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Shakman v. City of Chicago

March 18, 2008

MICHAEL L. SHAKMAN AND PAUL M. LURIE, ET AL. PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE CITY OF CHICAGO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wayne R. Andersen District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This case is before the Court to resolve the six petitions for attorneys' fees and costs filed by Plaintiffs in this action to be paid by the City of Chicago. For the following reasons, we grant in part and deny in part Plaintiffs' petitions for attorneys' fees and costs. We conclude that Plaintiffs are entitled to an award of attorneys' fees, including interest, in the amount of $3,600,000.00 and $84,150.40 as reimbursement for costs. This attorneys' fee is equal to 30 percent of the $12,000,000.00 settlement fund agreed to by the City.

BACKGROUND

This case is part of the on-going litigation against the City and other governmental entities under the Shakman Consent Decrees. The litigation began in 1969 when Michael L. Shakman and Paul M. Lurie brought claims on behalf of themselves and classes of independent candidates, voters and taxpayers in Cook County against a number of defendants, including the City of Chicago and its Mayor. In essence, the Complaint charged that the City conditioned employment on the applicant's support of the Cook County Regular Democratic Organization in violation of the Plaintiffs' constitutional rights. Over the years, a number of different matters have arisen regarding various Defendants' compliance with the Consent Decrees and resulting Compliance Plans. This case's enduring history encompasses many judicial opinions by the District Court and the Seventh Circuit which are too comprehensive and detailed to be recounted here.

DISCUSSION

Plaintiffs' fee petitions seek to recover attorneys' fees and costs incurred for legal work in the proceedings covering the period from January 1, 1998 through May 31, 2007. Plaintiffs seek to recover attorneys' fees incurred in monitoring and enforcing the 1972 and 1983 Consent Decrees entered in this case, intervening in the Pennick proceeding, opposing the City's motion to vacate the 1983 Consent Decree, seeking to hold the City and Mayor Daley in contempt for allegedly violating the Consent Decrees, and obtaining the relief provided for in the Agreed Settlement order and Accord (the "Accord"). Plaintiffs request attorneys' fees and costs in the amount of $5,243,401.24, consisting of:

$3,238,308.20 attorneys' fees

619,158.47 interest on the attorneys' fees

84,150.40 costs

17,241.11 interest on the costs

1,284,543.06 fee enhancement

In calculating the fees requested, Plaintiffs apply the "Lodestar" method, which allows for compensation of fees representing the product of (a) the reasonable historical hourly rates and (b) number of hours worked as determined by the Court. Plaintiffs also request to be awarded a success multiplier equivalent to 33% of the attorneys' fees in order to account for what the Plaintiffs characterize as the "important societal benefits" and "the extraordinary results achieved" in the case. Finally, Plaintiffs request interest on the attorneys' fees and costs.

The City objects to the Plaintiffs' petitions on several grounds. First, the City argues that the Plaintiffs are not a "prevailing" party entitled to an award of attorneys' fees and expenses. Second, the City disputes the amount of the attorneys' fees requested for a variety of reasons such as the reasonableness of the work, the hours worked, and the rates charged. The City also argues that a success multiplier should not be awarded because such award would effectively provide the Plaintiffs with a windfall not permitted under the fee-shifting statute.

The parties' contentions raise two distinct questions to resolve: (1) Are Plaintiffs the "prevailing" party within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1988 and thus entitled to recovery of attorney fees?; and (2) if so, what is the reasonable amount of fees that the Plaintiffs are entitled to? We will address each of these questions separately below.

I. Plaintiffs' Prevailing Party Status

Plaintiffs seek to recover their attorneys' fees incurred in monitoring and enforcing the Consent Decrees entered in this case and in obtaining the following relief from the Court: 1) summary judgment on the question of the City's liability for violating the 1983 Consent Decree when hiring employees through personal service contracts and temporary agencies (the Pennick enforcement proceeding); 2) proceedings involving the City's motion to vacate the 1983 Consent Decree; 3) proceedings ...


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