United States District Court, D. Connecticut
MARC LAMBERTY, JOSEPH MERCER, CARSON KONOW, and COLLIN KONOW, Plaintiffs,
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
A. Bolden United States District Judge
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).
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.
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,
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.
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
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.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
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.
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.
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
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.”).
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,
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 ...