Heighton v. Town of Milton, Doc. No. 219-2012-CV-408 (Strafford Super. Ct., January 22, 2013) (Tucker, J.)




Jim Heighton d/b/a Sterling Consulting


Town of Milton

No. 219-2012-cv-408


Plaintiff Jim Heighton requests attorney's fees following his partially successful petition for relief under the state Right to Know law (RSA 91-A). For the reasons that follow, I award him attorney's fees in the amount of $4,237.50.

Heighton claimed four violations of the statute and prevailed on two of them. Even though I said in the final order that Heighton proved only one of his claims, and that I would allow fees that pertained to the one violation, he notes correctly in his motion for attorney's fees that I actually found he proved two violations of the statute. See Request for Fees, ¶ 5, n. 1.

Counsel for Heighton charged $300 per hour for his time and the reasonableness of that hourly rate is not disputed. His total fee was $8,040.00, but Heighton contends there was overlap among the issues and that the incomplete result should cause a reduction of no more than approximately 25%, yielding him fees of $6,000.00. Based on my mistaken finding that Heighton was victorious on only one claim, the Town says the fee should be 25% of what was incurred through the final hearing. This calculation translates to fees totaling $1,140.00.

[2] I adopt the Town's formula in part. Since Heighton was successful in two of his four claims, the starting point is to award 50% of the fees incurred through the date of the final hearing, or $2280.00. See Schwartz v. Secretary of Health & Human Svcs., 73 F.3d 895, 904-05 (9th Cir. 1995) (awarding fees based on percentage of success). To this number I add fees for time spent drafting proposed findings and rulings, reviewing the final order, and preparing the request for attorney's fees. These additional fees total $1,957.50 and are calculated as follows:

Date Activity Fee Charged Fee Allowed
09/25/12 Post-hearing work $720.00 @ 50% = $360.00
09/26/12 Post-hearing work $450.00 @ 50% = $225.00
11/28/12 Review of court order $90.00 @ 50% = $45.00
Research on attorney's fees $90.00 $90.00
11/29/12 Conference with client;
Analysis of fee award
$450.00 @ 75%1 = $337.50
12/05/12 Email to client about
attorney's fees
$60.00 $60.00
12/06/12 Conf. with counsel for
Town about fees
$60.00 $60.00
12/07-20/12 Research on and preparation
of fee request
$1,110.00 $780.002
Total: $1957.50


The plaintiff is awarded his attorney's fees in the amount of $4,237.50.


Date: January 22, 2013    /s/   

Brian T. Tucker

Presiding Justice

1 Reduced by 25% to account for client conference.

2 Excludes time spent on further communications with client and in drafting bill of costs.