United States District Court, D. New Jersey
TAMMY MARIE HAAS and CONRAD SZCZPANIAK, individually and on behalf of a class of similarly situated individuals, Plaintiffs,
BURLINGTON COUNTY, et al., Defendants.
D. POPLAR CARL D. POPLAR, P.A. WILLIAM A. RIBACK WILLIAM
RIBACK, LLC DAVID J. NOVACK BUDD LARNER, PC Attorneys for
Plaintiffs Tammy Marie Haas and Conrad Szczpaniak,
individually and on behalf of a class of similarly situated
H.C. CROOK APEHART & SCATCHARD, P.A. Attorneys for
Defendants Burlington County, Burlington County Correctional
Facility, and Ronald Cox.
L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
Court writes primarily for the parties, who are undoubtedly
familiar with the facts and procedural history of this
ten-plus-year-old case, the Court sets forth only those facts
necessary to deciding the present motions before it.
Court is called upon to resolve three motions, all relating
to how the attorneys’ fees and costs previously
approved by this Court will be apportioned amongst Class
Counsel. After Class Counsel could not agree upon
how to divide the fee awarded, they submitted dueling fee
applications asking the Court to decide the issue for them.
(Docket Nos. 364 and 366). This Court referred those motions
to Magistrate Judge Joel Schneider for issuance of a report
and recommendation on the appropriate division of fees
amongst counsel (the “Report and Recommendation”
or “R&R”). (Docket No. 441). Attorney Carl D.
Poplar has lodged objections to the Report and
Recommendation, which the Court now addresses. (Docket No.
long-standing class action, Plaintiffs allege that their
constitutional rights were violated when they were strip
searched at the Burlington County Jail in or around 2006 and
2008. After this Court granted class certification, the
parties resolved this matter by way of settlement, which the
Court approved on January 31, 2019. (Docket No. 356; Docket
addition to the $1, 475, 000 settlement fund established as
part of the global resolution, Defendants agreed to pay $900,
000 in attorneys’ fees and an additional $25, 000 in
costs. Thereafter, pursuant to Rule 23(h) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure, Class Counsel applied to the Court
for an award of attorneys’ fees and costs. In rendering
final approval of the settlement, this Court analyzed Class
Counsel’s fee application and determined that an award
of $925, 000, inclusive of fees and costs, was reasonable
under the circumstances. (Docket No. 382 at 21-25).
at the urging of the Court, the parties entered into
negotiations about how they would share the fee award. Due to
disagreements regarding allocation, Magistrate Judge
Schneider mediated with the parties in an effort to
facilitate a resolution. Despite Magistrate Judge
Schneider’s efforts, counsel could not reach an
3, 2019, Magistrate Judge Schneider issued a non-binding,
comprehensive report recommending to the parties an
allocation for the $925, 000 in attorneys’ fees and
costs. (Docket No. 395). After meticulously explaining the
basis for his recommendation, Magistrate Judge Schneider
recommended the Poplar Group receive 82.5% of the $900, 000
fee ($742, 500) plus $20, 068 in costs, while the Novack
Group receive 17.5% of the fee ($157, 500) plus $4, 931.20 in
costs. (Docket No. 395 at 22).
the benefit of Judge Schneider’s written analysis, on
May 15, 2019, this Court held a settlement conference in a
further attempt to resolve the disputes plaguing Class
Counsel. While progress was made towards a resolution, no
settlement was ever reached. (Docket No. 430).
it was clear the parties were unable to mediate or otherwise
resolve their disagreements, on August 27, 2019, this Court
ordered that the May 3, 2019 report be reissued as a report
and recommendation consistent with the Federal and Local
Civil Rules. (Docket No. 440). The formal Report and
Recommendation was filed by Judge Schneider on September 3,
2019. (Docket No. 441).
September 17, 2019, Mr. Poplar filed objections to the Report
and Recommendation. No. other objections have been lodged.
See (Docket No. 443).
Summary of Findings Contained in the Report ...