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A federal judge has awarded more than $410,000 in attorney fees to a team of lawyers from Flaster Greenberg and the Women’s Law Project who successfully sued Slippery Rock University to block the state college from eliminating two women’s varsity teams � swimming and water polo. In the suit, Choike v. Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, women athletes complained that Slippery Rock had violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal law that says a college’s sports program must provide “equal athletic opportunity” for members of both sexes. Chief U.S. District Judge Donetta W. Ambrose agreed and issued an injunction in July 2006, saying the evidence “unequivocally establishes” that Slippery Rock “has never satisfied the substantial proportionality test since the inception of Title IX more than 25 years ago.” The case settled in April 2007 when Slippery Rock officials signed on to a comprehensive package of changes designed to bring the university into compliance with Title IX. In the settlement, Slippery Rock agreed to create a $300,000 fund to be spent over three years on women’s athletics; to make “substantial” improvements to the women’s softball field; and to build new women’s locker rooms. It also promised to establish equitable provision of and compensation for coaches of women’s teams and new policies establishing gender-equitable treatment of travel, equipment, publicity, trainers and uniforms, according to a press release by the plaintiffs. But the settlement left open the issue of attorney fees and costs. In their fee petition, the winning lawyers asked for more than $485,000 in fees and nearly $11,000 in costs. Now Ambrose has handed down a 44-page opinion that significantly trimmed some of the requested fees and costs, awarding about $410,000 in attorney fees and $6,700 in costs. But Ambrose refused to reduce the hourly rates for any of the lawyers. Lead attorney Abbe F. Fletman of Flaster Greenberg was awarded $385 per hour and Terry L. Fromson of the Women’s Law Project was awarded $350. The rates approved for Flaster Greenberg attorneys Lizanne Hackett, Tara Parvey, Rachel Wolfe and Julie Assis ranged from $175 to $245; and the rates for Women’s Law Project attorneys Susan J. Frietsche, David Cohen and Amal Bass ranged from $130 to $275. But turning to the number of hours the lawyers logged in their fee petition, Ambrose agreed with Slippery Rock’s lawyers that some of the hours were excessive. “Plaintiffs overstaffed this case,” Ambrose wrote. “That they obtained excellent results is unquestionable. Nevertheless, at every appearance in my courtroom as well as at each mediation, at least three attorneys attended where surely one would have sufficed.” Ambrose said that the plaintiffs’ team was seeking high hourly rates, particularly for Fletman and Fromson, and that lawyers who command such rates “can fairly be expected to handle complex litigation without the aid, in court (or in mediations, conferences or the like), of several other attorneys.” For the drafting of the original complaint, the plaintiffs’ team billed more than 46 hours of attorney time by five lawyers. Ambrose found the drafting time “appears excessive” and ruled that only the 29 hours billed by Frietsche was valid. The fee petition also included charges of more than $26,000 for 81 hours logged by Fletman and Frietsche for depositions. But Ambrose said “two attorneys billing for the same depositions is redundant,” and cut 30 hours logged by Frietsche at $275 per hour. “When being compensated at $385 per hour, I think it fair to expect Abbe Fletman to have a full command of the facts and exhibits, without the help of Susan Frietsche,” Ambrose wrote. Ambrose refused to cut any of the 215 hours logged by four of the lawyers in preparation for the injunction hearing, rejecting Slippery Rock’s argument that 50 hours would have been sufficient. But Ambrose found that the presence of Fromson and Hackett at the hearing was “unnecessary and redundant.” “Neither attorney questioned witnesses or presented argument to the court. Those matters were handled on behalf of plaintiffs by Abbe Fletman and Susan Frietsche. Again, the necessary corollary to commanding a high hourly rate is the expectation that counsel can handle a number of complicated tasks on her own,” Ambrose wrote. Ambrose also found that the nine-attorney plaintiffs’ team had billed excessively for “conferencing” with each other on the case. “I agree that conferences and meetings do serve a purpose when multiple attorneys work on the same case. I also, however, agree with SRU’s argument � that it should not be billed for four attorneys participating in the same conference,” Ambrose wrote. As a result, Ambrose ruled that “on those occasions where multiple attorneys billed for the same conference or meeting, I will compensate plaintiffs only at the highest hourly rate of the attorney participating in that conference or meeting. All other billed time will be eliminated.” Ambrose also found that the 182 hours logged by the winning lawyers for drafting their fee petition was excessive because it was a “largely ministerial” task. Fletman had billed 18 hours on the petition, but Ambrose found that Fletman’s role “should have been one strictly of review,” and reduced it to three hours. After all the trimming was done, Ambrose awarded fees for 389 hours by Fletman; 300 hours by Fromson; 203 hours by Hackett; 188 hours by Frietsche; 129 hours by Parvey; 117 hours by Bass; 24 hours by Cohen; seven hours by Assis; and one hour by Wolfe. (Copies of the 44-page opinion in Choike v. Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania , PICS No. 07-1658, are available from The Legal Intelligencer . Please call the Pennsylvania Instant Case Service at 800-276-PICS to order or for information. Some cases are not available until 1 p.m.) •

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