740 F.Supp. 433 (E.D.Mich. 1990), Civ. A. 80-73581, Hadix v. Johnson

Docket Nº:Civ. A. 80-73581
Citation:740 F.Supp. 433
Party Name:Hadix v. Johnson
Case Date:June 22, 1990
Court:United States District Courts, 6th Circuit
 
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Page 433

740 F.Supp. 433 (E.D.Mich. 1990)

Everett HADIX, et al., Plaintiffs,

v.

Perry JOHNSON, et al., Defendants.

Civ. A. No. 80-73581-DT.

United States District Court, D. Michigan

June 22, 1990

Patricia A. Streeter, Michael J. Barnhart, Detroit, Mich., for plaintiffs.

Thomas C. Nelson, Asst. Atty. Gen., Corrections Div., Lansing, Mich., for defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

FEIKENS, District Judge.

Plaintiffs are a class of prisoners who entered into a consent judgment with Michigan's Corrections Commission regarding prison conditions. An order approved by all parties provides that defendants are to pay to plaintiffs' attorneys fees and costs semi-annually. See 42 U.S.C. § 1988. Plaintiffs' attorneys seek fees and costs for the period June 30, 1989 through December 31, 1989. They are entitled to these fees and costs for reasons and in amounts stated below.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs' attorneys claim fees pursuant to my "Order Regarding Monitoring Fees"

Page 434

entered in this case on November 19, 1987 ("Order") for efforts expended monitoring defendants' compliance with the consent judgment.

Defendants have paid the amount they consider legitimate monitoring fees, but object to fees they suspect were incurred litigating classification and contempt issues. Defendants say the charges so incurred are objectionable because (1) plaintiffs are not yet prevailing parties (I transferred the classification issue to Judge Enslen; 1 it was litigated before him, and is now on appeal (USCA No. 90-1367)); (2) the charges are for litigation rather than monitoring, and the Order applies only to monitoring activity; (3) plaintiffs' attorneys have duplicated services; and (4) plaintiffs' attorneys' bill is too vague to enable defendants to evaluate which efforts were spent on non-classification and non-contempt issues, which defendants concede are reimbursable.

Plaintiffs' attorneys reply that defendants' objections violate the objection procedure set forth in the November 19, 1987 Order, in that (1) defendants may object only to "documentation," not the underlying charges; (2) defendants' objections were filed after the Order's fifteen-day cut-off; and (3) the objections are too vague, because they do not identify specific hours.

Plaintiffs' attorneys say that with respect to their amicus work on classification and contempt issues in United States v. Michigan, ("USA"), the defendants misunderstand the concept of "prevailing party." Plaintiffs' attorneys say that the "prevailing party" inquiry is inapposite, and a pending appeal is irrelevant, since Hadix plaintiffs never "prevail" in USA by their very nature as amici. Rather, the question is whether the plaintiffs' attorneys' work is "reasonably necessary" to enforce the consent judgment, citing Northcross v. Board of Educ., 611 F.2d 624, 637 (6th Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 447 U.S. 911, 100 S.Ct. 2999, 64 L.Ed.2d 862 (1980). Plaintiffs' attorneys contend that the work was necessary in USA to safeguard gains in this case (" Hadix ").

Plaintiffs' attorneys note that classification and contempt are proper subjects of fee recovery under the Order: First, although the USA classification issues are on appeal from Judge Enslen's non-compliance order, attorney fees are available because classification is central to other Hadix issues. Second, the contempt issue is also relevant to Hadix, in that it alleges that defendants were "laundering" information in their required reports.

Alternatively, plaintiffs' attorneys contend that they prevailed when the consent judgment was entered, having obtained "significant relief" under Texas State Teachers Ass'n v. Garland Indep. School Dist., 489 U.S. 782, 109 S.Ct. 1486, 103 L.Ed.2d 866 (1989), and Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 103 S.Ct. 1933, 76 L.Ed.2d 40 (1983). These cases hold that when assessing fees, the court should not look to assess fees on a claim-by-claim basis, but rather to the significance of the overall relief obtained.

Plaintiffs' attorneys say that defendants are too late in challenging prevailing party status in the monitoring phase, since the parties settled fees leading up to the consent judgment, after the magistrate found plaintiffs to be prevailing parties as to the underlying issues, a finding which defendants never challenged...

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