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Scott v. Illinois Youth Center Joliet

February 9, 2011

SCOTT
v.
ILLINOIS YOUTH CENTER JOLIET, STATE OF IL ET AL.



Name of Assigned Judge Sitting Judge if Other or Magistrate Judge Virginia M. Kendall than Assigned Judge Geraldine Soat Brown

CASE TITLE

DOCKET ENTRY TEXT

For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff Jeffrey R. Scott's petition for attorneys' fees ("Pl.'s Pet.") [72] is granted in part and denied in part and fees are awarded in the amount of $10,360.25 against defendant Larry Peterson.

O[ For further details see text below.] Notices mailed by Judicial staff.

*Copy to judge/magistrate judge.

STATEMENT

This matter comes before the court to determine whether plaintiff Jeffrey R. Scott ("Scott") has submitted sufficient evidence that the rates charged by his attorneys and paralegals are reasonable to justify his requested award of attorneys' fees pursuant to the District Judge's Memorandum Opinion and Order of August 11, 2010. (Mem. Op. & Order.) [Dkt 75.] For the reasons that follow, the court concludes that Scott is entitled to an award of attorneys' fees in the amount of $10,360.25.

Background

Scott filed a two-count complaint against defendants John Rita and Larry Peterson alleging that they unlawfully terminated his employment because of his race in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983. [Dkt

41.] On March 17, 2010, the District Judge dismissed Rita from the case and entered a default judgment against Peterson pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a). [Dkt 65.] Following a prove-up hearing, the District Judge awarded Scott $245,475 in damages. (Order, August 11, 2010.) [Dkt 74.] The District Judge also addressed Scott's petition for attorneys' fees, and determined that Scott prevailed in his claim against Peterson and was therefore entitled to fees. (Mem. Op. & Order at 15.)

Scott requested an award of $72,937.50 for fees and costs incurred by the attorneys and paralegals from the Chicago law firm of Fisher & Phillips LLP who represented him. (Pl.'s Pet. at 1.) The District Judge analyzed the billing records submitted with the petition. After disregarding time spent on work unrelated to the successful result, the court found that the attorneys and paralegals had spent the following hours on tasks related to the successful result: 4.1 hours by attorney Craig Annunziata; 13.9 hours by attorney John Berg; 58.4 hours by attorney Brian Jackson; and 5.6 hours collectively by paralegals Cynthia Muehling, Dana Blumthal, and Heather Macdonald (collectively, "paralegals"). (Mem. Op. & Order at 11,16-19.) The District Judge further found that, given the straightforward nature of the case and the limited success of the judgment, the total amount of the fee award for each attorney and paralegal would be divided in half. (Id. at 20.) However, because Scott did not submit sufficient evidence to support the billing rates for each of the attorneys and paralegals, the District Judge entered and continued the motion to allow him to submit additional evidence on that point. (Id. at 21.)

Scott submitted supplemental support (Pl.'s Suppl. [dkt 76]), and the petition for attorneys' fees was thereafter referred to this court. [Dkt 77.] Peterson was given the opportunity to respond both to the petition for attorneys' fees and the supplemental support [dkt 73, 78, 79], but has failed to do so. The sole remaining issue for this court is the reasonableness of the rates sought.

Discussion

The party seeking the fee award has the burden of proving the reasonableness of the hours worked and the hourly rates claimed. Spegon v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago, 175 F.3d 544, 550 (7th Cir. 1999) (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)). A reasonable hourly billing rate reflects the prevailing market rate for a similar level of legal work. See Gautreaux v. Chicago Housing Auth., 491 F.3d 649, 659 (7th Cir. 2007). The attorneys' actual billing rate for comparable work -- "the amount they would have earned from paying clients" -- is the place to start in calculating the appropriate rate. Mathur v. Bd. of Trustees of S. Ill. U., 317 F.3d 738, 743 (7th Cir. 2003). With his initial petition, Scott submitted the affidavits of Mr. Annunziata (who seeks a rate of $435), Mr. Berg (who seeks a rate of ...


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