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fee award litigation

TPM litigates issues arising under fee-shifting statutes to ensure that attorneys are compensated at market rates

As one of the oldest public interest law firms in the country, TPM is unique in that it brings most of its cases under civil rights and environmental statutes that require defendants to pay attorneys’ fees and expenses if the plaintiff prevails.  This way, our firm has been able to represent individuals and groups who could not otherwise afford high-quality legal services.  We have therefore litigated attorneys’ fees issues for decades.

Three hourly rate matrices are often addressed in fee-shifting litigation in the District of Columbia.  They are the United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) Laffey Matrix, the Legal Services Index (LSI) Laffey Matrix, and a matrix developed in 2015 by the USAO (the USAO-ALM Matrix) that is based on an ALM survey rather than on the matrix developed in Laffey v. Northwest Airlines, 571 F. Supp. 354 (D.D.C. 1983), affirmed in part and reversed in part on other grounds, 746 F.2d 4 (D.C. Cir. 1984), overruled in part on other grounds, Save Our Cumberland Mountains v. Hodel, 857 F.2d 1516, 1525 (D.C. Cir. 1988)(en banc).  Our firm has been a leading advocate in the effort to ensure that successful plaintiffs’ attorneys in complex federal litigation in the District of Columbia are compensated at rates that reflect the prevailing market for complex federal litigation in the District of Columbia, which we believe is best measured by the LSI Laffey Matrix.

In Salazar v. District of Columbia, a case that TPM litigated, the D.C. Circuit affirmed a fee award based on the LSI Laffey Matrix.  There, the Circuit affirmed the district court’s finding that the LSI Laffey Matrix “is probably a conservative estimate of the actual cost of legal services in this area.”’  809 F.3d 58, 65 (D.C. Cir. 2015).  The evidence of market rates that TPM submitted in Salazar was critical to that outcome.  TPM also represents the plaintiffs in DL v. District of Columbia, who just prevailed on an appeal to the D.C. Circuit (Case No. 18-7004) related to a similar issue. In DL, the Circuit rejected the USAO-ALM Matrix as not presenting market rates for complex federal litigation in D.C. and remanded for further proceedings.

Many organizations effectively litigate their cases and then lack the time, money, or expertise to effectively litigate fee applications.  Numerous arguments (e.g., your firm is too small to be awarded such rates, the rates sought are too high, the evidence is not sufficient to support the rates) regularly arise in fee litigation.  Our firm is available to assist you with gathering the necessary evidence and preparing the necessary arguments to address such points, or by litigating your fee application for you.  Contact Todd Gluckman at 202-204-8482 or to discuss this.


Related Documents

Original Laffey Matrix

1989 Laffey Matrix (updated matrix following Save Our Cumberland Mountains v. Hodel, 857 F.2d 1516 (D.C. Cir. 1988)(en banc))

LSI Laffey Matrix (1989 Laffey Matrix adjusted annually using the LSI)

USAO-ALM Matrix base data with United States’ confirmation of base data, and declaration explaining that the base ALM data is “actual average billing rates of attorneys in the Washington, DC area, from law offices of all sizes and types”

Salazar v. District of Columbia, 809 F.3d 58 (D.C. Cir. 2015) 

DL v. District of Columbia, Appeal No. 18-7004 (D.C. Cir. May 21, 2019)