Court Cuts Winston & Strawn Fee Request in Pro Bono Matter

, New York Law Journal

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Winston & Strawn's nearly $20,000 fee request in a pro bono case where New York City was sanctioned for discovery delays was chopped to $3,600 when a Southern District magistrate judge found the firm provided few details about the attorneys' experience and billed for too many attorneys and hours.

"The simplicity and brevity" of Winston's discovery briefing, Magistrate Judge Kevin Fox (See Profile) said in Alli v. Steward-Bowden, 11-cv-4952, "did not warrant the involvement of multiple attorneys or the expenditure of the number of hours claimed."

Winston represented a former prisoner, Umar Alli, who brought a civil rights suit against correction officers and the city of New York.

Alli claimed he was attacked by officers on Rikers Island in 2011, denied proper care, confined to heinous conditions, and suffered physical and psychological pain. He was a minor at the time of arrest, and a detainee awaiting trial and sentencing at the time of the incident, said Jennifer Stewart, a Winston associate.

Alli originally filed suit pro se, but under a Southern District program, the court referred him to Winston & Strawn, Stewart said.

In July, the Winston & Strawn team sought to depose a city representative.

The city objected, contending Alli hadn’t stated a plausible claim. Alli’s attorneys said the city’s “outright refusal” to designate a witness was baseless and prejudiced their ability to conduct discovery. In moving for sanctions in August, the firm sought attorney fees and costs related to its motion to compel testimony.

The city and prison officials moved for a protective order staying any deposition of the city until another discovery matter was resolved.

In an Oct. 1 decision, Fox found the city failed to comply with court rules because it did not designate a witness as it was required to do. Fox found Alli was entitled to recover reasonable expenses incurred with the motion to compel.

In October, Bianca Forde, then a Winston associate, filed a fee application seeking $19,810 for 33 hours of work.

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