United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
the Court is Plaintiffs' “Motion for Attorneys'
Fees.” Rec. Doc. 19. Defendants timely filed an
opposition memorandum. Rec. Doc. 21. Plaintiffs then
requested, and were granted, leave to file a reply
memorandum. Rec. Doc. 24. For the reasons enumerated below,
IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiffs' motion
(Rec. Doc. 19) is GRANTED IN PART.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
case arises out of alleged violations of the Fair Labor
Standards Act (“FLSA”). Specifically, Plaintiff
Kiyoko Rubio (“Rubio”) alleged that she was not
properly paid overtime wages while working for Defendants
C.R. Contractors, SGS, LLC, and Maritza Romero. Rec. Doc. 1
at ¶ 1. Accordingly, she filed a complaint on August 17,
2016 on behalf of herself and similarly situated employees.
Id. at ¶ 2. When Defendant SGS, LLC failed to
respond to the complaint and no entry of default was sought,
the Court ordered Plaintiffs to show cause why SGS, LLC
should not be dismissed. Rec. Doc. 11. Plaintiffs did not
respond to the show cause order and SGS, LLC was consequently
terminated as a party on November 1, 2016.
January 17, 2017, Petra Oloarte opted-in to the suit. Rec.
3, 2017, the Court was informed that the parties had reached
a settlement agreement and accordingly entered an order of
dismissal. Rec. Doc. 16. Thereafter, the parties filed an
ex parte/consent motion to approve the FLSA
settlement. Rec. Doc. 17. Pursuant to the agreement reached
by the parties, Rubio was to receive $500.00, while Oloarte
was to receive $1, 000.00. Rec. Doc. 17-1 at ¶ 6. These
amounts were reached by multiplying the regular hourly rate
by time-and-a-half for all overtime worked. Id. at
¶ 7. The number was then doubled to account for
liquidated damages and Rubio received an additional amount as
an incentive for bringing the action. Id. However,
the parties informed the Court that they could not agree on
the appropriate amount of attorneys' fees. Id.
at ¶ 9. Accordingly, on June 20, 2017, this Court
approved of the settlement and specifically noted
Plaintiffs' right to seek attorneys' fees. Rec. Doc.
THE PARTIES' CONTENTIONS
counsel asks this Court to award $11, 300.00 for 44.9 hours
of work, billed at the rate of $250 per hour for lead
attorneys William Beaumont and Roberto Costales and $200 per
hour for Emily Westermeier. Rec. Doc. 19-1 at 8-9, 11. They
argue that Beaumont and Costales have practiced law for six
years, participated in several FLSA collective actions, and
been awarded $250 per hour by this Court in a separate FLSA
collective action case. Id. at 8-9 (citing Joel
Banegas v. Calmar Corporation, , Civil Action No.
15-593, Section “B”, Rec. Doc. 69 at
3).They also argue that Westermeir has been
practicing law since 2014 and previously clerked for the
Honorable Marvin E. Aspen in the Northern District of
Illinois. Rec. Doc. 19-1 at 9-10. Plaintiffs fail to argue
the basis for billing 44.9 hours of work in their memorandum,
which instead states that “the Court should award fees
for the full xxx hours sought by this application (which has
already been reduced 16.5% . . . for hours that were arguably
unproductive, excessive, or redundant[)].” Id.
at 10. Nonetheless, Plaintiffs' counsel attached their
billing records to the instant motion. Rec. Doc. 19-2.
respond that the Court should award only $3, 000 in
attorneys' fees, double the amount recovered by
Plaintiffs pursuant to the settlement agreement. Rec. Doc. 21
at 3. They argue that they admitted to unknowingly failing to
properly pay overtime as soon as this case was filed and
accordingly “offered to pay its employees/former
employees the overtime they were owed.” Id. at
1. They suggest that “the only
‘material' work that had to be performed
by Plaintiffs' counsel was to review the payroll records
to ensure that such records corroborated Defendants'
contention that it customarily paid overtime.”
Id. at 5. They further note that Plaintiff failed to
respond to discovery requests and did not take a single
deposition; instead, Plaintiffs' counsel filed a
“boilerplate/template” complaint, issued
“boilerplate/template” discovery, filed a
“boilerplate/template” motion for attorneys'
fees, and performed “numerous hours of phone calls,
emails, document review and other miniscule actions that
increased the billable hours.” Id. at 2. After
examining Plaintiffs' counsel's billing records,
Defendants determined that (1) 32.87% of the hours were
billed after the case settled; (2) 25.05% of the hours were
billed in connection with filing the instant motion for
attorneys' fees; (3) 12.92% of the hours were billed for
phone calls and/or emails; and (4) 37.86% of the hours were
billed for legal research and/or drafting legal documents,
even though Plaintiffs did not file any substantive motions
and this case did not present any novel or difficult issues.
Id. at 5.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
FLSA provides that the court shall, “in addition to any
judgment awarded to the plaintiff or plaintiffs, allow a
reasonable attorney's fees to be paid by the defendant,
and costs of the action.” 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).
“Although the provision does not specifically mention a
‘prevailing party, ' the courts have construed the
provision as requiring the party being awarded attorney's
fees to be the prevailing party, similar to other
fee-shifting jurisprudence.” Champion v. ADT Sec.
Servs., Inc., No. 08-417, 2010 WL 4736908, at *1 (E.D.
Tex. Nov. 16, 2010) (citing Saizan v. Delta Concrete
Prods. Co., Inc., 448 F.3d 795, 799 n.7 (5th Cir.
2006)). The parties do not dispute the fact that Plaintiffs
prevailed in this case.
Fifth Circuit uses the lodestar method for determining a
reasonable amount of attorneys' fees. Saizan,
448 F.3d at 799 (footnotes and citations omitted). Under that
method, the reasonable number of hours spent on the case is
multiplied by an appropriate hourly rate in the community for
such work. Id.
party seeking fees “bears the burden of establishing
entitlement to an award and documenting the appropriate hours
expended and hourly rates.” La. Power & Light
Co. v. Kellstrom, 50 F.3d 319, 324 (5th Cir. 1995)
(quoting Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 437
(1983)). The court should eliminate those hours that are
excessive, duplicative, or too vague to permit meaningful
review. Johnson v. Big Lots Stores, Inc., 639
F.Supp.2d 696, 702 (E.D. La. 2009) (citing Watkins v.
Fordice, 7 F.3d 453, 457 (5th Cir. 1993); La. Power
& Light Co., 50 F.3d at 326). Also, “[w]hen
using the lodestar method to award attorney fees, courts
routinely deduct time spent on unsuccessful, unfounded or
unnecessary pleadings, motions, discovery requests and
memoranda.” White v. Imperial Adjustment
Corp., No. 99-3804, 2005 WL 1578810, at *11 (E.D. La.
June 28, 2005).
attorneys should not bill at that same rate for the
performance of clerical duties. Even if attorneys are
required to complete certain clerical tasks due to a lack of
available help, such non-legal work does not justify billing
at an attorney's rate just because it is completed by an
attorney. See Johnson v. Ga. Highway Express, Inc.,
488 F.2d 714, 717 (5th Cir. 1974), abrogated on other
grounds by Blanchard v. Bergeron, 489 U.S. 87 (1989)
(noting that “[i]t is appropriate to distinguish
between legal work, in the strict sense, and investigation,
clerical work, compilation of facts and statistics and other
work which can often be accomplished by non-lawyers but ...