Lee, et al v. Randolph Bd of Ed, et al
ORDER that the plaintiffs' motions for attorney's fees and expenses 305 319 are granted and that the plaintiffs have and recover from defendant Randolph County Board of Education, the sum of $266,600.00 for attorneys' fees and $ 4,715.06 for expenses, for a total of $271,315.06. Signed by Honorable Judge Myron H. Thompson on 8/8/2012. (jg, ) (Main Document 338 replaced on 8/8/2012 to reflect a correct pdf) (jg, ).
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA, EASTERN DIVISION
ANTHONY T. LEE, et al.,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
and Amicus Curiae,
RANDOLPH COUNTY BOARD OF
EDUCATION, et al.,
CIVIL ACTION NO.
OPINION AND ORDER
This long-standing Alabama elementary and secondary
school-desegregation case is again before the court, this
time on new motions for attorneys’ fees and expenses
filed by the plaintiffs’ counsel pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
$ 364,815.06 from defendant Randolph County Board of
The court will award $ 271,315.06.
The court will not repeat the extensive history of
this litigation, which is set forth in some detail in
Lee v. Randolph County Bd. of Edu., 885 F. Supp. 1526,
1527-1528 (M.D. Ala. 1995), and which is adopted by the
The court will also not set forth again the
expenses, which law is also laid out in detail in the
Randolph County case and which is adopted by the court
today as well.
The court will also not set forth how
this law, in particular the 12 factors articulated in
Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express Company, Inc., 488
F.2d 714 (5th Cir. 1974), and other governing and binding
law, applies to the requested fees and expenses, which
application is also set forth in the Randolph County case
and which the court adopts as well except to the extent
circumstances now presented to the court.
It is against this factual background that the court
now goes through the following well-established threestep process to determine the allowable fees and expenses
in this case: (1) whether the plaintiffs are prevailing
parties, Randolph County, 885 F. Supp. at 1528; (2) what
the lodestar (the number of hours spent--tempered by
billing judgment--multiplied by a reasonable market rate
in the local area, id.) is; (3) and whether the lodestar
should be adjusted upward or downward.
Id. at 1532.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys are Solomon S. Seay, Jr.,
Kenneth L. Thomas, and Stanley F. Gray.
fees (843 hours x $ 400.00 = $ 337,200.00) and expenses
($ 4,501.17) total $ 341,701.17.
Thomas’s requested fees
(27 hours x $ 300.00 = $ 8,100.00) and expenses ($ 89.09)
total $ 8,189.09.
Gray’s requested fees (59.2 hours x
$ 250.00 = $ 14,800.00) and expenses ($ 124.80) total
attorneys span from 1995 through 2011 and are as follows:
The school board does not object to, and, indeed,
prevailing parties and that they are entitled to recover
The school board also concedes that Seay’s
“contribution to constitutional progress in this state is
without equal,” Response of Defendant (doc. no. 322) at 2,
Education, 727 F. Supp. 1422, 1428, (M.D. Ala. 1989)
(“Seay is generally considered to be, in the area of
school-related litigation, one of the most experienced and
918 F.2d 183 (11th Cir. 1980) (table); Shuford v.
Alabama State Board of Education, 846 F. Supp. 1511, 1518
(M.D. Ala. 1994) (Seay is “highly respected as one of the
best civil rights attorney in the nation”), and that Gray
Response of Defendant (doc. no. 322) at 2.
Nevertheless the school board does question whether
Seay should be compensated at $ 400.00 an hour for time he
spent only monitoring this litigation between 1994 and
An overriding consideration for lawyers in seeking
to recover fees and for courts in determining what fees
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 437 (1983).
And this court uses
the term billing judgment to mean how lawyers, using
“common sense realism,” C.J.S. Attorney & Client § 404
(2004), bill in every-day practice; the term encompasses
the notion that
a “counsel fee is not a mere arithmetical
computation,” id. at n. 10, and that the number of hours
billed and the rate applied may vary depending on the
For example, as the former Fifth Circuit
Court of Appeals has stated, “A lawyer in private practice
professional relationship of the client with his office.”
Johnson v. Georgia Highway Exp., Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 719
(5th Cir. 1974).
Thus, for example, a lawyer in private
litigation services (which, relatively speaking, might be
for a finite time, require a greater percentage of the
lawyer’s daily time, and put the lawyer’s reputation more
at risk) than for more routine or mundane services (which
might last over an extended period of time and thus be
worthy of some discount).
Here, similarly, it would make sense to charge a
higher fee for intense litigation toward a final judgment
than for more routine monitoring over an extended period
The court therefore does not believe that Seay
should receive the same hourly rate for monitoring (which
the school board concedes that he is entitled to be paid
for) as for active litigation.
Because it appears that
Seay engaged in both active litigation and monitoring for
the time period in question, the court chooses an inbetween, or average, figure of $ 295 an hour for Seay
rather than a higher figure for active litigation or a
lower figure for simple monitoring for all the hours
Seay’s approved rate is therefore $ 295 an hour,
for total fee of $ 248,685.00 (843 hours x $ 295.00).
The court also agrees with the school board that
Gray’s rate should be reduced from $ 250 to $ 200 an hour
for the same reason that Seay’s rate is reduced.
the court concludes that a reduced rate from $ 300 to
$ 225 is adequate for Thomas, whose role in this stage of
the proceedings was, for the most part, that of pursuing
The school board does not challenge the expenses
sought by Seay, Thomas, and Gray. The attorneys will
therefore recover all of their expenses, which total
Also an adjustment of the lodestar either upward or
downward is unwarranted.
The school board again argues
“that the court should consider the precarious financial
condition of the school district.”
F. Supp. at 1532.
Randolph County, 885
The court remains convinced, as it was
back in 1995, that, “Even assuming that this factor is
proper for the court’s consideration, the court is not
convinced that, in this case, this concern overrides the
directive of 42 U.S.C.A. § 1988 the award of attorney’s
fees to successful civil rights plaintiffs.”
most direct and effective way for the school board to
relieve itself of Seay’s fees and expenses is to bring
itself into compliance with the law as soon as possible.
expenses as follows:
motions for attorney’s fees and expenses (doc. nos. 305
and 319) are granted and that the plaintiffs have and
recover from defendant Randolph County Board of Education,
the sum of $ 266,600.00 for attorneys’ fees and $ 4,715.06
for expenses, for a total of $ 271,315.06.
DONE, this the 8th day of August, 2012.
/s/ Myron H. Thompson
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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