Another reason to be a good writer:

From Devore v. City of Philadelphia, Civ. No. 00-3598 (Feb. 20, 2004), where a magistrate reduced part of the fees to which a lawyer would have been entitled:

The Defendants vehemently take exception to Mr. Puricelli’s fee of $300 per hour. . . . Mr. Puricelli’s written work is careless, to the point of disrespectful. The Defendants have described it as “vague, ambiguous, unintelligible, verbose and repetitive.” We agree. Although the Defendants have taken issue with some of the typographical errors present in Mr. Puricelli’s filings, the problems with his pleadings have gone beyond typos.

At the outset, the court ordered the Plaintiff to file an amended complaint because paragraphs and pages were missing from that filed with the court and sent to defense counsel. Moreover, although we recognize the complicated nature of this case, lying at the crossroads of [sec.] 1983 and Title VII, some of the Amended Complaint was nearly unintelligible. In ruling on the Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint, the Honorable Stewart Dalzell, to whom the case was assigned prior to its referral to the undersigned, noted that the court was “puzzled” by some of the Plaintiff’s arguments in opposition to the motion to dismiss and found others “odd.” Mr. Puricelli’s lack of care caused the court, and I am sure, defense counsel, to expend an inordinate amount of time deciphering the arguments and responding, accordingly.

As previously mentioned, Mr. Puricelli’s filings are replete with typographical errors and we would be remiss if we did not point out some of our favorites. Throughout the litigation, Mr. Puricelli identified the court as “THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTER [sic] DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA.” Considering the religious persuasion of the presiding officer, the “Passover” District would have been more appropriate. However, we took no personal offense at the reference. In response to the attorneys’ fees petition, the Defendants note that the typographical errors in Mr. Puricelli’s written work are epidemic. In response to this attack, Mr. Puricelli writes the following:

As for there being typos, yes there have been typos, but these errors have not detracted from the arguments or results, and the rule in this case was a victory for Mr. Devore. Further, had the Defendants not tired [sic] to paper Plaintiff’s counsel to death, some type [sic] would not have occurred. Furthermore, there have been omissions by the Defendants, thus they should not case [sic] stones.

If these mistakes were purposeful, they would be brilliant. However, based on the history of the case and Mr. Puricelli’s filings, we know otherwise. Finally, in the most recent letter to the court, asking that we vacate the settlement agreement, Mr. Puricelli identifies the undersigned as “Honorable Jacon [sic] Hart.” I appreciate the elevation to what sounds like a character in the Lord of the Rings, but alas, I am but a judge.

In his reply to the Defendants’ response to the petition for attorneys’ fees, Plaintiff’s counsel argues that his typographical errors require no more than a $20 per hour reduction. We disagree. As we previously stated, Mr. Puricelli’s complete lack of care in his written product shows disrespect for the court. His errors, not just typographical, caused the court a considerable amount of work. Hence, a substantial reduction is in order. We believe that $150 per hour is, in fact, generous.

As for the time Mr. Puricelli spent in court, considering the quality of his written work, the court was impressed with the transformation. Mr. Puricelli was well prepared, his witnesses were prepped, and his case proceeded quite artfully and smoothly. Although Mr. Puricelli fails to state what hourly rate he customarily charges, the statements that he provides in support of his fee do support such a rate. In our experience, $300 – $350 is on the high side of the customary rate, however considering the complexity of this case, we believe $300 is justified for the work that Mr. Puricelli did in court.

Thanks to reader Michael Cernovich for the pointer.

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