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KELLEY v. CITY OF CHICAGO

June 6, 2002

JUDITH M. KELLEY, PLAINTIFF,
V.
CITY OF CHICAGO, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James H. Alesia, United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the court is a petition for award of attorney's fees, filed by plaintiff Judith M. Kelley ("Kelley"). For the following reasons, the court grants Kelley's petition for award of attorney's fees.

I. BACKGROUND

Kelley brought this case under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794. She claimed that defendant City of Chicago ("the City") discriminated against her when it determined that she was unable to continue working as a police officer because she could not "maintain an independent and stable gait," in violation of Chicago Police Department General Order 98-2. Kelley argued that General Order 98-2 violated the Rehabilitation Act because it was not job-related or consistent with business necessity.

On April 2, 2002, after a hearing, the court granted Kelley's motion for a temporary restraining order, thereby allowing her to return to work. The court, with both parties' agreement, extended the temporary restraining order to May 3, in order to accommodate the City's attorney. On April 9, the parties stated in open court that they had settled the case. Particularly, the City agreed to: (1) be enjoined from enforcing General Order 98-2 minimum eligibility requirements against Kelley, as long as she passed a firing range test; (2) reinstate Kelley's baby furlough days, personal days, compensatory time, and paid medical roll leave time; (3) pay reasonable attorney's fees; and (4) enforcement of the agreement by the court. (Tr. Apr. 9, 2002, at 11-12.) In return, Kelley agreed to waive compensatory damages. Despite these representations in court, the parties were unable to finalize the settlement of the case and the litigation continued. On April 23, the court found that the parties' in-court agreement constituted a settlement of this case and entered a consent decree in favor of Kelley that was consistent with the parties' April 9 agreement.

Kelley has now filed a petition for award of attorney's fees. The City raises six challenges to the fee petition. Particularly, the City argues: (1) any fee award should be limited to fees incurred as of the parties' in-court agreement on April 9; (2) the number of hours that Kelley's attorneys have billed for preparation of the instant fee petition is unreasonable; (3) the court should reduce the number of hours billed for preparing the complaint and motion for a temporary restraining order; (4) Kelley is not entitled to fees for time spent preparing and filing a motion for relatedness; (5) Kelley is not entitled to fees for time spent on correspondence with the City's counsel regarding Kelley's leave time; and (6) Kelley's counsel's billing rate is unsubstantiated.*fn1 The court will first review the standard for granting a petition for attorney's fees and then will address each of the City's arguments in turn.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard for Granting a Petition for Attorney's Fees

Because Kelley's case arises under 29 U.S.C. § 794, the remedial provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 2000d apply to this case. 29 U.S.C. § 794a(a)(2). Prevailing parties under 42 U.S.C. § 2000d are entitled to recover a reasonable attorney's fee. 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b). The Supreme Court has held that a plaintiff who receives a judgment in her favor in the form of a consent decree is a prevailing party and, therefore, entitled to recover attorney's fees. Buckhannon Board & Care Home Inc. v. West Virginia Dep't of Health & Human Resources, 532 U.S. 598, 604 (2001). Therefore, Kelley is a prevailing party entitled to recover reasonable attorney's fees in this case.

When determining attorney's fee awards under 42 U.S.C. § 1988, the court must first determine the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation and then multiply that number of hours by a reasonable hourly rate. Jaffee v. Redmond, 142 F.3d 409, 413 (7th Cir. 1998) (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)). The court will apply that analysis to this case and will first review the City's objections to the number of hours that Kelley's attorneys have billed for this case and will then review the City's objection to Kelley's attorneys' billing rates.

B. Kelley's Petition for Award of Attorney's Fees

1. Number of Hours Reasonably Expended

The City raises five objections to the number of hours that Kelley's attorneys have billed for this case. The City argues: (1) any fee award should be limited to fees incurred as of the parties' in-court agreement; (2) the number of hours that Kelley's attorneys have billed for preparation of the instant fee petition is unreasonable; (3) the court should reduce the number of hours billed for preparing the complaint and motion for a temporary restraining order; (4) Kelley is not entitled to fees for time that her attorneys spent preparing and filing a motion for relatedness; and (5) Kelley is not entitled to fees for time spent on correspondence with the City's counsel regarding Kelley's leave time.

First, the court finds that the hours that Kelley's counsel spent on settlement and preparing for trial after the April 9 hearing were reasonably incurred. After the in-court agreement on April 9, the City attorney's statements and actions prevented the execution of the settlement upon the terms as stated in court. Therefore, Kelley's attorneys were forced to spend additional time seeking to enforce the settlement on the agreed-upon terms. Additionally, on April 16, ...


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