action for contribution or indemnification against Bermudez. That possibility does not affect their liability to these plaintiffs. The court will assess defendants Lucca and Errera $35.00 for each of five violations of the MSPA, or a total of $175.00, for each of the seventeen (17) plaintiffs. The total amount of liquidated damages under the MSPA is therefore $2,975.00.
B. Attorney's Fees and Costs
The FLSA provides that a successful plaintiff may recover from defendants a reasonable attorney's fee, plus costs. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Laurence E. Norton, II, plaintiffs' counsel, has petitioned for an award at a rate of $125.00 per hour for legal time and $65.00 per hour for travel time, as well as for $1,487.40 in costs.
Fee awards under the FLSA use the method set out in the Civil Rights Attorney Fees Awards Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1988. The Third Circuit uses, and the Supreme Court has implicitly endorsed, a "lodestar" approach for calculating fees. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 76 L. Ed. 2d 40, 103 S. Ct. 1933 (1983); Williams v. Tri-County Growers, Inc., supra, 747 F.2d at 138 n.38, 139-43.
Under the "lodestar" approach, the court multiplies the hours reasonably expended by counsel in representation on the case by the reasonable hourly rate for the attorney involved. See Lindy Bros. Builders, Inc. v. American Radiator, 540 F.2d 102 (3rd Cir. 1976); Merola v. Atlantic-Richfield Co., 515 F.2d 165 (3rd Cir. 1975).
Plaintiffs' counsel carries the burden of showing that the claimed rate and number of hours are reasonable. Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 104 S. Ct. 1541, 79 L. Ed. 2d 891 (1984). Neither the ultimate amount nor the method used are affected by the fact that plaintiffs' counsel is employed by a legal services office. Id. Mr. Norton, a staff attorney for Camden Regional Legal Services, Farmworker Division, has submitted a detailed affidavit of services.
A court may increase or decrease the "lodestar" under certain circumstances, but "where a plaintiff has obtained excellent results, his attorney should recover a fully compensatory fee." Hensley v. Eckerhart, supra, 461 U.S. at 435. In determining whether the results obtained are "excellent," the court may consider whether persons other than the named plaintiffs will benefit from the outcome. Id. at 438. In this case, it is clear to the court had the impact of its decision will reach far beyond the individual plaintiffs. As a result of this litigation, farmers in New Jersey who employ migrant and seasonal agricultural workers must redouble their efforts to comply with state and federal wage and hour laws, without necessarily relying on transient crew leaders to hire, pay and fire their workers. The net beneficiaries of this stepped-up compliance will be the workers themselves.
Plaintiffs' counsel seeks a fee of $125.00 an hour for 175.42 hours of legal work and $65.00 an hour for 27.17 hours of travel time. Plaintiffs' counsel submits affidavits from certain lawyers in the region to support his contention that such rates are reasonable. The court acknowledges that Mr. Norton has considerable experience in similar federal litigation across the country. He is well qualified and represented his clients capably, thoroughly and tirelessly throughout these proceedings. However, the court takes judicial notice of rates charged by lawyers in southern New Jersey, which range from $65 to over $150 an hour. The court believes that a fair rate to compensate Mr. Norton is $100 an hour for legal work and $50 an hour for travel time.
Consequently, the court will grant Mr. Norton's application for fees in the amount of $17,542.00 for legal time and $1,358.50 for travel time, for a total fee award of $18,900.50 plus costs in the amount of $1,487.40.
For the reasons expressed in this opinion, the court will assess damages against defendants Lucca and Errera under the following:
FLSA, 29 U.S.C.
§ 216(b) Actual damages $ 3,636.81
FLSA, 29 U.S.C. Liquidated damages 3,636.81
MSPA, 29 U.S.C. § 1854(c)
at $35 per violation
(5) per plaintiff (17)
$35 X 5 X 17 = 2,975.00
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