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Tinsley v. City of Charlotte

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division

August 19, 2019

MICHAEL TINSLEY, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF CHARLOTTE, Defendants.

          ORDER

          GRAHAM C. MULLEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER COMES before this Court on Plaintiff Michael Tinsley's (“Plaintiff”) Motion for Attorney's Fees. (Doc. Nos. 96, 108). Defendant City of Charlotte (“Defendant”) responded to which Plaintiff replied. As such, this matter is ripe for disposition.

         I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff sued Defendant alleging sex and race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000e et seq., as amended, and 42 U.S.C. §1983. The matter was tried to a jury on March 19, 2019. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff on the sex discrimination claim and Defendant on the race discrimination claim. The jury awarded Plaintiff $125, 000 in damages. After the jury verdict, the Court held a hearing to determine appropriate equitable relief in this matter. This Court held that Plaintiff was entitled to $1, 671, 376 in equitable relief which encompassed: back pay, front pay, and a federal income tax adjustment. (Doc. No. 95). Plaintiff now moves this Court for an award of attorney's fees as the prevailing party under 42 U.S.C. §2000e-5(k).

         II. DISCUSSION

         According to 42 U.S.C. §2000e-5(k), a Court may award a prevailing party in Title VII actions attorney's fees. Here, Defendant does not dispute that Plaintiff is a prevailing party. After a review of the record and noting that Defendant does not dispute the issue, the Court finds that Plaintiff is indeed a prevailing party. In the Court's discretion, the Court finds that this case is an appropriate case for an award of attorney's fees. See EEOC v. Great Steaks, Inc., 667 F.3d 510, 516 (4th Cir. 2012) (citing Christianburg Garment Company v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 434 U.S. 412, 417 (1978)) (“Prevailing plaintiffs in Title VII actions ordinarily are entitled to Attorneys' fees unless special circumstances mitigate against such an award."). Because Plaintiff is a prevailing party and because the Court finds this case is an appropriate case to award attorney's fees, the issue before this Court on the present Motion is the appropriate amount of those fees.

         To determine the appropriate amount of attorney's fees, this Court is tasked with determining the lodestar amount. The lodestar amount is the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable rate. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). The Fourth Circuit adopted the twelve Johnson factors set forth by the Fifth Circuit. Barber v. Kimbrell, Inc., 577 F.2d 216, 226 N. 28 (4th Cir. 1978) (adopting factors set forth in Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-719 (5th Cir. 1974). The twelve factors are as follows:

(1) Time and labor expended;
(2) The novelty and difficulty of the question raised;
(3) The skill required to properly perform the legal services rendered;
(4) The attorney's opportunity costs in pressing the litigation;
(5) The customary fee for like work;
(6) The attorney's expectations at the outset of the litigation;
(7) The time limitations imposed by the client or circumstances;
(8) The amount in controversy and the results obtained;
(9) The experience, reputation and ability of the attorney;
(10) The undesirability of the case within the legal community in which the suit arose;
(11) The length and professional relationship between the attorney and client; and
(12) Attorneys' fees in similar cases.

Id. The Court will discuss each relevant factor in turn.

         a. Time and Labor Expended

         First, the Court must consider the time and labor expended. Plaintiff's counsel submitted a declaration and billing records showing that Ms. Geraldine Sumter, Plaintiff's lead counsel, spent 658.05 hours on this matter. Mr. Michael Littlejohn, Plaintiff's counsel who served as second chair during Plaintiff's trial, expended 71.2 hours on this matter. Ms. Vicky Reddy, Ms. Sumter's paralegal, spent 69.7 hours on this matter. Finally, Ms. Amy Morancie, a third-year law student intern, spent 55.3 hours on this matter. (Doc. Nos. 96-3, ...


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