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INGRAM v. JONES

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,
v.
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 $119,901.25.

BACKGROUND

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 court.

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

DISCUSSION

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
  plaintiff's grievance".

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 ...


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