir.
1992). Attorneys' fees are calculated by multiplying the number
of hours reasonably expended by a reasonable hourly rate.
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433, 103 S.Ct. 1933. What constitutes a
reasonable hourly rate is determined by "prevailing market rates
in the relevant community." Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895,
104 S.Ct. 1541, 79 L.Ed.2d 891 (1984); see also McNabola v.
Chicago Transit Auth., 10 F.3d 501, 519 (7th Cir. 1993).
The party requesting the fee award bears the burden of
substantiating, to the Court's satisfaction, the requested rate
as well as the hours expended. McNabola, 10 F.3d at 518;
Borst, 979 F.2d at 515; see Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433, 103
S.Ct. 1933. Where the documentation of hours is inadequate, the
Court may reduce or deny the award accordingly. Hensley, 461
U.S. at 433, 103 S.Ct. 1933; FMC Corp. v. Varonos,
892 F.2d 1308, 1316 (7th Cir. 1990) (where the claim for fees is not
supported by accurate or detailed records, the Court may deny the
fee request). Additionally, the Court should scrutinize the fee
petition carefully for indications of duplicative time. FMC,
892 F.2d at 1316. The Court may increase or decrease the fee
request in light of the twelve Hensley factors:
(1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and
difficulty of the questions; (3) the skill requisite
to perform the legal service properly; (4) the
preclusion of employment by the attorney due to
acceptance of the case; (5) the customary fee; (6)
whether the fee is fixed or contingent; (7) time
limitations imposed by the client or the
circumstances; (8) the amount involved and the
results obtained; (9) the experience, reputation, and
ability of the attorneys; (10) the
"undesirability" of the case; (11) the nature and
length of the professional relationship with the
client; and (12) awards in similar cases.
461 U.S. at 429-430 n. 3, 103 S.Ct. 1933 (citing Johnson v.
Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714
, 717-719 (5th Cir.
Plaintiffs request a total of $186,611.50 in attorneys' fees.
Attorney Matthew J. Piers bills at $275 per hour, Terence J.
Moran bills at $230 per hour, Frederick S. Rhine bills at $205
per hour, Charles J. Holley bills at $150 per hour, and Dana H.
Sukenik bills at $125 per hour.*fn8
The Court finds the hourly rates for the aforementioned
attorneys to be appropriate for their experience and expertise,
within the Chicago market rates for similar attorneys (for civil
rights litigation).*fn9 However, there are a variety of problems
with the number of hours expended by the attorneys. The Court has
scrutinized each billing entry and attorney description,
submitted by Plaintiffs in support of their request. Based upon
its indepth examination, the Court finds that attorneys' fees
claimed by Plaintiffs should be reduced by a total of $66,830.25.
The amount of "intra-office conferencing" done in this case was
excessive. Moreover, the majority of the descriptions
accompanying the bills do not offer details as to what these
conferences were about. Therefore, the Court deducted extraneous
conferencing times and extracted them from "clumped" descriptions
where it was possible to discern those amounts.*fn10 For
example, on November 7, 1995, Mr. Moran billed .40 hours for
"Conference with Mr. Holley" and the Court was able to deduct
this same .40 amount from the November 7, 1995, 4.50 hours billed
by Mr. Holley for "Review case law re: motion to quash subpoena;
conference with Mr. Moran re: hearing; hearing on motion;
conference with Mr. Moran re: results of hearing."
Additionally, Plaintiffs' fees were reduced due to performance
of ministerial tasks which could have been handled by lesser
billing individuals. For example, Ms. Sukenik's November 27, 1996
entry of .20 hours billed for "confirm[ing] client's appointment
with Dr. Hamilton-Bennett," and her June 28, 1996 entry of .20
hours to "Send check and request for tax returns to IRS."
The Court also discounted billings where a partner did work
that could have been done by a lower billing associate. In
particular, with respect to the drafting of the fee petition in
this case (time entries for which are provided in the
Supplemental fee petition), this Court substituted Ms. Sukenik's
hourly rate for that of Mr. Rhine.
The Court additionally deducted time billed where the entries
were too vague (most of these entries also fall under the
category of excessive conferencing) or where the time billed for
the task (most
often for drafting and editing) was simply excessive. Finally,
the Court reduced the fees sought by 15.1 hours for Mr. Piers and
77.2 hours for Ms. Sukenik for time billed on the Motion to
Reconsider, which Judge Nordberg found contained misstatements of
law and frivolous arguments (and the related, but never filed,
Thus, the Court grants Plaintiffs' initial petition for
attorneys' fees for: 103.9 hours at $275 per hour for Mr. Piers;
8.1 hours at $230 per hour for Mr. Moran; 30.4 hours at $205 per
hour for Mr. Rhine; 241.5 hours at $150 per hour for Mr. Holley;
and 179.3 hours at $125 per hour for Ms. Sukenik. Additionally,
the Court grants Plaintiffs fees for Mr. Piers' 16.9 hours at
$275 per hour for the supplemental fee petition and 44.8 hours
for Mr. Rhine's work (at the reduced rate of $125 per hour which
is Ms. Sukenik's hourly rate). Finally, for work on the criminal
case, this Court awards Plaintiffs for 58.1 hours billed by Mr.
Piers at the rate of $137.5 per hour and for 83.2 hours billed by
Mr. Holley at $75 per hour. See supra n. 9.
In summary, after reducing the fees by the amounts indicated
above, the Court finds that the total, $119,781.25, represents a
reasonable fee for the "degree of success obtained." Hensley,
461 U.S. at 436, 103 S.Ct. 1933.
Plaintiffs request a total of $5,910.33 for costs.
Specifically, they seek $197.55 for messenger service, $79.78 for
postage, $113 for faxes, $1,120.10 for photocopies,*fn11 $14.29
for long-distance phone calls, $2,000 for psychiatric
examinations, $374 for deposition deposit ($10) and deposition
($364), $1,766.11 for Westlaw/Lexis research, $30 for obtaining
hospital records, $6 for obtaining a "Certified Disposition", $4
for a vehicle registration search, $43.50 for copies of
photographs, $23 for lunch, $19 for parking and travel, and $120
for filing the case in federal court.
The Seventh Circuit has held that:
expenses of litigation that are distinct from either
statutory costs or the costs of the lawyer's time
reflected in his hourly billing rates — expenses for
such things as postage, long-distance calls,
xeroxing, travel, paralegals, and expert witnesses —
are part of the reasonable attorney's fee allowed by
the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act.
Heiar v. Crawford County, Wis., 746 F.2d 1190, 1203 (7th Cir.
1984), cert. denied, 472 U.S. 1027, 105 S.Ct. 3500, 87 L.Ed.2d
631 (1985); see also Downes v. Volkswagen of Am., Inc.,
41 F.3d 1132, 1144 (7th Cir. 1994); Herzog Contracting Corp. v. McGowen
Corp., 976 F.2d 1062, 1065 (7th Cir. 1992). Nonetheless, after
careful review, the Court finds that all costs claimed by
Plaintiffs, except the $120 filing fee for the Complaint, must be
Plaintiffs failed to provide any supporting documentation —
such as receipts or even descriptions/explanations — for the
costs and expenses sought here. As to the messenger service and
faxes, it is impossible to discern whether rapid transmission was
reasonable, or even necessary. There is no information about what
was being rapidly transmitted or where it was going. Likewise,
there is no indication as to the number of photocopies made, or
even the amount charged per page. Nor is there any information
about the long-distance calls, specifically, why and to whom they
were made. There was also no explanation about what the postage
covered. Similarly, there were no receipts or details given with
regard to: the psychiatric examinations; the deposition; the cost
of obtaining hospital records; the cost for obtaining a
"Certified Disposition"; the vehicle registration search; the
copies; the Westlaw/Lexis research; the lunch; and the parking
The scant information contained in the two petitions is simply
insufficient to inform this Court as to whether the above costs
were necessary or reasonable. Thus, this Court is not satisfied
that the costs sought here, excluding the $120 for filing,*fn12
were reasonable or even necessary.
Plaintiffs are entitled to reasonable attorneys' fees of
$119,781.25 and costs of $120.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that:
Plaintiffs' Petition for Attorneys Fees and Costs be, and the
same hereby is, granted in part, and denied in part.
Plaintiffs' Supplemental Petition for Attorneys Fees and Costs
be and the same hereby is, granted in part, and denied in part.
Defendants shall pay Plaintiffs a total of $119,901.25 for
attorneys' fees and costs.