Mar 252016
 

In Restivo v. Nassau County, there are four principal issues that the defendants brought forth to dispute the payment of attorneys’ fees (2015 WL 7734100 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 30, 2015)). First, they argued that the plaintiff’s attorneys’ staffing was unreasonable. The Court stated that the defendants did not produce any persuasive evidence showing any particular phase of the case was overstaffed; thus indicating if the defendants had provided some evidence of overstaffing, the court might have found in their favor.

Second, the defendants argued that plaintiff’s billable hours should be further reduced because there were numerous block billed entries. The Court concluded block billing might make it more difficult to determine the time spent on each individual task; however, it is not prohibited. The Court deemed block billing to be a trivial issue, and refused to reduce attorneys’ fees based on this method of billing, since it is so “pervasive in the legal industry.” It is troublesome that the Court ultimately accepted the Plaintiff’s block billing based on the reasoning that it is so prevalent therefore acceptable. This justification could lead to even more inaccurate and excessive billing in this district.  However, most courts have not been so tolerant of block billing and deduct for billing entries made in this manner.  Recently, one court went so far as to write, “[A]ttorneys who engage in block billing do so at their own risk.” (Howe v. City of Akron, 2016 Slip Copy 2016 WK 916701 (N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division Mar. 10, 2016)).

 Third, they argued that the plaintiff’s attorneys spent an excessive amount of time on meetings and phone calls. The court disagreed saying “… rendering an opinion on how long a strategy meeting should take in a complicated case does not seem productive.”

Finally, the defendants successfully argued it is not reasonable for an attorney to bill travel time at their full attorney rate. The Court deemed this argument to be a legitimate concern. The plaintiff’s attorneys and the Court agreed to reduce the travel time to one-half the attorneys’ regular rates, and completely strike the travel entries that were not billed at the reduced rate from the plaintiff’s time request.  Being that this case was litigated over 8 years, 35 depositions done over 54 days, tried twice for a total of 48 trial days over a 16 week period, not to mention a 5-day hearing on admissibility of expert witnesses, there was easily over a hundred days of travel just for discovery and trial purposes.