United States District Court, E.D. Missouri
OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
EDWARD AUTREY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the Petitions for
Attorney's Fees and Costs [Doc. Nos. 267 and 628] filed
by the Plaintiff. Defendants Garrett and Sharp oppose the
December 17, 2012,, Plaintiff sued the Board of Police
Commissioners of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department
and Defendants Garrett and Sharp pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983, claiming violation of his Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth
Amendment rights for wrongful deprivation of his freedom. The
individual members of the Board of Police Commissioners were
granted summary judgment on March 26, 2015. Following a
trial, the jury found in favor of Plaintiff and against
Defendants Garrett and Sharp. The jury awarded damages
counsel now seeks an award of attorney fees and expenses
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b). Defendants concede that
Plaintiff was the prevailing party in his claims against
Garrett and Sharp, and is entitled to recover reasonable
attorney fees. Defendants argue, however, that the fees and
expenses claimed by Plaintiff ($416,660.0-fees,
18,508.00-expenses) for over 1300 hours are excessive.
has discretion to award reasonable attorneys' fees to a
party who prevails in a claim filed under 42 U.S. C. §
1983. 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b). Importantly, a trial
court's “discretion to deny attorneys' fees to
a prevailing plaintiff is narrow.” Jenkins v.
Missouri, 127 F.3d 709, 716 (8th Cir.1997).
The Eighth Circuit reviews legal issues relating to fee
awards de novo and factual determinations for abuse
of discretion. See Cody v. Hillard, 304 F.3d 767,
772 (8thCir. 2002). The party seeking the award
must submit evidence supporting the requested hours and
rates, making “a good faith effort” to exclude
hours that are “excessive, redundant, or otherwise
unnecessary.” Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433-34. The
fee applicant must also use “billing judgment” to
exclude hours that would not properly be billed to a client,
because time not properly billed to a client should not be
paid by an adversary pursuant to statutory authority.
Id. at 434.
determine reasonable attorneys' fees under Section 1988,
“the most useful starting point is ... the number of
hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a
reasonable hourly rate.” Id. at 433. This
calculation is referred to as the “lodestar
approach.” See, e.g., Perdue v. Kenny A. ex rel.
Winn, 559 U.S. 542, 552 (2010). There is a strong
presumption that the lodestar calculation represents a
reasonable fee award. City of Burlington v. Dague,
505 U.S. 557, 562 (1992).
plaintiff has only limited success, the extent of that
success “is a crucial factor in determining the proper
amount of an award of attorneys' fees under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1988.” Hensley, 461 U.S. at 440. The
court must consider whether a plaintiffs unsuccessful claims
“were unrelated to the claims on which [the plaintiff]
succeeded” and whether “the level of
success” achieved by the plaintiff “makes the
hours reasonably expended a satisfactory basis for making a
fee award.” Id. at 434. When a plaintiffs
claims “involve a common core of facts or [are] based
on related legal theories [, m]uch of counsel's time will
be devoted generally to the litigation as a whole.”
Id. at 435. In that situation, “the district
court should focus on the significance of the overall relief
obtained by the plaintiff in relation to the hours reasonably
expended on the litigation.” Id.
a plaintiff has obtained excellent results, [the plaintiffs]
attorney should recover a fully compensatory fee, [which will
n]ormally ... encompass all hours reasonably expended on the
litigation.” Id. Significantly, the Eighth
Circuit has explained this as meaning that a “plaintiff
who has won excellent results... is entitled to a fully
compensatory fee award, which will normally include time
spent on related matters on which [the plaintiff] did not
win.” Jenkins, 127 F.3d at 716.
however, “a plaintiff has achieved only partial or
limited success, the product of hours reasonably expended on
the litigation as a whole times a reasonable hourly rate may
be an excessive amount.” Hensley, 461 U.S. at
436. As the Supreme Court concluded:
Where the plaintiff has failed to prevail on a claim that is
distinct in all respects from [the plaintiff's]
successful claims, the hours spent on the unsuccessful claim
should be excluded in considering the amount of a reasonable
fee. Where a lawsuit consists of related claims, a plaintiff
who has won substantial relief should not have [the
plaintiff's] attorney's fee reduced simply because
the district court did not adopt each contention raised. But
where the plaintiff achieved only limited success, the
district court should award only that amount of fees that is
reasonable in relation to the results obtained.
Id. at 440.
principle of awarding a fully compensatory fee to plaintiffs
who have not prevailed on all of their asserted claims
in the real world, litigation is more complex [than in the
movies], involving multiple claims for relief that implicate
a mix of legal theories and have different merits. Some
claims succeed; others fail. Some charges are frivolous;
others (even if not ultimately successful) have a reasonable
basis. In short, litigation is messy, and courts must deal
with this untidiness in awarding fees.
Given this reality, we have made clear that plaintiffs may
receive fees under Section 1988 even if they are not
victorious on every claim. A civil rights plaintiff who
obtains meaningful relief has corrected a violation of
federal law and, in so doing, has vindicated Congress's
statutory purposes. That "result is what matters,"
we explained in Hensley ..., 461 U.S. [at] 435 ...: A court
should compensate the plaintiff for the time [the
plaintiff's] attorney reasonably spent in achieving the
favorable outcome, even if ‘the plaintiff failed to
prevail on every contention.” I[d]. The fee
award, of course, should not reimburse the plaintiff for work
performed on claims that bore no relation to the grant of
relief: Such work “cannot be deemed to have been
expended in pursuit of the ultimate result achieved.”
I[d]. (internal quotation marks omitted). But the
presence of these unsuccessful claims does not immunize a
defendant against paying for the attorney's fees that the
plaintiff reasonably incurred in remedying a breach of [the
plaintiff's] civil rights.
Fox v. Vice, 563 U.S. 826, 834 (2011). Rather,
“Congress authorized fees to plaintiffs to compensate
them for the costs of redressing civil rights violations;
accordingly, a plaintiff may receive fees for all work
relating to the accomplishment of that result, even if
'the plaintiff failed to prevail on every contention
raised.’” Fox, 563 U.S. at 836 n.3
(quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at 435).
prevailing party may also recover as part of an award under
Section 1988 the party's “[r]easonable expenses of
litigation.” SapaNajin v. Gunter, 857 F.2d
463, 465 (8th Cir. 1988). Such expenses are
“the sort that lawyers ordinarily include in their
bills to clients.” Neufeld v. Searle Labs.,
884 F.2d 335, 342 (8th Cir. 1989) (Age
Discrimination in Employment Act case).
Court may then adjust the fee upward or downward depending on
a variety of factors, including those identified in
Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d
714 (5th Cir. 1974).2 Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434-35.
As the Court noted in Pennsylvania v. Delaware Valley
Citizens' Council for Clean Air, 478 U.S. 546, 564
(1986), however, “many of these factors usually are
subsumed within the initial calculation of hours reasonably
expended at a reasonable hourly rate.” 478 U.S. at 564.
the Court must determine a reasonable hourly rate.
“[D]etermining an appropriate ‘market rate’
for the services of a lawyer is inherently difficult.”
Blum, 465 U.S. at 495, fn. 11. “Where an
attorney requesting fees has well-defined billing rates,
those rates can be used to help calculate a ...