Raja v. Burns, No. 21-945 (2d Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff appealed from a district court’s order awarding him attorney’s fees under 42 U.S.C. Section 1988 in an amount substantially less than he sought. After Plaintiff prevailed against the City of New York on the merits of his due process claim under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, the district court, adopting the report and recommendation of the magistrate judge, lowered the attorney’s claimed hourly rate, excluded time spent on a related concurrent administrative proceeding, struck certain billing entries and imposed a 40% across-the-board reduction to the fee request.
Plaintiff challenged primarily the across-the-board reduction and the exclusion of time-related to the administrative proceeding. The Second Circuit vacated the district court’s order, explaining that while it identified no error in the district court’s decision to exclude all hours related to that proceeding, the court found that the 40% blanket reduction was not justified on the record. The court explained that it agrees with Plaintiff that the 40% overall reduction applied by the district court was not justified: the district court was able to (and in fact did) examine the block-billed entries for reasonableness, and Plaintiff’s counsel obtained a strongly favorable result for him overall, prevailing on claims that rested on the same core set of facts as did the claims that the court dismissed. However, the court identified no error in the district court’s decision to exclude from the fee calculation the hours that Plaintiff’s counsel devoted to defending him in the OATH proceeding because Plaintiff has not shown that this work was necessary to the result achieved in the federal court.