Stenger et al v. Kellett et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER; IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Plaintiffs' Motion for Award of Attorney's Fees and Costs (Doc. No. 59 ) and Supplement to Plaintiffs' Motion for Award of Attorney's Fees and Costs (Doc. No. 79 ) are GRANTED , in part. The Plaintiffs shall recover from the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners and St. Louis County the sum of $104,321.12 (One Hundred Four Thousand Three Hundred Twenty-One Dollars and Twelve Cents) as reasonable attorneys f ees, taxable costs, and non-taxable costs. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Intervenor Greg Quinn's Motion for Award of Attorney's Fees (Doc. No. 76 ) is GRANTED. Intervenor Quinn shall recover from the St. Louis County Board of Election Commissioners and St. Louis County the sum of $6,750.00 (Six Thousand Seven Hundred Fifty Dollars) as reasonable attorney's fees. Signed by Magistrate Judge Terry I. Adelman on 12/06/2012; (DJO)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
STEVEN V. STENGER, et al.,
RICHARD H. KELLETT, et al.,
No. 4:11CV2230 TIA
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs’ Motion for Award of Attorney’s Fees and Costs
(Doc. No. 59) and Intervenor Greg Quinn’s Motion for Award of Attorney’s Fees (Doc. No. 76).
Plaintiffs also filed a Supplement to their motion for fees and costs (Doc. No. 79). The parties
consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c).
This case arose from a law suit filed by the Plaintiffs seeking to have the Court declare that
the boundaries of the seven St. Louis County Council districts violated the United States and
Missouri Constitutions and divide St. Louis County into seven districts that were contiguous,
compact, and as nearly equal in population as may be. After a half-day trial, the Court found that
the current St. Louis County, Missouri Council Districts violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the
United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 2 of the Missouri Constitution. The Court further
adopted the apportionment plan proposed by the Plaintiffs and determined the plan to meet all federal
and state constitutional requirements. (Mem. and Order of 2/23/12, ECF No. 45) Plaintiffs thereafter
filed a Motion for Attorneys’ Fees and Costs, requesting attorneys’ fees in the amount of $119,
673.001, nontaxable costs in the amount of $8,662.12, and taxable costs of $431.00, which Plaintiffs
incurred from December 17, 2011 through February 29, 2012. After the Court granted St. Louis
County’s (“County”) Motion to Intervene, the County filed a response to Plaintiffs’ motion for fees
and costs, asserting that the 400 hours of attorney time which involved little legal analysis and
culminated in a one-half day trial with only one witness was excessive and unreasonable. Intervenor
Greg Quinn also filed a Motion for Attorney’s Fees, seeking $6,750.00 as reimbursement for 27 hours
of attorney time billed at $250.00 an hour. (ECF No. 76) The County opposed the motion, arguing
that Mr. Quinn sought intervention a mere 2 days before trial and failed to produce meaningful cross
examination or advance any cogent argument for disregarding the boundaries proposed by the
Plaintiffs brought their claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988. Under 42 U.S.C. §
1988(b), in an action under § 1983, “the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party . . .
a reasonable attorney’s fee as part of the costs . . . .” A prevailing party in a civil rights action should
ordinarily recover such attorneys’ fees unless special circumstances rendered an award unjust.
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 429 (1983). To determine the amount of reasonable attorneys’
fees, courts employ the “lodestar” method and multiply the number of hours reasonably expended
with a reasonable hourly rate. Id. at 433. In making this determination, courts consider twelve
(1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the
questions; (3) the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly;
Plaintiffs later raised the requested amount to $152,882.50 after Leslie Broadnax
attempted to intervene and file a motion for a new trial.
(4) the preclusion of employment by the attorney due to acceptance
of the case; (5) the customary fee; (6) whether the fee is fixed or
contingent; (7) time limitations imposed by the client or the
circumstances; (8) the amount involved and the results obtained; (9)
the experience, reputation, and ability of the attorneys; (10) the
“undesirability” of the case; (11) the nature and length of the
professional relationship with the client; and (12) awards in similar
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 430 n.3 (1983).
Plaintiffs’ lead attorney, Jane Dueker, has submitted an affidavit seeking compensation for
97.70 hours of her time, 155.20 hours of time for attorney John C. Grellner, 60.90 hours of time for
attorney Crystal Hall, 94.10 hours of time for attorney Nicolas Frey, and a total of 13 hours of
paralegal time. According to this affidavit, Ms. Dueker’s hourly rate is $400; Mr. Grellner’s hourly
rate is $280; and the hourly rate for both Ms. Hall and Mr. Frey is $225. (Aff. of Jane E. Dueker,
ECF No. 59-1)
In response, Intervenor St. Louis County has filed an opposition to the Plaintiffs’ motion for
fees and costs, asserting that the amounts are excessive and unreasonable. In support of this
contention, the County notes that the case involved very little legal analysis and required only a halfday trial consisting of testimony from one witness. The County does not object to the expert witness
fees totaling $7,350.00 that Plaintiffs request,2 nor does it object to the award of reasonable
attorneys’ fees. However, the County contends that the number of hours and hourly rates are
unreasonable. The County also notes that the court in the previous redistricting case slashed the fee
amount by more than half. The Court agrees that reasonable attorneys’ fees are warranted in this
Under 42 U.S.C. § 1988, “the court, in its discretion, may include expert fees as part of
the attorney’s fee.”
case. However, as the Court will explain in greater detail, the amount requested by the Plaintiffs is
excessive and will be reduced accordingly.
Plaintiffs’ four attorneys have submitted 400 hours in services rendered. However, as the
County correctly notes, this case was essentially uncontested. The parties stipulated to the facts, and
the trial lasted only one-half day and required only one expert witness. Further, the case law on the
issue of redistricting was scant and primarily involved two prior redistricting cases in this Court
resulting from census data changes. The County argues, and the undersigned agrees, that the
Plaintiffs duplicated the effort by utilizing four attorneys and billing for team conferencing. As stated
by Chief District Judge Perry, the Corbett case “reflect[ed] excessive amounts of time by multiple
lawyers, often apparently working on the same matters or holding lengthy conferences with one
another . . . .” Corbett v. Sullivan, No. 4:01CV02006CDP (Order of 11/20/02 at 5, ECF. No. 75).
Review of Ms. Dueker’s affidavit demonstrates that the attorneys spent an excessive amount of time
conferring with each other. In addition, Mr. Grellner spent many hours engaging in non-specific “trial
preparation.” Several notations show that at least 3 attorneys worked on drafting, revising, and
editing the petition and the 14 page trial brief. All four attorneys billed time for attending the half-day
trial, even though the associates played no role in the litigation.
Further, the County correctly asserts that the block-billed entries cause difficulty for the Court
to determine the exact amount of time spent on these duplicative tasks. However, given that the case
was not complex or highly contested, as well as the fact that the Corbett case laid out a road map for
the redistricting litigation, the Court finds that the hours of Mr. Grellner, Mr. Frey, and Ms. Hall
should be cut in half. The Court will allow Ms. Dueker’s hours and hourly fee, as she is a senior
partner and was lead counsel in this case. The Court thus will reduce the rates as follows:
Attorney Jane Dueker: 97.7 hours x $400 = $39,080.00
Attorney John Grellner: 77.6 hours x $280 = $21,728.00
Attorney Nicholas Frey: 47.0 hours x $225 = $10,575.00
Attorney Crystal Hall: 30.5 hours x $225 = 6,863.00
The total attorneys fees for the four attorneys working on this case becomes $78,246.00. With the
addition of paralegal fees totaling $2,262.00, the lodestar amount for attorneys fees is $80,508.00.
The Court appreciates the fact that the attorneys were professional, courteous, and expeditious
throughout the proceedings. However, as in Corbett, the undersigned concludes that the bill, as
detailed above, is excessive and also notes that it must ultimately be paid by the taxpayers of the
county. See Corbett , No. 4:01CV02006 CDP (Order of 11/20/02 at 5, Doc. No. 75).
The County also contests the reimbursement of costs requested by the Plaintiffs in this case.
The Court finds that this request for fees of the clerk, fees of the court reporter, copying fees, parking
and mileage fees, and electronic research expenses are reasonable and reimbursable.
U.S.C. § 1920, “a judge . . . of any court of the United States may tax as costs the following: (1)
Fees of the clerk and marshal; (2) Fees for printed or electronically recorded transcripts necessarily
obtained for use in the case . . .” Here, the County does not appear to contest the costs under§ 1920
for the filing fee and fees of the court reporter, which total $431.00. Instead, the County argues that
seeking recovery of other expenses under 42 U.S.C. § 1973l(e) and 42 U.S.C. § 1988 is
Under 42 U.S.C. § 1973l(e), “[i]n any action or proceeding to enforce the voting guarantees
of the fourteenth or fifteenth amendment, the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party,
other than the United States, a reasonable attorney’s fee, reasonable expert fees, and other reasonable
litigation expenses as part of the costs.” Further, courts in this circuit allow reasonably incurred outof-pocket expenses to be awarded as attorneys fees. Hunter Eng’g Co. v. Hennessy Indus., Inc., No.
4:08CV465 DDN, 2010 WL 2628336, at *4 (E.D. Mo. June 25, 2010). These costs include
photocopying and travel costs. Id. In addition, courts in this circuit may reimburse electronic legal
research as reasonable litigation expenses. See In re UnitedHealth Group Incorporated Shareholder
Derivative Litigation, 631 F.3d 913, 918-19 (8th Cir. 2011) (permitting awards to reimburse counsel
for reasonable costs of online legal research). Therefore, the Court will add the out-of-pocket
expenses of $1312.12 to the amount of attorneys fees as well. In addition, the Court will grant, in
part, the additional fees requested by Plaintiffs in their Supplement in the amount of $14,720.00.3
(Supplement to Pls.’ Mot. for Award of Att’y’s Fees and Costs, ECF No. 79) As a result, the total
lodestar amount for attorneys fees and costs awarded to the Plaintiffs is $104,321.12.
Also pending is Mr. Quinn’s Motion for Award of Attorney’s Fees, requesting $6,750.00 as
reimbursement for fees expended in filing the Motion to Intervene and representing Republican
voters. The fees consist of 27 hours of attorney work at $250.00 per hour. (Intervenor Greg Quinn’s
Mot. for Award of Att’y’s Fees, ECF no. 76) The County argues that the Court should deny this
motion because Mr. Quinn “produced no meaningful cross examination at trial, nor did he advance
any cogent argument for disregarding the boundaries propounded by the plaintiffs . . .” (Intervenor
Plaintiffs seek to add $33,980.30 to the amount of attorneys fees for time expended on
Leslie Brodnax’s federal and state court motions and on responding to the County’s challenge to
Plaintiffs’ motion for attorneys fees and costs. The County argues that the amounts requested are
excessive and unreasonable. Plaintiffs did not file a reply to the County’s objection. In addition,
Plaintiffs fail to explain how fees expended in a different lawsuit in state court are recoverable in
this action. The Court finds the reduced amount of $14,720.00 suggested by the County is fair
and reasonable in that the motions filed by Ms. Broadnax were not complex and much of the fees
sought by Plaintiffs’ four attorneys were duplicative.
St. Louis County’s Response 1, ECF No. 78)
The Court finds that the fees requested by Mr. Quinn are reasonable in this case. Mr. Quinn
represented the Republican voters at trial and cross-examined the expert, Dr. Kimball, to ensure that
the proposed map, submitted by the Democrats, was lawful and free from political bias or
consideration. Mr. Quinn correctly notes that the Corbett court awarded attorneys fees to all
plaintiffs and intervenors representing the interests of all political groups. Corbett, No.
4:01CV02006CDP (Order of 11/20/02, ECF. No. 75). The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed
the award. Corbett v. Sullivan, 353 F.3d 628 (8th Cir. 2003). The Court finds the number of hours
expended and the hourly rate to be reasonable, thus establishing a lodestar figure of $6,750.00 for
legal fees incurred by Mr. Quinn.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Plaintiffs’ Motion for Award of Attorney’s Fees and
Costs (Doc. No. 59) and Supplement to Plaintiffs’ Motion for Award of Attorney’s Fees and Costs
(Doc. No. 79) are GRANTED, in part. The Plaintiffs shall recover from the St. Louis County Board
of Election Commissioners and St. Louis County the sum of $104,321.12 (One Hundred Four
Thousand Three Hundred Twenty-One Dollars and Twelve Cents) as reasonable attorneys fees,
taxable costs, and non-taxable costs.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Intervenor Greg Quinn’s Motion for Award of
Attorney’s Fees (Doc. No. 76) is GRANTED. Intervenor Quinn shall recover from the St. Louis
County Board of Election Commissioners and St. Louis County the sum of $6,750.00 (Six Thousand
Seven Hundred Fifty Dollars) as reasonable attorney’s fees.
/s/ Terry I. Adelman
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Dated this 6th
day of December, 2012.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?