CHICAGO (CN) – A federal judge blasted the City of Chicago for its “niggardly” objections to an attorney’s request for fees. U.S. District Judge Milton Shadur awarded attorney Daniel O’Brien $195,000, including $10,000 in out-of-pocket expenses, for his work representing Daniel Waters, a former city employee. O’Brien won a $1.325 million award for Waters.
Chicago did not challenge the number of hours O’Brien worked, but objected to his charging $300 an hour. The city claimed that while O’Brien is a good trial lawyer, he lacked experience in employment discrimination cases and should be paid $200 an hour. Chicago claimed that an attorney more experienced in employment discrimination would have needed less time to do the work.
But Judge Shadur found that argument sheer speculation. “This litigation did not particularly call for special expertise in any arcane aspects of the law of employment discrimination – just good lawyering generally, including good trial skills,” Judge Shadur wrote. “O’Brien exhibited those qualities in abundance during the course of a lawsuit that this Court observed closely throughout its extended life. City’s counsel has provided nothing in the way of evidence of any inefficiencies or wasted efforts -for example, no opinion evidence from anyone skilled in the field asserting that less time would have had to be expended by someone coming into the litigation armed with prior employment law experience, nor even a statement of the time expended by defense counsel.
“Moreover, what City has ignored entirely in its niggardly approach to the matter is the host of cases cited in O’Brien’s submission in which the approved fee awards were far greater in relation to the results obtained than O’Brien’s petition reflects -indeed, often the lawyers have received far more than the clients.”