United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division
MEMORANDUM RULING AND ORDER
B. WHITEHURST UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
this Court is a Motion fo Attorneys' Fees filed by
Plaintiff, Eric Swanson. [Rec. Doc. 18]. In his Motion,
Plaintiff requests attorneys' fees to which he is
entitled in connection with the successful prosecution of
this lawsuit, including prevailing on his Motion for Default
Judgment. In its Final Default Judgment, R. 14, the
District Court determined that the plaintiff is entitled to
an award of reasonable attorneys' fees and costs. The
matter of the amount of attorneys' fees and cost was
referred to the undersigned on January 11, 2017 and was
scheduled for oral argument on this Court's March 15,
2017 motion calendar. R. 22, 23. The Court finds
that oral argument is not necessary.
to the District Court's order, Plaintiff's counsel,
J. Louis Gibbens, III, filed an affidavit of fees and costs
with his Motion. Plaintiff's counsel, Jason Emile
Fontenot, failed to file any such affidavit. On February 23,
2017, this Court ordered both attorneys to submit the proper
documentation by March 6, 2017. R. 24. Both counsel
complied with the Court's order. R. 28.
of the affidavits reveals that Plaintiff seeks a total award
of $12, 630.14 in attorneys' fees, representing 62.10
hours at a rate of $200.00 per hour, plus costs in the total
amount of $210.14.
Fifth Circuit, the “lodestar” method is used to
calculate reasonable attorney fees. In re Fender, 12
F.3d 480, 487 (5th Cir. 1994). Under the
“lodestar” analysis, a two-step procedure is
used. Louisiana Power & Light Company v.
Kellstrom, 50 F.3d 319, 324 (5th Cir. 1995).
The court determines the reasonable number of hours expended
on the litigation and the reasonable hourly rates for the
participating lawyers, Id., then multiplies the
reasonable hours by the reasonable hourly rates. The product
is the lodestar, which the district court then either accepts
or adjusts upward or downward, depending on the circumstances
of the case assessing twelve relevant factors. In re
Fender, 12 F.3d at 487. The twelve factors are: (1) the
time and labor involved; (2) the novelty and difficulty of
the questions; (3) the skill requisite to perform the legal
services properly; (4) the preclusion of other employment by
the attorneys due to this case; (5) the customary fee; (6)
whether the fee is fixed or contingent; (7) time limitations
imposed by the client or the circumstances; (8) the amount
involved and the results obtained; (9) the experience,
reputation, and ability of counsel; (10) the undesirability
of the case; (11) the nature and length of the professional
relationship with the client; and (12) awards in similar
Supreme Court has barred the use of the sixth factor -
whether the fee is fixed or contingent, Walker v. U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban Development, 99 F.3d
761, 771-72 (5th Cir. 1996), citing City of
Burlington v. Dague, 505 U.S. 557, 567 (1992) - and has
greatly limited the use of the second, third, eighth, and
ninth factors, holding that the novelty and complexity of the
issues, the special skill and experience of counsel, the
quality of representation, and the results obtained from the
litigation are presumably reflected in the lodestar amount,
and thus cannot serve as independent bases for increasing the
basic fee award. Pennsylvania v. Delaware Valley
Citizens' Council for Clean Air, 478 U.S. 546, 565
(1986). “[E]nhancements based upon these factors are
only appropriate in rare cases supported by specific evidence
in the record and detailed findings by the courts.”
Walker v. U.S., 99 F.3d at 771-72.
applicant bears the burden of proving the reasonableness of
the number of hours expended on its prevailing claim.
Leroy v. City of Houston, 906 F.2d 1068, 1079
(5th Cir. 1990). An applicant does not have the
right to bill for time on issues on which he did not prevail.
Walker v. U.S., 99 F.3d at 769. The applicant must
also submit adequately-documented time records to the court.
Watkins v. Fordice, 7 F.3d 453, 457 (5th
Cir. 1993). Using the time records as a benchmark, the court
should exclude all time that is excessive, duplicative, or
inadequately documented. Watkins v. Fordice, 7 F.3d
at 457. Hours that result from the case being overstaffed and
hours that, although actually expended, are excessive,
redundant, or otherwise unnecessary, should be excluded from
the calculation. Leroy v. City of Houston, 906 F.2d
at 1079. For example, the time of two or three attorneys in a
courtroom or conference when one would do may be discounted.
Finally, the court may reduce the fee award if the applicant
fails to meet its evidentiary burden. Johnson v. Georgia
Highway Express, 488 F.2d at 717.
case, the plaintiff seeks, $7, 300.00 (36.5 hours at $200 per
hour) for legal services performed by Mr. Gibbens and $5,
120.00 (25.6 hours at $200 per hour) for the legal services
performed by Mr. Fontenot. In support of the fee request, Mr.
Gibbens and Mr. Fontenot supplied the Court with a detailed
summary of the work they performed and the amounts charged,
adequate to determine reasonable hours. A district court may
reduce the number of hours awarded if the documentation is
vague or incomplete. Louisiana Power & Light Co. v.
Kellstrom, 50 F.3d at 324.
of the detailed billing summaries provided by Mr. Gibbens and
Mr. Fontenot leads the undersigned to conclude that the
requested hours for the work performed are not excessive. It
appears, however, that some of the work is duplicative. The
Court finds that 2.3 hours on each attorney's billing
statement reflects duplicative charges and both
attorney's hours were reduced to reflect the same amount
billed for the same service. Accordingly, the Court will
reduce each bill by 2.3 hours, i.e. Mr. Gibbons: 36.5 - 2.3 =
34.2 hours; Mr. Fontenot: 25.6 - 2.3 = 23.3 hours. In so
doing, the Court finds that the billing statement are
reasonable. Accordingly, the undersigned finds that 34.2
hours for Mr. Gibbens services and 23.3 for Mr.
Fontenot's services should be awarded.
reasonable hourly rates for the plaintiff's attorney must
be determined. Attorneys' fees are to be calculated at
the “prevailing market rates in the relevant
community.” Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. at 895.
A reasonable rate is the market rate. The “relevant
community” for the purpose of awarding attorney fees is
the judicial district in which the litigation occurred.
Conner v. Mid South Insurance Agency, Inc., 943
F.Supp. 663, 667 (W.D. La 1996) (citing Blum v.
Stenson, 465 U.S. at 894).
their affidavits, both counsel stated that their hourly
billing rate for this client is $200.00 per
hour. A billing rate of $200.00 per hour in a
maritime contract case has been previously approved by this
court. The undersigned finds the requested rate of $200.00
per hour for services performed by Mr. Gibbons and Mr.
Fontenot is reasonable.
light of the above, the undersigned recommends that the fees
be calculated as follows: J. Louis Gibbens: 34.2 hours at the
reasonable hourly rate of $200.00, for a total of $6840;
Jason E. Fontenot: 23.3 hours at ...