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Michael v. City of Granite City

June 30, 2009

MIA MICHAEL, DANIEL MICHAEL, AND ANGELA MICHAEL, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE CITY OF GRANITE CITY, ILLINOIS, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, EDWARD HAGNAUER, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF GRANITE CITY, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES, RICHARD MILLER, CHIEF OF POLICE OF GRANITE CITY, IN HIS OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES, AND GRANITE CITY POLICE OFFICERS MERZ AND NOVASICH, IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stiehl, District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

This matter is before the Court on plaintiffs' motion for attorney's fees and costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k). Plaintiffs brought their action against defendants City of Granite City, Edward Hagnauer, Richard Miller, and Granite City Police Officers Merz and Novasich, seeking to recover for alleged violations of their First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights related to their efforts to protest in favor of pro-life at Granite City, Illinois sponsored parades.

The Court entered judgment*fn1 on the plaintiffs' case on March 27, 2009, in favor of defendants the Mayor of Granite City, Edward Hagnauer, sued in his official and individual capacities; the Chief of Police, Richard Miller, sued in his official and individual capacities; and Granite City police officers Tony Merz and Nicholas Novasich, both of whom were sued in their individual capacities and against plaintiffs Mia Michael, Angela Michael and Daniel Michael on all claims raised by plaintiffs in the First Amended Complaint. The Court further entered judgment in favor of plaintiffs Mia Michael, Angela Michael and Daniel Michael and against the defendant, the City of Granite City, a municipal corporation, solely on plaintiff's claims with respect to Ordinance 7878, and in favor of defendant the City of Granite City on all remaining claims in the First Amended Complaint.

The Court found that plaintiffs' damages on their claim with respect to Ordinance 7878 were minimal, at best, and that plaintiffs suffered little damage, including emotional damage, in light of the fact that the Ordinance was never put into effect, nor exercised against the plaintiffs, or others. Therefore, the Court awarded damages on that claim to plaintiffs jointly in the amount of $300.

Plaintiffs' attorneys have now filed motions for attorneys fees and costs in the amounts of $55,604.10 for attorney Jason Craddock and $12,087.78 for attorney Thomas Brejcha. The defendant, City of Granite City has filed an objection to the fees sought by Jason Craddock on the grounds that the plaintiffs' attorneys should only be able to recover fees with respect to their successful claim that Ordinance 7878 violated the plaintiffs' Constitutional rights, but not with respect to plaintiffs' other claims. Defendant also asserts that the time and costs sought for appearance at a City of Granite City Council Meeting in January of 2006 was not related to the prosecution of Ordinance 7878, nor was it necessary for the successful prosecution of Ordinance 7878.

DISCUSSION

"In calculating reasonable attorneys' fees, the district court should first determine the lodestar amount by multiplying the reasonable number of hours worked by the market rate." Bankston v. State of Ill., 60 F.3d 1249, 1255 (7th Cir. 1995). "The reasonable hourly rate used in calculating the lodestar must be based on the market rate for the attorney's work. 'The market rate is the rate that lawyers of similar ability and experience in the community normally charge their paying clients for the type of work in question.'" McNabola v. Chi. Transit Auth., 10 F.3d 501, 519 (7th Cir. 1993) (quoting Eddleman v. Switchcraft, Inc., 965 F.2d 422, 424 (7th Cir. 1992)) (internal citation omitted). "The burden of proving the market rate is on the party seeking the fee award. However, once an attorney provides evidence establishing his market rate, the opposing party has the burden of demonstrating why a lower rate should be awarded." Uphoff v. Elegant Bath, Ltd., 176 F.3d 399, 407 (7th Cir. 1999) (internal citations omitted).

1. Reasonable Number of Hours Worked

The Court has reviewed the requested time from both attorneys for plaintiffs in this case. The Court notes that plaintiffs were successful only on their claims relating to Ordinance 7878, which was resolved by the Court in its Order of August 31, 2006, which granted plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction, (Doc. 34), and the Order of May 16, 2007, which granted partial summary judgment on plaintiffs' claims with respect to Ordinance 7878, finding the ordinance unconstitutional (Doc. 48). Therefore, the Court will only consider, as reasonable, fees and costs related to the prosecution of the Ordinance 7878 claim. The Court notes that indefinitely described or excessive time will not be approved, nor will time spent discussing the case with the media, as those are not warranted. Moreover, the plaintiffs have not responded to the defendant's objection with respect to the Granite City Council meeting. The Court FINDS that there is nothing in the record to establish that any connection between the fees sought by Craddock to attend the City Council meeting in 2006 was directly related to Ordinance 7878, and therefore, those requested fees will not be approved.

A. Attorney Craddock

The Court has reviewed the fee statement of Craddock and the defendant's objections to those fees. The Court rules as follows:

DATE HOURS DESCRIPTION DISAPPROVED APPROVED REQUESTED OF WORK HOURS HOURS 12/12/05 7.5 Complaint 7.5 12/28/05 4.5 Complaint 4.5 1/12/06 .5 Discuss case .5 (no fees for with reporters press time) 1/13/06 3 Research appeal 3 and amended complaint 1/16/06 4 Confer with 4 (no fees for client, press press time) research 1/17/06 16 Granite City 16 (not related to Council Meeting Ordinance 7878) hours 1/25/06-2/10/06 4.8 Research issues .8 (excessive 4.0 amended time) complaint 3/1/06-3/2/06 4.3 Prepare 1.3 3.0 amended compl. 3/15/06-3/21/06 4.5 "am cmptl" 4.5 (no explanation or reason for this time is given)

4/25/06-5/10/06 2.5 Time related to 18.5

9 motion to 2 dismiss-review, 5 research, prepare response 5/30/06 3 Discuss case 3 with Brejcha 6/8/06 1 Scheduling .5 (time .5 order excessive for review of this order)

7/24/06-7/26/06 1.2 Confer with 1.2 clients

7/28/06 .7 Calls to .7 counsel/clients re deposition

8/4/06 3 Prelim inj. 3 motion preparation

8/19/06 3.5 Prelim inj prep 3.5 and filing

8/19/06 3.5 Review 3.5 discovery, prep for ...


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