Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Sierra Club v. Gorsuch

Citation: 12 ELR 21093
No. No. 79-1565, 684 F.2d 972/(D.C. Cir., 07/16/1982) Attorneys fees award modified

After the parties fail to settle on a fee amount following the court's ruling, 12 ELR 20213, that plaintiffs are entitled to attorneys fees, the court sets the amount of fees due plaintiffs for their litigation efforts in Sierra Club v. Costle, 11 ELR 20455. The court first identifies the appropriate lodestar amount, computed by multiplying the number of hours by the hourly rate. In establishing compensable hours for plaintiff Sierra Club, the court excludes all hours spent in connection with a petition for reconsideration because this activity related to an administrative proceeding. The court allows compensation for a reasonable number of hours spent on attorneys fees negotiations. The court holds that attorneys representing primarily nonprofit, public interest organizations need not document, in all cases, that the hourly rate requested is the prevailing market rate. The court finds that the rate of $110 per hour is reasonable because the plaintiff's attorney is an experienced environmental law litigator, the case was of a complex, technical nature, and the court recently awarded the same rate in similar cases. The court refuses to reduce the hourly rate even though the plaintiffs failed to prevail in the case, finding that the modest fee requested and the complexities of the case justify the rate awarded. However, the court rejects plaintiff's request to adjust the lodestar amount upwards for quality of representation and delay by the government in payment, because plaintiffs failed to prevail and the lodestar is based on an hourly rate higher than originally requested and near the top level of court-awarded fees.

In determining the number of compensable hours due plaintiff Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the court rejects the government's claim that the hours are excessive because two rather than one attorney attended fee negotiation sessions. The court does reduce by one-half the hours requested for settlement negotiations, however, because the hours expended are unreasonable. It holds that the hourly rates requested by EDF are reasonable.

One judge dissents in part on the grounds that the court should adjust the lodestar amount downward because plaintiffs failed to prevail on any issue.

Counsel are listed at 12 ELR 20213.

Before: ROBB, WALD and GINSBURG, Circuit Judges.