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Legal Memorandum: Calculation of Attorney's Fees

Issue: Under Puerto Rico and federal law, how are attorney’s fees in an employment discrimination case calculated?

Area of Law: Employee Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Employment discrimination case; Attorney's fees; Calculation
Jurisdiction: Federal, Puerto Rico
Cited Cases: 134 F. Supp. 2d 218; 975 F.2d 934; 749 F.2d 945
Cited Statutes: 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3); 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961–1968.
Date: 05/01/2004

Under the long-standing principle set forth in Grendel’s Den, Inc. v. Larkin, 749 F.2d 945 (1st Cir. 1984), contemporaneous time records are essential to a fee petition.  If they are not produced, the opposing party is left with “only gauzy generalities” that are “so nebulous that they fail ‘to allow the paying party to dispute the accuracy of the records as well as the reasonableness of the time spent.'”  Lipsett v. Blanco, 975 F.2d 934, 938 (1st Cir. 1992). 

In Lipsett, the appellants did not even challenge the billable rates of $50 per hour to $175 per hour.  See 975 F.2d at 944 n.8.  The appellants instead concentrated on the tasks billed, whether the work descriptions were sufficiently detailed, whether the case was overstaffed, billing of clerical tasks by attorneys, and whether some unsuccessful claims should even be compensated.  Id. at 938-41.  Similarly, in Ramos v. Davis & Geck, Inc., 968 F. Supp. 765 (D.P.R. 1997), aff’d, 167 F.3d 727 (1st Cir. 1999), the defendants did not object to the rate.

The case of Libertad v. Sanchez, 134 F. Supp. 2d 218 (D.P.R. 2001), is instructive.  That case involved protracted litigation relating to blocking entrances at women’s health clinics.  The plaintiffs asserted claims for conspiracy to deny equal protection of the law pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) and racketeering under 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961–1968.  Id. at 223.  The case involved hearings for a preliminary injunction, summary judgment and an appeal thereof, […]

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