N.Y. Times Co. v. CIA, No. 16-3098, 2017 WL 1573234 (S.D.N.Y. May 1, 2017) (Rakoff, J.)
Re: Request for three reports concerning chemical weapons in Iraq
Disposition: Granting plaintiff's motion for attorney fees; awarding plaintiff $51,909.86
- Attorney Fees, Entitlement: The court "finds that [plaintiff] is entitled to fees." First, the court relates that "the CIA concedes that [plaintiff] is eligible for fees[.]" The court then finds that "[t]he first factor, public benefit, unambiguously favors [plaintiff]." "The public greatly benefits from learning what the Government knew about chemical weapons in Iraq following the invasion; after all, the existence velnon of such weapons was one of the principal flashpoints in the public debate over the war." "The second and third factors (the plaintiff's commercial benefit and the nature of the plaintiff's interest in the records) . . . also favor [plaintiff]." The court explains that "[plaintiff's] interest in the records it sought was public-minded and journalistic, not narrowly focused on the bottom line." Regarding the fourth factor, the court finds that "[w]hile [plaintiff] may well be right that it would have prevailed on summary judgment, the Court need not reach that question here, because it disagrees with the CIA's premise that if it prevails on the fourth factor, that automatically outweighs the other three factors." "While this arguably is the position of the D.C. Circuit, there is no Second Circuit decision adopting it, and, indeed, such an approach would appear to be in some tension with the Second Circuit's characterization of the entitlement inquiry as 'weight[ing]' the 'four criteria.'" The court finds that "even assuming arguendo that the CIA would prevail on the fourth factor, [plaintiff] is still entitled to attorney's fees, for the other three factors cut so strongly in [plaintiff's] favor as to outweigh the fourth factor – a factor that in this case would be at best a close call."
- Attorney Fees, Calculations: The court awards plaintiff $51,909.86. First, the court addresses defendant's argument "that, because [plaintiff] supposedly first obtained these documents outside the litigation, its success in obtaining them a second time, this time with the CIA's imprimatur, is a lesser victory" and finds that "[t]his argument is meritless." The court also finds that the time plaintiff spent "reviewing the CIA's production . . . is eminently reasonable." The court finally finds that time "relat[ing] to drafting the complaint . . . is reasonable [to include]." However, "[t]he Court agrees that a modest reduction is warranted." "While [plaintiff's] argument on summary judgment was . . . fact- and time-intensive, [plaintiff] need not have had attorneys perform all such tasks in the first instance, and could also have been more efficient with its time." Also, "[t]he Court agrees that [plaintiff's] application for fees on fees is excessive, and will reduce [plaintiff's] requested fee award[.]"