NEW YORK, April 5 (Reuters) - New York City is fighting a
bill submitted by the lawyer overseeing the implementation of a
court-ordered plan to end discriminatory hiring practices at the
New York City Fire Department.
In a motion filed this week with U.S. District Judge
Nicholas Garaufis, the city called Mark Cohen's $310,758 fee
request "astounding" and "excessive."
Cohen of Cohen & Gresser was appointed as court monitor by
Garaufis in November to keep tabs on the city as it overhauls
hiring and recruitment procedures at the FDNY.
The appointment followed prior court rulings that found the
existing procedures d isadvantaged black and Hispanic applicants.
Garaufis approved Cohen's request for $310,758 in fees on
But on Tuesday, the city said the court should make Cohen
post a bond in case it succeeds in clawing back part of the
award on appeal. In the alternative, the city asked Garaufis to
issue an order staying the award while it pursues an appeal.
The city also is seeking to review the hourly billing
statements submitted by Cohen and his team, which had been
reviewed in camera by the court and sealed.
In its filing, the city noted that the fees requested for 52
days by Cohen and his four-attorney team amounted to $5,863 per
day. Even though Cohen was appointed by the court, the city will
ultimately foot his bill, according to the filing.
"Early on, defendants voiced concerns that the monitor's
proposed team was staffed in a manner that would generate
excessive costs through, among other things, inefficiencies and
duplication of effort," the city wrote. "These concerns seem to
have been prescient."
In his March 23 order, Garaufis defended his decision to
seal Cohen's billing statements. Cohen is the court's employee,
not the city's, and his work may entail confidential matters,
"(T)he court has reviewed the hourly billing record that
supports the statement and finds that the fees and expenses are
reasonable and regular," Garaufis wrote. He praised Cohen for
his "extraordinary work" in the four-year old case, which has
produced a voluminous record of rulings and other documents.
The city has not yet appealed Cohen's fees, but indicated in
its m otion t hat it intends to challenge the reasonableness of
An appeal of Garaufis' October order mandating the FDNY
overhaul and creating the position of court-appointed monitor is
pending before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Cohen did not immediately return a request for comment
"Without seeing an itemized statement from the Monitor, we
cannot conclusively say whether a bill of over $310,000 for 52
days of work is appropriate," Corporation Counsel Michael
Cardozo said in a statement. "However, the amount of time
claimed, as well as the overall cost, appear excessive from a
The case is U.S. v. City of New York, in the U.S. District
Court for the Eastern District of New York, No. 07-2067.
For the United States: Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elliot
Schachner, Michael Goldberger and David Eskew for the U.S.
Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York; and Eric
Bachman, Sharon Seeley, Allan Townsend, Barbara Schwabauer,
Jennifer Swedish, Meredith Burrell and Varda Hussain of the U.S.
Department of Justice.
For the Vulcan Society: Richard Levy, Dana Lossia and Robert
Stroup of Levy Ratner; Anjana Samant and Darius Charney for the
Center for Constitutional Rights; and Judith Scolnick of Scott
For New York City: Assistant Corporation Counsel Georgia
Pestana, William Fraenkel, Edward Sample, James Lemonedes, Kami
Barker, Kathleen Comfrey, Patricia Miller and Vivien Ranada.
(Reporting by Jessica Dye)
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(Updates with comment from Cardozo)