Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Massachusetts: Court Reduces Jail Officers’ Attorneys’ Fees by 40%

On June 18, 2010, the Hon. R.G. Stearns, Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, issued an order requiring Suffolk County officials to pay attorneys’ fees and costs to the attorneys for a group of 174 Suffolk County jail officers who had filed a lawsuit alleging that their County employer violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq., by failing to properly compensate them for the overtime they worked.

On May 12, 2010, after settling the officers’ claims, plaintiffs’ counsel moved for an award of attorneys’ fees in the amount of $73,537.50 plus $250.00 in costs, for a total of $73,787.50. In the end, the Court reduced this total by more than $30,000, slightly more than 40 percent of the amount requested, to $42,787.50 in attorneys’ fees plus $250.00 in costs.

The Court began its discussion by noting that the FLSA mandates an award of reasonable fees and costs to a prevailing party, and that determining what is reasonable requires the district judge to employ the so-called “lodestar method,” i.e., multiplying the number of hours productively expended by counsel by a reasonable hourly rate.

Plaintiffs’ counsel asked the Court to adopt a billing rate of $375 per hour, which defendant’s counsel opposed as excessive. The Court determined that $350 per hour appropriately reflected the prevailing market rates for an attorney in downtown Boston, at least for what it deemed “core” tasks (legal research, drafting of legal documents, court appearances, negotiations with opposing counsel, and implementation of court orders). For “non-core” (clerical-type) tasks, the Court determined that a reduced rate of $225 per hour was more appropriate.

The Court then scrutinized each of the itemized entries in plaintiffs’ counsel’s billings and determined whether the entry constituted a core of non-core task, as well as whether the time spent was unreasonable, unnecessary, or inefficiently devoted to the case. As appropriate, the Court adjusted the hours claimed. Source: Mills v. Cabral, Civil Action No. 06-10133-RGS (D. Mass.), Order On Motion For Attorneys’ Fees and Costs, 6/18/10.

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Mills v. Cabral