Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Lamberty v. Connecticut State Police Union

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 6, 2019

MARC LAMBERTY, JOSEPH MERCER, CARSON KONOW, and COLLIN KONOW, Plaintiffs,
v.
CONNECTICUT STATE POLICE UNION, KEVIN LEMBO, Comptroller, State of Connecticut, MELISSA MCCAW, Secretary of Office of Policy and Management, State of Connecticut, and SANDRA FAE BROWN-BREWTON, Undersecretary of Labor Relations for the Office of Labor Relations, State of Connecticut, Defendants.

          RULING ON MOTION FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES AND EXPENSES

          Victor A. Bolden United States District Judge

         On June 27, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Janus v. AFSCME, overturning Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U.S. 209 (1977), and held that any state withholding of fair share fees from public employees covered by collective bargaining agreements was impermissible under the First Amendment. See Janus v. AFSCME, 585 U.S. __(slip op.), 138 S.Ct. 2448 (2018).

         This ruling addresses whether plaintiffs whose claims for declaratory and injunctive relief were mooted by Janus, and whose claims for actual monetary damages were mooted by defendants' unilateral decision to refund the previously-withheld agency fees, may be considered “prevailing parties” entitled to an award of attorney's fees and costs under 42 U.S.C. § 1988.

         Currently pending before the Court is a motion by Marc Lamberty, Joseph Mercer, Carson Konow, and Collin Konow (“Plaintiffs”) seeking this determination and, therefore, an award of fees and costs of at least $271, 707.46 from the Connecticut State Police Union (“the State Police Union”), and Kevin Lembo, Melissa McCaw, [1] and Sandra Fae Brown-Brewton (collectively, “State Defendants, ” and collectively with the State Police Union, “Defendants”). Plaintiffs' Petition for Attorneys' Fees and Expenses Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988, dated Nov. 16, 2018 (“Fee Mot.”), ECF No. 183.

         Both the State Police Union and the State Defendants oppose the motion on the grounds that Plaintiffs are not prevailing parties under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. See State Police Union's Objection to Fee Mot., dated May 31, 2019 (“Union Opp.”), ECF No. 196; State Defendants' Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Fee Mot., dated May 30, 2019 (“State Defs.' Opp.”), ECF No. 195.

         For the reasons explained below, the Court finds that Plaintiffs are not prevailing parties under 42 U.S.C. § 1988, and therefore DENIES Plaintiffs' motion for attorney's fees and costs.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Familiarity with the facts and prior proceedings, as detailed in the Court's October 19, 2018 Ruling and Order, is assumed. See Lamberty v. Conn. State Police Union, No. 3:15-cv-378 (VAB), 2018 WL 5115559, at *2-4 (D. Conn. Oct. 19, 2018).

         On August 9, 2018, Marc Lamberty, Joseph Mercer, Carson Konow, and Collin Konow (“Plaintiffs”) moved for summary judgment, arguing that there was no longer any dispute of material fact in light of the holding of Janus. See Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment, dated Aug. 9, 2018 (“Pls.' Summ. J. Mot.”), ECF No. 162; Plaintiffs' Memorandum of Law in Support of their Motion for Summary Judgment, dated Aug. 9, 2018 (“Pls.' Summ. J. Mem.”), annexed to Pls.' Mot., ECF No. 162-2. At that time, Plaintiffs also requested relief in the form of an award of costs and attorney's fees. See Pls.' Summ. J. Mem. at 8-10.

         On August 30, 2018, the State Defendants and the State Police Union opposed summary judgment, arguing that all of Plaintiffs' claims were moot. State Defendants' Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment, dated Aug. 30, 2018 (“State Defs.' Mem.”), ECF No. 170; Objection to Motion for Summary Judgment, dated Aug. 30, 2018 (“Union Opp.”), ECF No. 171.

         On October 19, 2018, the Court denied Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, holding that all of Plaintiffs' claims had become moot. See Lamberty, 2018 WL 5115559, at *9 (“In the end, there is nothing for this Court to order Defendants to do now.”).

         The State Police Union's reimbursement of their previously-withheld agency fees, plus interest, mooted Mr. Lamberty and Mr. Mercer's claims. See Id. at *7 (“Mr. Lamberty retired from state service shortly after this lawsuit began, on April 1, 2015, and Mr. Mercer retired on January 1, 2017 . . . . Their injury is their claim for the agency fees that had previously been withheld during their employment. But that injury appears to have been addressed in its entirety when the Union reimbursed Mr. Lamberty and Mr. Mercer for their previously-withheld fees, plus interest.”).

         Carson and Collin Konow's claims for retrospective relief were similarly mooted by the State Police Union's reimbursement of their previously-withheld agency fees, plus interest, while their claims for declaratory and injunctive relief were mooted by the Supreme Court's broad, unequivocal holding in Janus invalidating all state laws requiring the withholding of agency fees from nonconsenting employees, and the State Defendants' immediate compliance with that holding. As this Court stated:

Mr. Lembo-and all the Defendants-complied with Janus. They did so not because they wanted to evade the Court's jurisdiction, as is the case in so many voluntary cessation cases, but because the Supreme Court's new and controlling precedent not only affected the rights of the parties immediately before it (the state of Illinois) but also announced a broad rule invalidating every state law permitting agency fees to be withheld . . . . The law of the land thus has changed and there no longer is a legal dispute as to whether public sector unions can collect agency fees. They cannot. Moreover, none of the Defendants in this case are disputing that the law of the land has changed, or are trying to collect agency fees. In fact, indisputably, all of the Defendants have agreed to return the agency fees owed to the Plaintiffs.

Id. at *9 (citation omitted).

         The Court's denial was without prejudice to renewal, in the event there is an effort to re-introduce agency fees, and to the extent the Plaintiffs had not been adequately reimbursed for past agency fees already imposed. Id. at *9 (“By denying the motion without prejudice, the Court permits Plaintiffs Carson and Collin Konow the ability to return to federal court if Defendants were to resume their collection of agency fees. In addition, as noted above, Plaintiffs, for the first time, now argue that their fee reimbursements had not been properly calculated. That issue is not properly before the Court. To the extent that Plaintiffs can actually demonstrate, with evidence, that the State Police Union still owes them additional fees, they may move to re-open this case for reconsideration of that issue alone.”). The Court accordingly directed the Clerk of the Court to close the case administratively.

         The Court also held that, to the extent that Plaintiffs believed they were “prevailing parties” within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 1988, they were required to file a motion with the appropriate supporting documentation, consistent with Second Circuit law, by November 16, 2018. Id. at *9.

         On November 16, 2018, Plaintiffs moved for an award of attorney's fees and costs under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. Fee Mot. Plaintiffs submitted three declarations from attorneys W. James Young, Sarah E. Hartsfield, and Marc P. Mercier in support of the motion, along with contemporaneous time records. See Declaration of W. James Young, dated Nov. 16, 2018 (“Young Decl.”), annexed as Ex. A to Fee Mot., ECF No. 183-1; Declaration of Sarah E. Hartsfield, dated Nov. 16, 2018 (“Hartsfield Decl.”), annexed as Ex. B to Fee Mot., ECF No. 183-5; Declaration of Marc P. Mercier, dated Nov. 12, 2018 (“Mercier Decl.”), annexed as Ex. C to Fee Mot., ECF No. 183-6.

         In the motion, Plaintiffs documented 278.7 hours spent by Mr. Young on the case and 824.6 hours spent by Ms. Hartsfield on the case. See Attachment 1 to Young Decl., ECF No. 183-2. With reductions for travel and billing judgment, Plaintiffs seek compensation for 767.2 hours, and a total fee award of $246, 712.50, based on hourly rates of $500 for Mr. Young and $250 for Ms. Hartsfield. See Fee Mot. at 12. Plaintiffs also sought reimbursement of fees and expenses for local counsel Mr. Mercier in the amount of $18, 235, and $6, 759.96 in actual costs and expenses. See Id. at 13; Attachment 2 to Young Decl., ECF No. 183-3.

         On November 19, 2018, the Court referred the parties to United States Magistrate Judge Holly B. Fitzsimmons to determine whether the fee motion could be resolved without further litigation. Order Referring Case, dated Nov. 19, 2018, ECF No. 185.

         Following a period of delay and a stay of the briefing schedule for the motion, the Court set new deadlines for the State Defendants and the State Police Union to respond to the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.