Laube v. Allen, Civil Action No. 2:02cv957-MHT.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
Citation506 F.Supp.2d 969
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 2:02cv957-MHT.
PartiesLinda LAUBE, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Richard F. ALLEN, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date31 August 2007

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506 F.Supp.2d 969
Linda LAUBE, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Richard F. ALLEN, et al., Defendants.
Civil Action No. 2:02cv957-MHT.
United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division.
August 31, 2007.

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George E. Schulz, Jr., Holland & Knight, Jacksonville, FL, John A. Russell, III, Aliceville, AL, Lisa Kung, Stephen B. Bright, Tamara S. Caldas, Southern Center for Human Rights, Atlanta, GA, Marion D. Chartoff, Southern Poverty Law Center, Montgomery, AL, Stephen F. Hanlon, Holland & Knight LLP, Washington, DC, for Plaintiffs.

Andrew Weldon Redd, Alabama Department of Transportation, Legal Bureau, Charles B. Campbell, Office of the Attorney General, Kim Tobias Thomas, Tara S. Knee, Alabama Department of Corrections, William F. Addison, Alabama Board of Medical Examiners, Montgomery, AL, for Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

MYRON H. THOMPSON, District Judge.


This is a class-action lawsuit in which the plaintiffs, women incarcerated by the Alabama Department of Corrections, claimed that prison conditions violated their rights under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The defendants are the Commissioner and Treatment Director of the Alabama Department of Corrections, the wardens of the state prison facilities that house female inmates, and the Governor of Alabama. This court approved two four-year settlement agreements that resolved all the plaintiffs' claims. Now before the court are the plaintiffs' two motions for attorney's fees seeking $562,753.70 in fees and $ 62,892.50 in expenses on their first motion

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and $240,843.10 in fees and $16,063.08 in expenses on their second motion, for a total sum of $882,552.38. For the reasons that follow, the motions will be granted to the extent that the plaintiffs are entitled to recover $420,369.73 in fees and $51,496.02 in expenses on their first motion and $64,036.62 in fees and $2,275.77 in expenses on their second motion, for a total sum of $538,178.14.

I. BACKGROUND

The plaintiffs `originally filed this lawsuit in August 2002. Broadly speaking, the court has characterized their allegations as follows: that, because of conditions at the three state prison facilities that house all female inmates (Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women, the Edwina Mitchell Work Release Center, now known as the Tutwiler Annex, and the Birmingham Work Release Center), female inmates were being denied their basic human needs of adequate living space, ventilation, and personal safety and security; that, because of the defendants' failure to provide adequate medical and mental-health care, female inmates were at a real and substantial risk of injury, prolonged illness, and premature death; and that the defendants acted with deliberate indifference to the existence of these conditions. Laube v. Campbell (Laube IV), 333 F.Supp.2d 1234, 1237 (M.D.Ala.2004) (Thompson, J.).

In December 2002, this court granted in part and denied in part the plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction: the court held that they were entitled to preliminary-injunctive relief on their claim that they were subject to substantial risk of serious harm caused by Tutwiler's overcrowded and understaffed open dorms, but that they were not entitled to preliminary-injunctive relief on their other claims regarding Tutwiler or on any of their claims regarding the Mitchell and Birmingham facilities. Laube v. Haley (Laube I), 234 F.Supp.2d 1227, 1252 (M.D.Ala.2002) (Thompson, J.). Concerned that the unconstitutional conditions at Tutwiler were "so severe and widespread" that they were "essentially a time bomb ready to explode facility-wide at any unexpected moment in the near future," id., the court ordered the defendants to take immediate affirmative steps to redress the unconstitutional conditions and to submit a plan to the court for approval, id. at 1253.

The next 18 months brought a combination of litigation and negotiation. The defendants submitted a plan, but the court rejected it as inadequate. Laube v. Haley (Laube II), 242 F.Supp.2d 1150 (M.D.Ala. 2003) (Thompson, J.). The defendants submitted a second plan, but the preliminary injunction expired before the court ruled on it. Laube v. Campbell (Laube III), 255 F.Supp.2d 1301 (M.D.Ala.2003) (Thompson, J.). The plaintiffs filed a second motion for preliminary injunction but withdrew it after a hearing. In early 2004, counsel for all parties met informally to discuss settlement, and, in April 2004, formal mediation under the guidance of a United States Magistrate Judge began.

In June 2004, the parties reached final agreement on two four-year settlements: a `conditions settlement agreement' and a `medical settlement agreement.' Laube IV, 333 F.Supp.2d at 1248-65. The agreements covered not only the claims on which the court had granted preliminary-injunctive relief, but all the claims brought by the plaintiffs in their complaint as amended. Id. at 1248, 1253. The court provisionally approved the two settlement agreements and ordered that they take immediate effect pending final-court approval. The court then granted class certification, approved notice to the class, held a fairness hearing, and undertook an independent review of the proposed agreements. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PLRA), the agreements

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qualified as "consent decrees" because the court intended to enter them as injunctive relief and retain jurisdiction to enforce them. 18 U.S.C. § 3626(g)(1) & (g)(6). The court therefore could not approve the agreements unless they were narrowly drawn, extended no further than necessary to correct the violation of a federal right, and were the least intrusive means necessary to correct the violation of a federal right. Id. § 3626(a)(1)(A). Agreeing with the parties that the settlement agreements met those requirements, the court gave final approval to the agreements on August 23, 2004, and entered a permanent injunction approving the agreements, incorporating their terms into the court's order, permanently enjoining the defendants from failing to carry them out, and retaining jurisdiction to enforce them. Laube IV, 333 F.Supp.2d at 1247.

On one subsequent occasion, the court was called upon to enforce its judgment, though the parties privately settled their dispute before the court ruled. On May 10, 2006, the plaintiffs filed a motion to hold the defendants in contempt for failure to comply with the medical-settlement agreement. The contempt motion was based largely on the reports of the independent health monitor, whose role under the agreement was to audit the defendants' compliance and report his findings. The healthcare monitor issued reports of non-compliance over a period of approximately 15 months, beginning in December 2004. During the period preceding the contempt motion, the plaintiffs communicated their concerns to the defendants, specifically in written letters dated October 28, 2004, April 22, 2005, September 23, 2005, and March 14, 2006. Additionally, as required by the consent decree, the parties engaged in mediation before the magistrate judge on November 18, 2005. On May 10, 2006, after the correspondence and mediation described above did not resolve matters to the plaintiffs' satisfaction, they filed their motion to hold the defendants in contempt. The court scheduled an evidentiary hearing for June 21, 2006, which was postponed upon notice by the parties that a private settlement was in the making. On August 3, 2006, the parties announced to the court that they had arrived at a private settlement agreement. Consequently, the court entered an order denying as moot the plaintiffs' motion to hold the defendants in contempt.

The consent decrees, while contemplating that the parties would attempt to resolve privately the issue of attorney's fees, provided that the plaintiffs could petition the court if an agreement on that issue could not be reached. The parties could not reach an agreement on fees, and, on September 22, 2004, the plaintiffs timely filed a motion for attorney's fees and costs incurred through August 23, 2004, the date that the settlement agreements were approved and made final. On August 24, 2006, they filed a second motion for attorney's fees; the second motion addressed fees and expenses incurred litigating the fees issue and monitoring and enforcing the decrees during the two-year period following the entry of final judgment. This opinion addresses both motions.

II. LEGAL STANDARD FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES

In federal civil-rights litigation, "the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party, other than the United States, a reasonable attorney's fee as part of the costs." 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b); see also Buckhannon Bd. & Care Home, Inc. v. W. Va. Dep't of Health & Human Res., 532 U.S. 598, 121 S.Ct. 1835, 149 L.Ed.2d 855 (2001) (statutory fee-shifting provisions from different statutes have been interpreted consistently). "Determining a plaintiff's entitlement to attorney fees entails a three-step process. First, a court

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asks if the plaintiff has `prevailed' in the statutory sense. Second, the court calculates the `lodestar,' which is the number of hours (tempered by billing judgment) spent in the legal work on the case, multiplied by a reasonable market rate in the local area. Finally, the court has the opportunity to adjust the lodestar to account for other considerations that have not yet figured in the computation, the most important being the relation of the results obtained to the work done." Dillard v. City of Greensboro, 213 F.3d 1347, 1353 (11th Cir.2000) (citations omitted).

The fee applicant bears the burden of "establishing entitlement and documenting the appropriate hours and hourly rates." Norman v. Hous. Auth. of Montgomery, 836 F.2d 1292, 1303 (11th Cir. 1988). This burden includes supplying the court with...

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