Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Interfaith Community Organization v. Honeywell International Inc

Jul 8: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, Case Nos. 11-3813 and 11-3814. Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. The case involves attorney's fees and the Appeals Court reminds that, "A request for attorney's fees should not result in a second major litigation" citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 437 (1983). They say, "Regrettably, requests for attorneys' fees in this protracted environmental clean-up case have resulted not only in a second major litigation, but a third as well. An earlier multi-million dollar fee award previously brought before us was vacated and remanded for additional review by the District Court. Interfaith Cmty. Org. v. Honeywell Int'l, Inc. (ICO II), 426 F.3d 694 (3d Cir. 2005). We are now confronted with a challenge to another multi-million dollar award."
    The Appeals Court says, "This latest appeal calls upon us to decide whether offers of judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 68 may be made in the context of attorney's fee disputes under the fee-shifting provisions of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 6901, et seq. We are also called upon once again to determine whether the fee award is excessive. Because we conclude that Rule 68 offers of judgment may be made in this context, we will reverse the District Court's declaration that the offers of judgment in this case are null and void as well as its decision to bar any further offers of judgment. And, while we uphold as not clearly erroneous the District Court's decisions with respect to the appropriate hourly rates in this case, we are unable to sustain its conclusions with respect to the number of hours claimed by counsel because the District Court's findings lack sufficient explanation. Accordingly, we will vacate the fee award and remand for further proceedings."
    The Appeals Court concludes, ". . .we will reverse the District Court's ruling that Rule 68 offers of judgment are inapplicable in the context of environmental citizen suits brought under RCRA, direct that the previously made offers of judgment be reinstated, affirm the District Court's departure from the forum-rate rule because review of this issue is barred by collateral estoppel, affirm the District Court's application of the LSI-updated Laffey Matrix, vacate the District Court's fee award, and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."
    Access the complete opinion (click here). [#Haz, #CA3]
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