488 F.2d 714 (5th Cir. 1974), 72-3294, Johnson v. Georgia Highway Exp., Inc.

Docket Nº:72-3294.
Citation:488 F.2d 714
Party Name:Richard JOHNSON, Jr., and Frank Hill, Plaintiffs-Appellants-Cross Appellees, v. GEORGIA HIGHWAY EXPRESS, INC., Defendant-Appellee-Cross Appellant.
Case Date:January 21, 1974
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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Page 714

488 F.2d 714 (5th Cir. 1974)

Richard JOHNSON, Jr., and Frank Hill, Plaintiffs-Appellants-Cross Appellees,

v.

GEORGIA HIGHWAY EXPRESS, INC., Defendant-Appellee-Cross Appellant.

No. 72-3294.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.

January 21, 1974

Page 715

Elizabeth Rindskopf, Howard Moore, Jr., Atlanta, Ga., Jack Greenberg, William L. Robinson, Morris J. Baller, Charles Stephen Ralston, New York City, for plaintiffs-appellants.

John W. Wilcox, Jr., Thomas M. Kuna, Atlanta, Ga., for defendant-appellee.

Before THORNBERRY, AINSWORTH and RONEY, Circuit Judges.

RONEY, Circuit Judge:

The question on this appeal concerns the adequacy of attorneys' fees awarded by the District Court in a Title VII class action. Plaintiffs challenge as inadequate the $13,500.00 awarded for their alleged 659.5 billable hours accrued during more than four years of litigation. We are called upon to review the award and set appropriate standards to better enable District Courts to arrive at just compensation.

This "across-the-board" action to remedy employment discrimination made unlawful by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e et seq., was filed February 27, 1968. On June 24, 1968, the District Court entered an order holding that the action could not be maintained as a class action, and upholding defendant's jury demand. Plaintiff took an interlocutory appeal, resulting in this Court's reversing the District Court on both issues. 417 F.2d 1122 (5th Cir. 1969).

On remand, the case proceeded to trial on the merits. After a three-day trial (Jan. 31-Feb. 3, 1972) the District Court entered a final order on March 2, 1972, finding a variety of discriminatory practices by defendant and granting class relief to plaintiffs. In that order, the court provided that an application for an award of attorneys' fees and costs pursuant to Section 706(k) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would be entertained.

Pursuant to this ruling, plaintiffs requested an award of $30,145.50. In support of their request they submitted: (1) a schedule of fees based on the affidavits of counsel as to their time spent on this matter, in all 659.5 hours exclusive of trial time; 1 (2) six affidavits from the five attorneys employed by plaintiffs in this action; (3) three exhibits showing in chronological order the daily time spent by three of the plaintiffs' attorneys; and (4) a memorandum of law in support of the motion.

After an appropriate hearing, the District Court filed its order on August 8, 1972, and made the following findings of fact with respect to attorneys' fees:

"1. A hearing on the matter of attorneys' fees in the primary action in this case was held, and evidence presented by both parties, on June 9, 1972.

"2. With respect to the question of attorneys' fees in the primary action, I find that reasonable attorneys' fees, in the Atlanta, Georgia area, for the job performed for the plaintiffs RICHARD JOHNSON, JR. and FRANK HILL, are Thirteen Thousand Five Hundred Dollars ($13,500.00). The above amount in this finding is based, generally, on sixty (60) man days of work at Two Hundred

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Dollars ($200.00) per day, generally considered to consist of from six (6) to seven (7) productive hours, which amounts to Twelve Thousand Dollars ($12,000.00), and three (3) trial days for two attorneys at Two Hundred Fifty Dollars ($250.00) per trial day per attorney, or One Thousand Five Hundred Dollars ($1,500.00)."

The judgment of the District Court stated that

"The Defendant GEORGIA HIGHWAY EXPRESS, INC. shall pay to the Plaintiffs in the primary action in the present case reasonable attorneys' fees in the amount of Thirteen Thousand Five Hundred Dollars ($13,500.00), based on what this Court has determined is reasonable in this locality for the job performed by legal counsel on behalf of the Plaintiffs. Given the experience of counsel for the Plaintiffs at the time these services were performed, the award of this Court is based on sixty (60) man days at the rate of Two Hundred Dollars ($200.00) per day, or Twelve Thousand Dollars ($12,000.00), and three (3) trial days for two (2) attorneys at the rate of Two Hundred Fifty Dollars ($250.00) per day per attorney, or One Thousand Five Hundred Dollars ($1,500.00).

"In making this award of reasonable attorneys' fees to the Plaintiffs, I further note that I am aware of the accomplishments of some of the attorneys for the Plaintiffs. At the time when some of these services were rendered, however, they were rendered by attorneys who had been at the bar for only a relatively few years, and there is a relatively standard practice within the Atlanta, Georgia community with respect to the age and experience of attorneys and the compensation involved therein."

Plaintiffs appeal from this judgment. Defendant cross-appeals.

Section 706(k) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. A. § 2000e-5(k), provides that:

In any action or proceeding under this subchapter the Court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party . . . a reasonable attorney's fee as part of the cost of the litigation.

The purpose of this provision is to effectuate the congressional policy against racial discrimination. Clark v. American Marine Corp., 320 F.Supp. 709 (E. D.La.1970), aff'd, 437 F.2d 959 (5th Cir. 1971). In discussing a similar provision in Title II, the United States Supreme Court observed that

If [the plaintiff] obtains an injunction, he does so not for himself alone but also as a "private attorney general,"...

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