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Cameron v. Greater New Orleans Federal Credit Union

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

April 19, 2017

JAMES CAMERON
v.
GREATER NEW ORLEANS FEDERAL CREDIT UNION

         SECTION: “H” (4)

          ORDER

          KAREN WELLS ROBY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court is a Motion to Fix Attorneys' Fees (R. Doc. 38) filed by the Defendant, Greater New Orleans Credit Union, seeking an order from the Court to fix the attorneys' fees in the amount of $1, 682.50. The motion is opposed. R. Doc. 39. The motion was submitted on April 12, 2017.

         I. Background

         On March 16, 2017, the Court granted the Plaintiff's Motion to Compel finding in part that the Defendant was entitled to attorneys' fees under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(a)(5). R. Doc. 37. As part of that order, the Court ordered that the Defendant file a motion to fix attorney's fees and costs. Id. The Defendant thereafter filed the subject motion on March 28, 2017 requesting $1, 682.50 in attorneys' fees. R. Doc. 38-1, p. 3.

         The Plaintiff has opposed the award of attorney's fees as well as the amount requested. R. Doc. 39. As an initial matter, the Plaintiff's opposition to the award of fees is unfounded. The Plaintiff argues that he tendered the requested discovery to the Plaintiff on March 6, 2017. Id. at p. 5. However, under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 37(a)(5)(A) provides that the Court must award fees when the motion to compel is granted “or if the disclosure or requested discovery is provided after the motion was filed.” Here, the motion was filed on February 20, 2017, and the requested discovery was provided after that date. As such, the Court's award of fees was proper.

         II. Standard of Review

         The Supreme Court has specified that the “lodestar” calculation is the “most useful starting point” for determining the award for attorney's fees. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). Lodestar is computed by “… the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.” Id. The lodestar calculation, “...provides an objective basis on which to make an initial estimate of the value of a lawyer's services.” Id. Once the lodestar has been determined, the district court must consider the weight and applicability of the twelve factors delineated in Johnson. See Watkins v. Forcide, 7 F.3d 453, 457 (5th Cir. 1993).[1] Subsequently, if the Johnson factors warrant an adjustment, the court may make modifications upward or downward to the lodestar. Id. However, the lodestar is presumed to be a reasonable calculation and should be modified only in exceptional circumstances. Id. (citing City of Burlington v. Dague, 505 U.S. 557, 562 (1992)).

         The party seeking attorney's fees bears the burden of establishing the reasonableness of the fees by submitting “adequate documentation of the hours reasonably expended”, and demonstrating the use of billing judgement. Creecy v. Metro. Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 548 F.Supp.2d 279, 286 (E.D. La. 2008) (citing Wegner v. Standard Ins. Co., 129 F.3d 814, 822 (5th Cir.1997)).

         III. Reasonable Hourly Rate

         The “appropriate hourly rate. . .is the market rate in the community for this work.” Black v. SettlePou, P.C., 732 F.3d 492, 502 (5th Cir. 2013) (citing Smith & Fuller, P.A. v. Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., 685 F.3d 486, 490 (5th Cir.2012)). Moreover, the rate must be calculated “at the ‘prevailing market rates in the relevant community for similar services by attorneys of reasonably comparable skills, experience, and reputation.'” Int'l Transp. Workers Fed'n v. Mi-Das Line, SA, 13-00454, 2013 WL 5329873, at *3 (E.D. La. Sept. 20, 2013) (quoting Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895 (1984)). Satisfactory evidence of the reasonableness of the rate necessarily includes an affidavit of the attorney performing the work and information of rates actually billed and paid in similar lawsuits. Blum, 465 U.S. at 896 n.11. Finally, if the hourly rate is not opposed, then it is prima facie reasonable. Powell v. C.I.R., 891 F.2d 1167, 1173 (5th Cir. 1990) (quoting Islamic Ctr. of Mississippi v. City of Starkville, 876 F.2d 468, 469 (5th Cir. 1989)).

         Here, the Defendant has requested a reasonable hourly rate of $225 for work completed prior to March 1, 2017 and $300 for work completed after March 1, 2017[2] for Carla Crapster and $190 for Kaile Mercuri. R. Doc. 38-2, p. 3-4. Crapaster has roughly nine years of experience. Id. at p. 3. Mercuri has roughly four years of experience. The Court finds these rates to be reasonable. See, e.g., EnVen Energy Ventures, LLC v. Black Elk Energy Offshore Operations, LLC, No. 14-424, 2015 WL 3505099, at *2 (E.D. La. June 2, 2015) (awarding $300 for an attorney with 10 years of experience); see also see also Calix v. Marine, LLC, No. 14-2430, 2016 WL 4194119, at *6 (E.D. La. July 14, 2016) report and recommendation adopted, 2016 WL 4180977 (approving $180 for first year associate); Atel Mar. Investors, LP v. Sea Mar Mgmt., LLC, No: 08-1700, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 68436, 2011 WL 2550505 (E.D. La. June 27, 2011) (Roby, M.J.) (awarding $175 for an associate with two (2) years of experience);Construction South, Inc. v. Jenkins, No. 11-1201, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 99254, 2011 WL 3882271 (E.D.La. July 29, 2011) (Knowles, M.J.) (awarding $180/hour for an associate with two (2) years of experience).

         Additionally, the Plaintiff does not appear to have challenge these rates. Therefore, they are prima facie reasonable. Powell 891 F.2d at 1173.

         IV. Hours Reasonably ...


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