United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
NANNETTE JOLIVETTE BROWN, District Judge.
Before the Court is Defendant Sea Mar Management LLC's ("SMM") "Motion for an Award of Attorney's Fees for Attorney's Fees Incurred in the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, " wherein SMM seeks $72, 922.00 in appellate attorneys' fees. After considering the motion, the memoranda in support and in opposition, the record, and the applicable law, the Court will deny the motion.
This matter came before the Court for trial on the merits without a jury on July 30, 2012 through August 3, 2012. On June 24, 2013, the Court entered its Judgment and Reasons, wherein it found that ATEL had failed to carry its burden of proof on each of its causes of action against each defendant. Also on June 24, 2013, the Court entered a Judgement dismissing all of ATEL's claims with prejudice. The Judgment did not award attorneys' fees to SMM.
On July 24, 2013, SMM filed a "Motion for Award of Attorney's Fees, " wherein it sought $702, 316.96 in attorneys' fees, expenses, and court costs incurred during litigation before the district court. SMM additionally filed a "Motion for Leave to File Supplement to Defendants' Motion for Award of Attorney's Fees, " wherein it alleged that the Court's failure to award attorneys' fees to SMM in the June 24, 2013 Judgment was a clerical error or omission such that the Judgment was subject to amendment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(a). On October 11, 2013, SMM filed a "Motion to Deem Previously Filed motion for Award of Attorney's Fees Timely Filed." On January 22, 2014, the Court denied all of these motions because SMM's "Motion for Award of Attorney's Fees" was not timely filed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d).
On July 23, 2013, ATEL filed a Notice of Appeal from this Court's June 24, 2013 Judgment. On June 6, 2014, the Fifth Circuit issued an Order affirming this Court's judgment on the merits and stating that "IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiffs-appellants pay to defendants-appellees the costs on appeal to be taxed by the Clerk of this Court." The Fifth Circuit did not remand any aspect of the case to this Court.
SMM filed the pending "Motion for an Award of Attorney's Fees for Attorney's Fees Incurred in the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals" on June 19, 2014. ATEL filed a memorandum in opposition on July 1, 2014.
II. Parties' Arguments
A. SMM's Arguments in Support
SMM contends that it "prevailed in the appeal filed by ATEL for ATEL's claims against [SMM] arising from the MBCA. Therefore, Defendant, Sea Mar Management, LLC is entitled to its reasonable attorney's fees, expenses and court costs for defending the appeal." Specifically, SMM contends that it is entitled to $72, 922.00 pursuant to Article 19 of the MBCA. To determine reasonable attorney's fees, according to SMM, the Court must first calculate the "lodestar, " and will then consider the applicability and weight of the twelve factors enumerated under Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc .  As evidence of the lodestar, SMM submits a chart identifying attorneys Thomas J. Smith, Amanda Kurz Smith, and Brandon Wentworth, as well as unnamed paralegals and legal clerks, along with the hours billed by each and reasonable hourly rates, for the work performed after the Notice of Appeal was filed in this case. This evidence, according to SMM, represents approximately one year of work.
SMM additionally submits the sworn affidavit of Thomas J. Smith, a director in the law firm of Galloway, Johnson, Tompkins, Burr & Smith, wherein he attests that the hourly rates used in the lodestar calculation are comparable to and within the range of the prevailing market rates in the New Orleans legal market for similar maritime litigation services. Smith additionally attests that he reviewed the time entries of the attorneys, paralegals, and law clerks, and submits that the work performed was reasonable and necessary to defend the appeal filed by ATEL.
Finally, SMM proffers the sworn affidavit of Norman C. Sullivan, Jr., Senior Partner at the law firm Fowler, Rodriguez, Valdes-Fauli, wherein he attests that his current hourly billable rate is $350.00, and that this rate is well within the range of prevailing market rates in the New Orleans legal market for similar maritime litigation services provided by attorneys of reasonably comparable skills, experience, and reputation. Sullivan states that the hourly rates charged by SMM's counsel is comparable to the hourly rates charged by ATEL's counsel.
B. ATEL's Arguments in Opposition
In opposition, ATEL first contends that SMM's motion is precluded by res judicata because the Court has already determined that SMM is not entitled to attorney's fees as a result of its failure to timely file its Rule 54(d) motion for attorney's fees. ATEL contends that the pending motion meets all four requirements of res judicata because, according to ATEL, (1) the same parties are involved; (2) there was a prior judgment entered on the merits of the claim; (3) there was a prior final judgment entered on the merits of the claim; and (4) the same claim or cause of action was involved in both ...