A federal judge has cut by 70 percent the billable hours Rochester attorneys sought in a Fair Labor Standards Act class action, finding that the matter which was resolved for $225,000 cannot justify attorney fees and expenses of $1.7 million. Western District Judge Michael Telesca (See Profile) said in Mendez v. The Radec Corporation, 03-cv-6342, dragged on for seven years in large part because the plaintiffs demanded substantial attorney fees in any settlement.

Records show that the plaintiffs rejected settlement offers of $400,000 and $600,000, inclusive of attorney fees, and accepted the $225,000 after the fee issue was separated from settlement. Telesca said the case could have been settled much sooner but was prolonged largely because of the dispute over attorney fees, generating substantial legal expenses for both plaintiffs and defendants.

He said the 7,011 hours claimed by plaintiff’s attorney’s, the Rochester firm of Thomas & Solomon, a boutique firm specializing in Fair Labor Standards Act cases, was unreasonable and approved only 2,100 hours, a 70 percent reduction. Telesca also found the requested rate, which averaged $230 for partners, attorneys with various amounts of experience, paralegals and contract law students, was excessive and the $108,863 cost claim unreasonable. He awarded $420,000 in attorney fees and $53,793 in costs, for a total of $473,793.

In opposition to the plaintiffs’ fee request, the defendants’ attorney at Harter Secrest & Emery said the case was defended for $564,577 in fees for 4,149 billable hours, and about $18,900 in expenses.