Valley Housing L.P. v. City of Derby
Reasonable hourly rates "are in line with those prevailing in the community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill, experience and reputation," pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1984 decision, Blum v. Stenson. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act. After a trial that lasted 24 days, the plaintiffs prevailed and were awarded $750,048. The plaintiffs requested $500 per hour for Attorney David Rosen, $400 per hour for Attorney Shelley White and $350 per hour for Attorney Eppler-Epstein. The defendants objected that Rosen, a 1969 Yale Law School graduate, lacked expertise in fair housing laws, and it was excessive for three attorneys to represent the plaintiffs. "No one in the District of Connecticut bar," wrote the court, "has a better reputation than Mr. Rosen for making complicated facts or issues, such as economic loss, intelligible." The court approved $485 per hour for Attorney Rosen and $400 per hour for Attorney White, who has 30 years of experience in civil-rights litigation and is the litigation director of New Haven Legal Assistance. The court rejected the argument that Attorney Eppler-Epstein is similar to a law firm associate and approved $350 per hour for Eppler-Epstein, a 1986 graduate of Yale Law School who has 25 years of experience. The defendants also objected that time records were vague, unreasonable, excessive and duplicative. New Haven Legal Assistance did not bill for 649 hours of legal services (in part because it lacked enough resources to transfer time records into a computer). The court reduced Attorney Rosen's attorneys' fees 3 percent, because certain of his time records only indicated "prepare for trial" or "prepare for court," which was vague. The court also deducted time that Eppler-Epstein spent preparing for trial, apparently during a vacation, because the entries were vague. The court rejected the argument that the plaintiffs should not receive compensation for work performed by White, prior to the time that White filed an appearance. "Lawyers," wrote the court, "routinely work on cases before filing an official appearance." There was minimal duplication of effort. The court awarded attorneys' fees of $901,471.