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Weekly Wrap Up 1/27/2012

A collection of legal fees news from the previous week…

$89,000 Legal Fee Approved Despite $500 Award (NY Law Journal) – Despite receiving only a $500 award in her suit alleging excessive force in an arrest, a NY Judge awarded an $89,000 legal fee to her attorney. Judge Jack B. Weinstein ruled in the case of Brown v. Starrett City Associates in the Eastern District of New York and confirmed a magistrate judge’s recommendations on fees. Under the Civil Rights Attorney’s Fees Award Act, the judge ruled plaintiff was entitled to an award of fees. The defendant’s protested the award, claiming it was merely de minimis or nominal. The judge rejected that argument on two counts, first citing a public policy issue that the very act of liability was all that is necessary; and secondly on grounds that the award was not de minimis. Jury instructions specified a de minimis award of $1. The Magistrate Judge further noted this was a unique constitutional issue, and it was on the record plaintiff’s attorney had performed “exceptionally” well.

Judge Orders McHenry County to Pay $290,000 in Legal Fees for Bianchi Case (Chicago Tribune) – Circuit Court Judge Gordan Graham ordered McHenry County to pay about $290,000 in legal fees to special prosecutors for the failed prosecution of State Attorney Louis Bianchi. The judge rejected a claim by the county that the hourly rate for special prosecutors be reduced from $250 /hr to $91.50. Total bills for the prosecution ended up at over $600,000; but Illinois Appellate Prosecutor Charles Colburn said other challenges are still pending. Taxpayers are also going to end up on the hook for Bianchi’s defense attorneys, an additional $275,000. Finally, Bianchi has filed suit against those who prosecuted him, claiming conspiracy to remove him from office.

District Court Reduces Attorneys’ Fees Request by Over 30% Due to Numerous Impermissible Billing Entries (Sterling Analytics) – In connection with an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, the plaintiffs in Anderson v. Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority sought reimbursement of attorneys’ fees and costs in the amount of $545,883.52. While the defendants did not dispute that the plaintiffs, as the prevailing parties, were entitled to some fee award, they argued that the amount requested was excessive on numerous grounds. The court agreed, in part, with the contentions raised by the defendants, finding a partial reduction in the fee request to be warranted due to an excessive number of hours billed for certain tasks, the attendance of multiple attorneys at court appearances and other matters, a number of impermissibly vague billing entries, and the charging of an unreasonably high hourly rate by certain attorneys. Consequently, the court entered a reduced judgment in favor of the plaintiffs in the amount of $372,953.28 for attorneys’ fees and costs.

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