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Mczeal v. Midsouth National Bank N.A.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division

July 10, 2017





         Before the court is a Bill of Costs (Rec. Doc. 86) submitted by the defendants. Alfred McZeal, the plaintiff, has not filed an objection to the reasonableness of the attorneys' fees or costs. For the reasons explained below, the court will award the defendants $10, 527.29 in attorneys' fees and costs.


         A complete history of the current case can be found in this courts previous memorandum ruling which dismissed McZeal's case with prejudice and directed the Magistrate Judge to determine appropriate sanctions for McZeal's Rule 11 violation.[1] The Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation in which she concluded that McZeal should be placed on the vexatious litigant list for the Western District of Louisiana and that the defendants should be awarded attorneys' fees and costs for having to defend themselves against McZeal's frivolous -litigation.[2]-This court adopted the Report and Recommendation, and ordered the defendants to submit an itemized Bill of Costs, so that the court could award reasonable attorneys' fees and costs.[3] The defendants submitted a Bill of Costs asking for $54, 833.00 for 95.60 hours of work and $4, 155.63 for costs incurred.[4] After the Bill of Costs was submitted, McZeal appealed the Judgment adopting the Report and Recommendation to the United States Court of Appeal for the Fifth Circuit.[5] The Fifth Circuit dismissed the appeal on June 16, 2017, for want of prosecution.[6]McZeal filed no objection to the Bill of Costs before this court.

         II. LAW & ANALYSIS

         A district court may impose sanctions for violating Rule 11, including attorneys' fees and costs. Willy v. Coastal Corp., 855 F.2d 1160, 1172 (5th Cir. 1988) (citing Thomas v. Capital Sec. Servs., Inc., 836 F.2d 866, 876-78 (5th Cir. 1988)). When imposing attorneys' fees and costs under Rule 11, the court must consider four factors: (1) What conduct is being punished or is sought to be deterred by the sanction?; (2) What expenses or costs were caused by the violation of the rule?; (3) Were the costs or expenses "reasonable, " as opposed to self-imposed, mitigatable, or the result of delay in seeking court intervention?; and (4) Was the sanction the least severe sanction adequate to achieve the purpose of the Rule 11? Topalian v. Ehrman, 3 F.3d 931, 936-37 (5th Cir. 1993). When considering these factors and determining an amount, the court is not required to award all attorneys' fees incurred by the Rule 11 violation. Willy, 855 F.2d at 1172 (citing Smith Int'l, Inc. v. Tex. Commerce Bank, 844 F.2d 1193, 1197 (5th Cir. 1988)).

         A. What Conduct Is Being Punished and Deterred?

         This court has determined that Rule 11 sanctions are appropriate because "McZeal's bad faith is apparent from his litigation history and his conduct in the instant suit."[7] McZeal "continues to pursue frivolous claims against these defendants, wastes this court's valuable time and resources with his meritless filings, and only reiterates the same nonsense he has apparently-been peddling across the country when given the opportunity to amend or dismiss."[8]Furthermore, the court found that sanctions in the form of an award of attorneys' fees and costs were appropriate because of "McZeal's harassing behavior toward his opponents and the disregard that his vexatious litigation displays for judicial authority."[9] Therefore, by imposing these sanctions, the court aims to deter McZeal from filing the same frivolous claims again and punish him for not heeding the numerous warnings from several courts.

         B. What Expenses or Costs Were Caused by the Violation of the Rule?

         The defendants submitted a timesheet detailing the hours and expenses that they have paid during the entire time the case was pending in the Western District of Louisiana. They have submitted that they worked for 95.6 hours at various hourly rates totaling $54, 833.00, and incurred billable travel, legal research, and postage expenses, totaling $4, 155.63.[10] By the defendants' calculations, the total costs and attorneys' fees for this case were $58, 988.63.[11]The court finds that any attorneys' fees and/or expenses incurred by the defendants in this case were a result of McZeal's Rule 11 violation, i.e. the frivolous suit filed by McZeal. Therefore, the comprehensiveness of the submitted attorneys' fees and expenses is appropriate.

         C. Were the Costs or Expenses "Reasonable"?

         Next, the court must determine whether the attorneys' fees and costs submitted by the defendants are reasonable.

         1. ...

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