Griffin v. Berghuis et al
ORDER granting in part 150 Motion for Attorney Fees. Signed by District Judge John Corbett O'Meara. (WBar)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 11-14876
Hon. John Corbett O’Meara
LOUIS CONDON, et al.,
ORDER GRANTING IN PART MOTION
FOR AWARD OF ATTORNEY’S FEES
Before the court is Plaintiff’s motion for attorney’s fees, costs, and
postjudgment interest, filed August 11, 2017. Defendants filed a brief in response
on September 8, 2017; Plaintiff submitted a reply on September 18, 2017.
Pursuant to L.R. 7.1(f)(2), the court did not hear oral argument.
Initially representing himself, Plaintiff Randle Griffin brought this action
against the defendant corrections officers in 2011. Plaintiff alleged Defendants
violated his First Amendment rights while he was incarcerated at Gus Harrison
Correctional Facility in Adrian, Michigan. The case was initially dismissed, but
the dismissal was reversed by the Sixth Circuit. Plaintiff’s attorneys filed an
appearance in 2014, after the case was remanded.
Subsequently, the parties engaged in significant discovery and motion
practice. Ultimately, Defendants’ motion for summary judgment was denied and
the matter proceeded to trial. After several days of trial, the jury returned a verdict
in Plaintiff’s favor on January 24, 2017. The jury awarded Plaintiff a total of
$12,500, including punitive damages.
Defendants filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law, which was denied
on July 14, 2017. The court entered judgment for Plaintiff in the amount of
$12,565.73, including prejudgment interest. Plaintiff now seeks attorney’s fees,
costs, and postjudgment interest pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b).1
LAW AND ANALYSIS
Section 1988(b) permits a prevailing party in a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 case to
seek reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. The court should award attorney’s fees
and costs to “a prevailing plaintiff . . . unless special circumstances would render
such award unjust.” Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 429 (1983) (citations
omitted). An attorney’s fee award to a prevailing party who is a prisoner is limited
by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. §1997e(d).
Defendants do not appear to dispute that Plaintiff is entitled to postjudgment
42 U.S.C. § 1997e(d) provides four steps for determining
an attorney's fees award: (1) determining whether
Plaintiff prevailed for the purposes of § 1988; (2)
calculating the amount of attorney’s fees due under the
lodestar method; (3) determining whether the amount of
the fee is proportionate to the court ordered relief for the
violation, or if the fee was directly and reasonably
incurred in enforcing the relief ordered for the violation;
and (4) if a monetary judgment is awarded, the Court will
apply some portion of the judgment, not to exceed 25%,
to satisfy the fee award and limit the total award of
attorney’s fees to 150% of the judgment.
Siggers-El v. Barlow, 433 F. Supp. 2d 811, 820 (E.D. Mich. 2006) (citing
Morrison v. Davis, 88 F. Supp.2d 799, 809 (S.D. Ohio 2000)). See also Walker v.
Bain, 257 F.3d 660, 667 (6th Cir. 2001) (“We believe that § 1997e(d)(2) must be
read to limit defendants’ liability for attorney fees to 150 percent of the money
The parties do not dispute that Plaintiff is the prevailing party here.
Recognizing §1997e(d)(2)’s limitation on attorney’s fees, Plaintiff seeks fees in the
amount of 150% of the judgment, or $18,848.60. Plaintiff’s attorneys expended
hundreds of hours conducting discovery, motion practice, and trial. In the court’s
experience, the calculation of a reasonable lodestar amount in the usual manner
would result in a figure significantly higher than that sought by Plaintiff. Given
the amount of work involved, the level of experience of counsel, and the results
achieved, the court finds that $18,848.60 is well within the limits of a reasonable
Defendants argue that the court should exercise its discretion in favor of
applying 25% of the judgment to satisfy the attorney’s fees awarded against them.
See 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(d)(2). Given the constitutional rights at stake and the jury’s
indication that Defendants’ actions warranted punitive damages, the court finds no
basis to significantly reduce the jury’s award to Plaintiff in order to satisfy the
award of attorney’s fees. The court will assess $1 of the judgment amount toward
the award of attorney’s fees. See Morrison v. Davis, 88 F. Supp.2d 799, 811 (S.D.
Ohio 2000) (“In light of the facts of this case, the constitutional rights implicated,
and the jury’s clear signal that the Defendants should be punished, the Court finds
that a $1 assessment against the judgment is within its discretion under §
Plaintiff also seeks an award of costs. Plaintiff has not, however, submitted
appropriate documentation supporting his request for costs. Plaintiff may submit a
properly supported bill of costs to the Clerk of the Court pursuant to Local Rule
54.1, which will be timely if submitted within ten days of the date of this order.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff’s motion for attorney’s fees, costs,
and postjudgment interest is GRANTED IN PART, consistent with this opinion
s/John Corbett O’Meara
United States District Judge
Date: October 25, 2017
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing document was served upon
counsel of record on this date, October 25, 2017, using the ECF system.
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