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Thaddeus Jimenez v. City of Chicago and Jerome Bogucki

November 14, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly, District Judge:


Thaddeus Jimenez sued City of Chicago and Jerome Bogucki, a former Chicago police detective, for claims arising from his wrongful conviction of the murder of Eric Morro. Jimenez served approximately sixteen years in prison before his conviction was vacated and he was released. In January 2012, a jury returned a verdict in favor of Jimenez and awarded him $25 million. In July 2012, the Court denied defendants' motion for a new trial and their motion for judgment as a matter of law.

Jimenez has now petitioned for an award of attorney's fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988. "The most useful starting point for determining the amount of a reasonable fee is the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate." Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). This "lodestar" figure can then be adjusted based on twelve factors described in Hensley. Id. at 434 n. 9.*fn1

"However, 'many of these factors usually are subsumed within the initial calculation of hours reasonably expended at a reasonable hourly rate.'" Anderson v. AB Painting and Sandblasting Inc., 578 F.3d 542, 544 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434 n. 9).

Jimenez was represented by lawyers from the law firm of Loevy & Loevy, Northwestern Law School's MacArthur Justice Center, and the Valorem Law Group. The parties have agreed on the number of hours reasonably spent by Jimenez's attorneys. The only disputed issue concerns hourly rates. The parties' proposals are as follows:

Plaintiff's Defendants'

Attorney proposal proposal*fn2 Arthur Loevy 550 400 Jon Loevy 495 425 Michael Kanovitz 450 375 Joel Feldman 395 275 Aaron Mandel 375 225 Scott Rauscher 365 225 Elizabeth Mazur 295 175 Katie Hill 285 175 Rachel Steinback 265 175 Steve Art 255 175 Vince Field 245 100 Loevy & Loevy paralegals 125 - 150 100 Locke Bowman 450 325 Stuart Chanen 450 300 Mark Sayre 350 300 Lisa Carter 250 175 Nicole Auerbach 400 250 Valorem Law Group paralegals 30 - 150 30 -- 100

A reasonable hourly rate is "one that is derived from the market rate for the services rendered." Pickett v. Sheridan Health Care Ctr., 664 F.3d 632, 640 (7th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted). If the attorney has an actual billing rate that he or she typically charges and obtains for similar litigation, that is presumptively his hourly rate. Id. In some situations, however, the attorney does not have an established market rate, for example, because he or she typically uses contingent fee arrangements or relies on statutory fee awards. In that situation, a court should rely on the "next best evidence" of the attorney's market rate, namely "evidence of rates similarly experienced attorneys in the community charge paying clients for similar work and evidence of fee awards the attorney has received in similar cases." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). "The fee applicant bears the burden of 'produc[ing] satisfactory evidence-in addition to the attorney's own affidavits-that the requested rates are in line with those prevailing in the community.'" Id. (quoting Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895 n. 11 (1984)). If the applicant satisfies this burden, then the opposing party has the burden to offer evidence "that sets forth a good reason why a lower rate is essential." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

Plaintiff has offered a significant amount of evidence concerning the appropriate hourly rates. This includes affidavits by the attorneys the present case; affidavits of experienced civil rights attorneys who were not involved in this case; affidavits of attorneys that were submitted by fee applicants in other litigation; and citations to fee awards in other cases. Defendants have supported their position with affidavits of attorneys that were submitted by fee applicants in other litigation and citations to fee awards in other cases.

The Court proceeds to address the appropriate hourly rates for the attorneys and paralegals with Loevy & Loevy, the MacArthur Justice Center, and Valorem Law Group who performed work on plaintiff's behalf.

1. Loevy & Loevy

Jon Loevyhas been practicing law for nineteen years and leads what is fairly considered one of the premier Chicago-area law firms concentrating in plaintiff's section 1983 litigation. He and his law firm have litigated and tried several cases before the undersigned judge. Loevy and his firm consistently produce written work that rivals that of any law firm in Chicago -- not just those specializing in this particular field. In addition, Loevy's outstanding trial advocacy skills put him in the top tier of civil trial attorneys in the Chicago area. He and his firm have an impressive record of success in plaintiff's civil rights litigation.

Loevy's highest court-awarded fee rate is $425, in 2011 by a judge in the Northern District of Indiana. In 2008, a judge in this district awarded him $395. In this case. Loevy seeks a rate of $495. This hourly rate is amply justified by comparison with hourly rates awarded to other plaintiff's civil rights attorneys in Chicago, including rates of $500 to $535 for attorneys who have more years of experience but no greater level of skill or rate of success, and $400 to $425 for attorneys with equivalent or less experience and more modest histories of success. The rate is also supported by a report submitted by Bruce Meckler, an experienced Chicago litigator and trial attorney. The Loevy firm originally offered Meckler's report in 2011 in Young v. Cook County, Case No. 06 C 552, another case that the firm litigated and tried before the undersigned judge, and it has submitted the report in this case as well. In sum, an hourly rate of $495 is fully warranted based on Loevy's "experience, reputation, and ability." Hensley, 461 430 n.3.

Arthur Loevy has been a licensed attorney since 1964 but has practiced law for only about twenty-two years since that time (as a labor lawyer from 1963 to 1970 and as a civil rights lawyer from 1997 to the present). His role in the present case appears to have involved, for the most part, settlement negotiation and negotiation strategy. The Court has conducted numerous settlement conferences with Mr. Loevy in this and other cases, and he is a highly effective advocate for his clients in that arena. Given his relatively limited focus with respect to this case, however, and his relative level of civil rights practice experience vis-a-vis other ...

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