United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS'
WILLIAM I. GARFINKEL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
a jury trial and judgment entered in his favor, Kenville
Edwards (“Plaintiff”) has moved for an award of
attorneys' fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b). For
the reasons that follow, the Court awards Plaintiff $141,
505.00 in fees and $7, 024.70 in costs.
case, a civil rights action, was brought pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiffs, Fabian Edwards and his
brother Kenville Edwards, brought claims against the City of
Hartford and Harford police officers Matthew Cornell and
Christopher May, alleging that the officers used excessive
force against them during an incident occurring at the
Edwards' home on June 14, 2012. On April 27, 2017, after
a jury trial, a jury found in favor of Officer Cornell on
claims brought by Fabian Edwards, and found in favor of
Kenville Edwards on claims against Officer May. The jury found
that Officer May violated Kenville Edwards' civil rights
by using excessive force against him; it awarded $135, 000.00
in compensatory damages and $275, 000.00 in punitive damages.
The Court subsequently ordered remittitur of the punitive
damages award to $75, 000, which Plaintiff accepted.
parties engaged in fairly extensive post-trial motion
practice: both the City and Officer May filed Motions for
Judgment as a Matter of Law, which the Court denied in large
part [Doc. # 170, 174, 199, 214]. Officer May also filed a
Motion for a New Trial, which the Court denied. [Doc. # 150,
214]. The Court also denied a Joint Motion for Vacatur in Aid
of Settlement. [Doc. # 215, 216, 218]. Finally, Plaintiff
filed a Motion for Bond, which was granted on January 12,
2018. [Doc. # 210, 219].
before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for
Attorney's Fees [Doc. # 166] and Amended Motion for
Attorney's Fees [Doc. # 222].
Section 1983 case, “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.” 42
U.S.C. § 1988. “By awarding attorneys' fees,
the judicial system ‘encourage[s] the bringing of
meritorious civil rights claims which might otherwise be
abandoned because of the financial imperatives surrounding
the hiring of competent counsel.'” Payne v.
Kirkland, No. 14-CV-7098 (ALC), 2017 WL 5952707, at *1
(S.D.N.Y. Nov. 30, 2017) (citing Kerr v. Quinn, 692
F.2d 875, 877 (2d Cir. 1982)). The prevailing party should
ordinarily recover fees “unless special circumstances
would render such an award unjust.” Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 429 (1983). The amount of the
fee is determined “on the facts of each case.”
Id. In ascertaining whether a fee is warranted under
42 U.S.C. § 1988(b), the court must first determine
whether the plaintiff is a prevailing party, and then, if so,
what fee is reasonable.
plaintiff is considered a prevailing party for attorneys'
fees purposes if he succeeds on “any significant issue
in litigation which achieves some of the benefit the parties
sought in bringing suit.” Hensley, 461 U.S. at
433. A plaintiff prevails “when actual relief on the
merits of his claim materially alters the legal relationship
between the parties by modifying the defendant's behavior
in a way that directly benefits the plaintiff.”
Farrar v. Hobby, 506 U.S. 103, 111-12 (1992).
argue that Plaintiff did not “prevail” because he
only succeeded in his excessive force claim against Officer
May and not in his excessive force claim against Officer
Baumgarten. The Court disagrees and finds that Plaintiff is a
prevailing party. He obtained actual relief on an issue
significant to - if not defining of - the litigation: whether
one or more of the officers used excessive force against him.
It is well-established that a plaintiff can prevail even when
he succeeds on only some, but not all, of his claims. See
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434. Thus, the Court finds
Plaintiff is entitled to an award of fees and will now
determine what constitutes a reasonable award in this case.
prevailing party seeking fees bears the burden of showing
that the requested fee is reasonable. See Blum v.
Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 897 (1984). In calculating a
reasonable fee, courts are instructed to multiply the hours
reasonably expended by a reasonable hourly rate in the
district in which the court sits. Hensley, 461 U.S.
at 433. This is considered the “presumptively
reasonable fee.” Arbor Hill Concerned Citizens
Neighborhood Ass'n v. Cty. of Albany & Albany Cty.
Bd. of Elections, 522 F.3d 182, 190 (2d Cir. 2008).
“The reasonable hourly rate is the rate a paying client
would be willing to pay, ” considering that a
“paying client wishes to spend the minimum necessary to
litigate the case effectively.” Id. Courts
should consider “case-specific variables …
relevant to the reasonableness of attorney's fees in
setting a reasonable hourly rate.” Id.
“Those variables include the time and labor required to
litigate the case, the novelty and difficulty of the issues
and level of skill necessary to address them, the
attorneys' customary hourly rates and their experience,
reputation and ability, and the nature and length of the
professional relationship with the client.” Jaeger
v. Cellco P'ship, No. 3:11-CV-1948 SRU, 2015 WL
1867661, at *3 (D. Conn. Apr. 23, 2015). In determining a
reasonable hourly rate, the district court can take judicial
notice of local prevailing rates, based on both rates awarded
in other cases and the court's own familiarity with them.
Chabad Lubavitch of Litchfield County, Inc. v. Borough of
Litchfield, No. 3:09-CV-1419 (JCH), 2018 WL 2332075, at
*8 (D. Conn. May 23, 2018). A party seeking an award of fees
must submit time records indicating “for each attorney,
the date, the hours expended, and the nature of the work
done.” N.Y. State Ass'n for Retarded Children,
Inc. v. Carey, 711 F.2d 1136, 1148 (2d Cir. 1983).
Plaintiff seeks $177, 800.00 in fees, which represents $142,
240.00 in actual fees plus an upward adjustment of 25%. He
also seeks $7, 024.70 in costs. Plaintiff has submitted
invoices from the law firm of Eagan, Donahue, Van Dyke &
Falsey, LLP, which contain the required information, to
support his request. The invoices attached to the preliminary
motion reflect a total of $127, 520.00 in fees billed at a
rate of $400.00 per hour, and a total of 344.8 hours billed.
The 344.8 represents the total hours spent on this matter,
but not the total number of hours for which Plaintiff is
seeking compensation. Plaintiff's counsel did not charge
for work done on other plaintiffs' claims, or for
duplicative work. The invoice attached to the amended motion
reflects an additional 36.8 hours billed at a rate of $400.00
per hour, for a total of $14, 720.00. Plaintiff also provides
the Court with ...