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FDNY hiring case judge sets attorneys fees

Brooklyn U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis Friday awarded $3.5 million in attorneys fees to the Vulcan Society lawyers who litigated the landmark hiring discrimination case against the FDNY.

The award was less than half of the $7.7 million sought by lawyers for the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Manhattan law firm Levy Ratner for more than 14,000 hours worked since 2007 to win new hiring tests, retroactive pay for minorities discriminated against under previous tests, and a court monitor.

New York City called that request unreasonable. Garaufis cut the lawyers' hourly rates and chopped 25 percent for time spent litigating an unsuccessful claim that the city intentionally discriminated.

But he said the $3.5 million -- which city taxpayers will have to pay -- reflected "extraordinary effort that was necessary to effect change of the magnitude and importance involved in this litigation."

In comparison, the law firm of Mark Cohen -- the monitor Garaufis picked to help oversee anti-discrimination reforms at the FDNY -- has gotten $2.3 million for 19 months of work.

Garaufis has ordered the city to pay Cohen an hourly rate of $650, $100 more than the $550 he approved for lead plaintiffs' lawyer Richard Levy. He approved $100 to $225 an hour for work by Cohen's paralegals, but awarded only $90 for the plaintiffs' paralegals.

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