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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

More Fruitful Hourly Rates for Lawyers Suing Governments (or Others)

Civil rights lawyers (and others) sometimes express exasperation when they are sometimes denied decent hourly rates after winning trials against governments (or insurers that fail to honor policy obligations.) That group may be heartened by a new ruling from Judge Holderman of the Northern District of Illinois in a case arising from failure to provide anti-seizure medication to a state prison inmate. As reported by the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, the civil rights lawyers were reasonably paid for a major win ($12 million of compensatory damages, and $1 million of punitive damages.):

"In an opinion issued Thursday, Holderman awarded the plaintiff lawyers those requested amounts. Ray A. Fox, etc. v. David Barnes, No. 09 C 5453.

“The court finds that the requested hourly fees are appropriate to compensate Fox’s lawyers for their outstanding representation and the excellent result they obtained for their client at this highly contested jury trial,” the opinion says.

Lawyers with the Illinois attorney general’s office representing Barnes asserted that the fees and costs sought by Fox should be cut in half because Fox only prevailed against one of the two defendants at trial. But Holderman rejected that argument. In terms of hourly rates, Fox asked for $495 for Michael Kanovitz, $505 for Jon Loevy and $335 each for Aaron S. Mandel and Elizabeth C. Wang. Lawyers for Barnes challenged those hourly rates. Holderman also rejected that assertion, citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 416 U.S. 424 (1983). “Considering the Hensley factors, the court finds that Fox has amply met his burden of demonstrating that the requested hourly rates are appropriate,” Holderman’s opinion says.

“We think Judge Holderman correctly applied the law in awarding something closer to market rates and comparable to rates that lawyers earn at large law firms litigating commercial cases,” Loevy said. “Civil rights lawyers are sometimes frustrated that there’s a resistance to doing that.”

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