United States District Court, D. Connecticut
SHIRLEY R. GOFF and GREGORY S. GIBSON
RULING ON MOTION FOR AWARD OF ATTORNEYS' FEES
SARAH A. L. MERRIAM UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
before the Court is a motion by plaintiff Gregory S. Gibson
(“plaintiff”) for an award of attorneys'
fees, pursuant to section 1988 of Title 42 of the United
States Code.[Doc. #73]. In support of the motion,
plaintiff's counsel submits two affidavits, seeking a
total of $11, 037.50 in fees. See Doc. #73. Defendant Joshua
Chivers (“defendant”) has filed no opposition to
the motion. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's
Motion for Award of Attorneys' Fees is GRANTED, absent
to 42 U.S.C. §1988, “in actions brought to enforce
Section 1983, the court, in its discretion, may allow the
prevailing party, other than the United States, a reasonable
attorney's fee as part of the costs.” Restivo
v. Hessemann, 846 F.3d 547, 589 (2d Cir. 2017)
(quotation marks and citation omitted).
For a plaintiff to be considered a “prevailing party,
” and thus eligible for an award of fees, he need not
have succeeded on the central issue in the case, and need not
have obtained the primary relief sought. It is sufficient
that the plaintiff succeeded on any significant issue in the
litigation, regardless of the magnitude of the relief
obtained, if he received actual relief on the merits of his
claim that materially alters the legal relationship between
the parties by modifying the defendant's behavior in a
way that directly benefits the plaintiff.
LeBlanc-Sternberg v. Fletcher, 143 F.3d 748, 757 (2d
Cir. 1998) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
district court retains discretion to determine what
constitutes a reasonable fee.” Millea v. Metro-N.
R.R. Co., 658 F.3d 154, 166 (2d Cir. 2011) (quotation
marks and citation omitted). “However, this discretion
is not unfettered, ” and “the district court must
abide by the procedural requirements for calculating those
fees articulated by [the Second Circuit] and the Supreme
Court.” Id. Both the Second Circuit and the
Supreme Court of the United States have held “that the
lodestar method yields a fee that is presumptively sufficient
to achieve the objective of Section 1988(b).” Restivo,
846 F.3d at 589 (quotation marks and citations omitted); see
also Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)
(“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.”). “The presumptively reasonable fee boils
down to what a reasonable, paying client would be willing to
pay, given that such a party wishes to spend the minimum
necessary to litigate the case effectively.”
Simmons v. N.Y. City Transit Auth., 575 F.3d 170,
174 (2d Cir. 2009) (quotation marks and citation omitted).
Court has already determined that “[p]laintiff Gibson
is a prevailing plaintiff for the purposes of 42 U.S.C.
§1988, and is therefore entitled to collect the
reasonable attorney's fees and costs associated with the
litigation of plaintiff Gibson's claim of false
arrest.” Memorandum of Decision, Doc. #70 at 45-6. Two
attorneys appeared on this matter on plaintiff's behalf,
and each has submitted an affidavit in support of the
application for an award of fees. The Court will therefore
address the question of the reasonableness of the fees
Court turns first to Attorney Joseph M. Merly's
application. Plaintiff Gibson seeks fees in the amount of $7,
087.50 for work performed by Attorney Merly, based on an
hourly rate of $350. “[A] reasonable fee is a fee that
is sufficient to induce a capable attorney to undertake the
representation of a meritorious civil rights case.”
Perdue v. Kenny A. ex rel. Winn, 559 U.S. 542, 552
(2010) (quotation marks omitted). “[R]easonable fees
under §1988 are to be calculated according to the
prevailing market rates in the relevant community, regardless
of whether plaintiff is represented by private or nonprofit
counsel.” Tsombanidis v. City of W. Haven,
Connecticut, 208 F.Supp.2d 263, 272 (D. Conn. 2002),
aff'd sub nom. Tsombanidis v. W. Haven Fire
Dep't, 352 F.3d 565 (2d Cir. 2003).
“Reasonable hourly rates are in line with those
prevailing in the community for similar services by lawyers
of reasonably comparable skill, experience and
reputation.” Parris v. Pappas, 844 F.Supp.2d
262, 266 (D. Conn. 2012) (quotation marks and citation
omitted). To determine whether a fee is reasonable, a court
may take “judicial notice of the rates awarded in prior
cases and the court's own familiarity with the rates
prevailing in the district.” Farbotko v. Clinton
Cty. of N.Y., 433 F.3d 204, 209 (2d Cir. 2005)
Merly attended the University of Bridgeport School of Law.
See Doc. #73 at 3. He was admitted to the Connecticut bar in
1992, and has been practicing law ever since. See
Id. He has been associated with Attorney John R.
Williams since July 2004. See Id. He has tried
approximately ninety cases to verdict in the District of
Connecticut; at least fifty of which involved allegations of
“police misconduct.” Id. Attorney Merly
states that he has personal knowledge of the hourly rates
charged by attorneys in this District with comparable
experience in this field; these rates, he affirms, vary from
$250 to $450 an hour. See Id. at 4.
objection, the Court determines that the hourly rate of $350
for Attorney Merly is reasonable, in light of his experience;
the nature of the work performed; the rates awarded in prior
cases; and the rates charged by attorneys in this District
with commensurate experience. See, e.g., Donato v.
Laird, No. 3:14CV00091(JAM), 2017 WL 2616921, at *1 (D.
Conn. June 16, 2017) (finding an hourly rate of $350 for
Attorney Merly to be reasonable); Crawford v. City of New
London, No. 3:11CV1371(JBA), 2015 WL 1125491, at *3 (D.
Conn. Mar. 12, 2015) (awarding fees at the rate of $410 an
hour for two attorneys with over thirty years' experience
each in civil rights litigation); Watrous v. Borner,
995 F.Supp.2d 84, 89 (D. Conn. 2014) (stating that even an
attorney “who is not a longstanding expert in civil
rights litigation could reasonably bill” $350 per
Court next turns to Attorney John R. Williams' fee
application. Plaintiff Gibson seeks fees for Attorney
Williams' work in the amount of $3, 950.00, based on a
$500 hourly rate. See Doc. #73 at 6. Attorney Williams has
been practicing law for more than 49 years, and has
“tried countless Section 1983 cases to verdict.”
Id. He asserts that he lectures throughout the
country on Section 1983 litigation and has written several
law review articles on the topic. See id.
objection, the Court finds the rate of $500 per hour charged
by Attorney Williams to be reasonable, in light of his
extensive experience and expertise in the area of section
1983 civil rights law. Moreover, other courts in this
District have found that Attorney Williams' hourly rate
of $500 is reasonable. See Rinaldi, 2017 WL 2616921
at *2 (finding Attorney Williams' hourly rate of $500
reasonable, over objection); Muhammed v. Martoccio,
No. 3:06CV1137(WWE), 2010 WL 3718560, at *4 (D. Conn. Sept.
13, 2010) (finding Attorney Williams' hourly rate of $500
reasonable, absent objection); but ...