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American Lawyer Media News Service Philadelphia-Finding that attorney Brian Puricelli’s courtroom work was “smooth” and “artful” in securing a $430,000 verdict in a civil rights suit, but that his written work was “careless” and laden with typographical errors, a federal magistrate judge has ruled that his court-awarded fees should be paid at two rates-$300 per hour for the courtroom work but $150 per hour for the pleadings. “Mr. Puricelli’s complete lack of care in his written product shows disrespect for the court,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacob P. Hart wrote. “His errors, not just typographical, caused the court a considerable amount of work. Hence, a substantial reduction is in order. We believe that $150 per hour is, in fact, generous.” Devore v. City of Philadelphia, 2004 U.S. Dist. Lexis 2569 (E.D. Pa.). In the suit, plaintiff John Devore, a former Philadelphia police officer, claimed that he was harassed and ultimately fired in retaliation for reporting that his partner had stolen a cellular phone. ‘Nearly unintelligible’ Hart said he recognized that the case was complicated, but said he found some of Puricelli’s writing in the amended complaint to be “nearly unintelligible.” When defense lawyers complained that the typographical errors in Puricelli’s work were “epidemic,” Puricelli’s response included several more typos, Hart said. The judge quoted a paragraph from Puricelli’s response, adding “[sic]” after each typo. Puricelli wrote: “As for there being typos, yes there have been typos, but these errors have not detracted from the arguments or results, and the rule in this case was a victory for Mr. Devore. Further, had the Defendants not tired [sic] to paper Plaintiff’s counsel to death, some type [sic] would not have occurred. Furthermore, there have been omissions by the Defendants, thus they should not case [sic] stones.” Hart seemed almost amused. “If these mistakes were purposeful, they would be brilliant,” Hart wrote. “However, based on the history of the case and Mr. Puricelli’s filings, we know otherwise.” In his most recent letter to the court, Hart noted, Puricelli misspelled the judge’s name, referring to him as the “Honorable Jacon [sic] Hart.” “I appreciate the elevation to what sounds like a character in The Lord of the Rings,” Hart wrote, “but alas, I am but a judge.” But Hart said he was impressed by Puricelli’s work in the courtroom. “As for the time Mr. Puricelli spent in court, considering the quality of his written work, the court was impressed with the transformation. Mr. Puricelli was well prepared, his witnesses were prepped, and his case proceeded quite artfully and smoothly,” Hart wrote. As a result, Hart decided to reduce Puricelli’s hourly rate in his fee award, but only for his written work. After trimming 32 hours from the fee petition, Hart awarded Puricelli more than $172,000 in fees for 209 hours at $150 per hour and 470 hours at $300 per hour. Puricelli, contacted after the opinions were handed down, said he “did not intend to insult the court,” but that he was also pleased that Hart “praised my in-court trial work.” Hart also awarded nearly $20,000 in fees to Puricelli’s co-counsel, attorney Andrew F. Erba of Cherry Hill, N.J.’s Williams Cuker & Berezofsky, for 56.8 hours at a rate of $350 per hour.

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