Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

WATCH v. Harris

Citation: 12 ELR 20647
No. No. H-78-539, 535 F. Supp. 9/(D. Conn., 11/06/1981) Attorneys fees awarded

The court rules that both the United States and the Waterbury Urban Renewal Authority (WURA), a municipal agency, are liable for attorneys fees under § 305 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). On a motion of Waterbury Action to Conserve Our Heritage (WATCH), the court permanently enjoined demolition of commercial buildings until the Department of Housing and Urban Development and WURA determined their eligibility for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. Subsequently, the parties entered into a settlement agreement. The court rules that § 305 of the NHPA, which was enacted subsequent to the agreement, is applicable to the litigation. Retroactive application is reasonable because (1) it does not result in "manifest injustice" to the parties since the actions of WATCH have done a substantial service in protecting historic properties, (2) unconditional rights are not infringed upon, and (3) it does not change the obligation of defendants to comply with federal statutes. While § 305 does not expressly authorize attorneys fees against the federal government, both the legislative history of the NHPA and the enactment of the Equal Access to Justice Act support such a conclusion. WURA is also responsible for fees because it is subject to the provisions of the NHPA and it is not an arm of the state immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment. The court reduces plaintiff's claims for fees from $28,700.54 to $19,419.70, ruling that the time spent on the case was excessive and that charges for expert witnesses and travel expenses were too high. Finally, the court rules that the United States and WURA are equally liable for attorneys fees.

Counsel for Plaintiff
William Howard
Shaw & Howard
83 Crescent St., Middletown CT 06457
(203) 346-8663

Counsel for Defendants
George J. Kelley; Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Attorney
P.O. Box 1824, Hartford CT 06510
(203) 432-2108

James E. Hartley Jr.
Secor, Cassidy & McPartland
P.O. Box 951, Waterbury CT 06720
(203) 757-9261