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Shakman v. Sheriff of Cook County

February 5, 2010

MICHAEL L. SHAKMAN AND PAUL M. LURIE, ET AL. PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SHERIFF OF COOK COUNTY, 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 on Plaintiffs' Fee Petition with Respect to the Sheriff of Cook County for the period of July 1, 2009 through October 31, 2009 [1520]. For the following reasons, we grant in part and deny in part Plaintiffs' petition for attorneys' fees and costs. We conclude that Plaintiffs are entitled to an award of attorneys' fees in the amount of $67,170.40 and $354.38 as reimbursement for costs.

BACKGROUND

This case is part of the on-going litigation against the Sheriff of Cook County ("Sheriff") 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. In essence, the Complaint charged that local government agencies conditioned employment on the 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.

The Sheriff entered into Consent Decrees in 1980 and 1984, which, among other things, prohibited the Sheriff from making hiring decisions or taking other actions affecting a person's employment on the basis of any political reason or factor. A Supplemental Relief Order for the Sheriff was entered on September 11, 2008, and an Amended Supplemental Relief Order ("SRO") was entered on May 21, 2009. Pursuant to the SRO, Plaintiffs have the responsibility to monitor the Sheriff's performance under the Consent Decrees, the SRO, and the new hiring plan. (SRO at 8.)

On October 2, 2009, Plaintiffs filed an unopposed motion for attorneys' fees with respect to the Sheriff, which resulted in the award of $98,831.21 in fees and $562.35 in costs.

DISCUSSION

Plaintiffs' fee petition seeks to recover attorneys' fees and costs incurred for the legal work in the proceedings covering the period from July 1, 2009 through October 31, 2009. Plaintiffs seek to recover attorneys' fees incurred in "monitoring and implementing the [SRO], including, but not limited to, time spent negotiating the Sheriff's new employment plan, exempt list and senior manager hiring protocol, and time spent on prior fee petitions." (Pls.' Pet. at 1.) The total amount of attorneys' fees sought is $80,948.47, and reimbursement for costs in the amount of $354.38.

The Sheriff did not file a formal response opposing this petition. However, as outlined in Plaintiffs' Petition, and also discussed by the parties in open court on February 4, 2010, the Sheriff objects to two categories of work: (1) time spent pursuing prior fee petitions and reviewing pre-bill invoices, and (2) time spent in interoffice conferences.

I. Compensable Activities

"When a consent decree includes provisions providing for on-going monitoring by the plaintiffs, plaintiffs are entitled to recover their attorneys' fees incurred in performing their obligations under the consent decree." Shakman v. City of Chicago, 2008 WL 754124, at *2 (citing Alliance to End Repression v. Chicago, 356 F.3d 767, 772-73 (7th Cir. 2004)). Section III.C(2) of the SRO provides as follows:

Plaintiffs shall monitor the Sheriff's performance under the Sheriff's Consent Decrees, the SRO, and the New Plan through counsel of their choice, may present matters to the Court in the 69 C 2145 case, including enforcement actions, and may petition the Court for County payment of costs and attorneys' fees incurred as part of their reasonable, appropriate, non-duplicative monitoring and enforcement.

A. Activities Related to Fee Petition

The Sheriff's first objection relates to time spent pursuing prior fee petitions and ...


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