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Scott v. Cartensen

April 20, 2010

DAVID SCOTT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROD CARTENSEN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Gerald E. Rosen United States District Chief Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING PLAINTIFF'S COUNSEL'S REQUEST FOR REIMBURSEMENT OF PRO BONO ATTORNEY FEES AND EXPENSES

At a session of said Court, held in the U.S. Courthouse, Detroit, Michigan on April 20, 2010

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff David Scott was assigned pro bono counsel to represent him in this prisoner civil rights action. After Default Judgment was entered in favor of Scott against the last remaining defendant in this case, Scott's attorneys submitted a motion for attorneys fees and costs requesting a fee award of $11,063.50, plus costs and other expenses in the amount of $97.83. This matter is presently before this Court pursuant to the Chief Judge's obligation to review requests for reimbursement of pro bono attorney expenses in excess of $2,500.00. See Rules for Reimbursement of Pro Bono Attorney Expenses in Civil Cases ¶ 1(d).

Having reviewed and considered counsel's petition for fees and costs and the supporting documentation submitted in connection therewith, the Court is now prepared to rule on this matter. This Memorandum Opinion and Order sets forth the Court's ruling.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff David Scott filed this prisoner civil rights action pro se against Michigan Department of Corrections prison guards Rod Cartensen, Michael Wilkinson, Thomas Haynes, and Glynn Williams. The gist of Plaintiff's complaint was that Cartensen, Wilkinson and Haynes wrote retaliatory major misconduct tickets and that they conspired with each other and Defendant Williams to retaliate against him because of Scott's previous filing of a complaint in the Western District of Michigan against another prison officer and his previous grievances and prison complaints against Defendant Williams.

Cartensen, Wilkinson and Haynes answered the Complaint; however, Williams, who no longer is employed by the MDOC, did not. (Williams was eventually served by substituted service but he never requested the AG to represent him and he never filed an answer.)

After Defendants' initial motion to dismiss was denied, and in response to Plaintiff's motion for assistance in effecting service of process upon Defendant Williams, Judge Tarnow appointed counsel to represent Plaintiff. Attorney William D. Adams, from the law firm of Hertz, Schram & Saretsky, P.C., (now known as Hertz Schram, P.C.), agreed to take on pro bono representation of Scott and an Order of Assignment of Counsel was accordingly entered in this matter on March 27, 2006. On August 4, 2006, Gary Supanich was substituted as counsel for Plaintiff in place of William Adams. Then, a year later, on September 20, 2007, Patricia Stamler was added as co-counsel.

Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff requested and was granted a clerk's entry of default against Defendant Williams. Cartensen, Wilkinson and Haynes subsequently filed a motion to dismiss Scott's complaint on statute of limitations grounds. Plaintiff filed a 3-page response. On August 18, 2008, Magistrate Judge Steven Pepe entered a Report and Recommendation recommending that the Court grant the motion to dismiss. No objections were filed. On September 22, 2008, Judge Tarnow adopted the R&R, granted Defendants' Cartensen's, Wilkinson's and Haynes' motion, and dismissed all of Plaintiff's claims, with prejudice.

Plaintiff then proceeded with his motion for entry of a default judgment against Defendant Williams.*fn1 Judge Tarnow granted the default judgment motion as to liability on July 21, 2009 and scheduled a hearing on Plaintiff's damages on September 18, 2009. After this hearing, the Court entered a monetary judgment in favor of Plaintiff and against Defendant Williams in the amount of $50,000 ($25,000 compensatory damages and $25,000 punitive damages). The Court also directed Plaintiff's counsel to submit a revised request for attorneys' fees, reflecting the additional work done to prepare for the damages hearing.

On November 3, 2009, Plaintiff's counsel submitted an Amended Petition for Attorneys' Fees and Costs to which she appended an Amended Non-Appropriated Fund Voucher, requesting reimbursement of pro bono fees and expenses in the amount of $11,161.33. This total sum represents attorney fees in the amount of $11,063.50 for 43.35 hours of attorney time,*fn2 plus costs and expenses in the amount of $97.83. Observing that requests for reimbursement of pro bono attorneys fees and costs from the Non-Appropriated Fund require the approval of the Chief Judge, Plantiff's counsel also submitted her Petition and Voucher to this Court.

DISCUSSION

As a preliminary matter, the Court expresses its appreciation to Plaintiff's counsel for undertaking this pro bono prisoner civil rights case. Counsel's work is not only a service to the Plaintiff, but also to the justice system and the Court, and nothing in the Court's discussion of the principles governing its consideration of this matter should be taken as a ...


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