United States District Court Judge Rya Zobel in Chestnut v. Ciavola and The City of Lowell

Partial opinion of United States District Court Judge Rya Zobel in Chestnut v. Ciavola and The City of Lowell. June 25, 2001. Attorney Dan Sharp won the case and requested attorney’s fees under 42 USC Section 1983. The City of Lowell opposed the motion. Here is what Judge Zobel had to say:

“Although he has been a member of the Bar for 15 years and has worked in the law all these years, plaintiff’s counsel, Mr. Sharp, has been in practice representing clients for only about ten years. Therefore, [the City] suggests,[Sharp] should bill at a lower rate than reflected in the plaintiff’s papers. I do not agree. First, ten years represents more than adequate experience. Second, during this period counsel focused on civil rights and police misconduct cases and thus developed a special expertise.
Third, counsel showed himself to be well prepared on the law and the facts, skillful in presenting the case to the jury, and totally professional in managing this case which was complicated by the number of defendants, by difficulties encountered in the discovery process, and by defenses most vigorously pursued.”

Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Fahey

Here is what Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Fahey had to say about a case in which Dan Sharp and Elaine Sharp worked together to win important state services for a mentally retarded man.

“As a direct result of this lawsuit, [the plaintiff] has been participating in a day program at BCTS and has for now been provided with a private room and approximately 25 hours a week of one-on-one care.
DMR never would have agreed to provide, and [plaintiff] would never have received, either the private room or the one-on-one care ultimately obtained had it not been for this litigation [by Whitfield Sharp & Sharp].
I find that these changes have vastly improved the quality of plaintiff’s life compared to what it was when this lawsuit
was filed in 1995, plaintiff having been allowed by [the state] to languish in 1995 at Massachusetts General Hospital for over six months.”