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New York Courts Spar Over Out-of-District Hourly Rates

February 3, 2010 | Posted in : Fee Award, Fee Issues on Appeal, Fee Request, Hourly Rates

A recent article, "Federal Judge Calls Second Circuit's Approach to Calculation of Attorney Fees ‘Condescending'" reports that faced with a remand of an attorney fee award ordering him to "apply a presumption in favor of" the prevailing fee rate for attorneys in the Eastern District, Brooklyn federal Judge Frederic Block has affirmed in Luca v. County of Nassau his earlier fee award of $400 per hour for Hempstead litigator Fredrick K. Brewington. In the decision, Block wrote "that a reasonable paying client would gladly pay $400 per hour for an attorney of Brewington's caliber."

This recent decision centers on last August's circuit decision in Simmons v. New York City Transit Authority which held that "when faced with a request for an award of higher out-of-district rates, a district court must first apply a presumption in favor of the district's own prevailing rates." The widely quoted sentence in the Simmons holding was from Judge John M. Walker who wrote that defendants "should not be required to pay for a limousine when a sedan could have done the job", suggesting that Manhattan attorneys are "limousines" and Brooklyn attorneys are "sedans".