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Parkcrest Builders, LLC v. Housing Authority of New Orleans

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

October 17, 2017

HOUSING AUTHORITY OF NEW ORLEANS (HANO) Reasonable Hourly Rate Reasonable Hours Expended Lodestar Amount Total: $1, 455.25

         SECTION: “J” (4)



         Before the Court is Liberty Mutual Insurance Company's Motion for Attorneys' Fees (R. Doc. 359) filed by Intervenor Liberty Mutual Insurance Company (“Liberty Mutual”), seeking an order from the Court to award it the attorneys' fees incurred by it in the filing and prosecution of its Motion for Contempt. R. Doc. 303. The motion is unopposed. In total, Liberty Mutual seeks $1, 575.50 in attorneys' fees.

         I. Background

         The facts of this case are well known to the Court given the extensive pretrial motion practice in this case. See, e.g., R. Doc. 107. On August 10, 2017, the Court granted Liberty Mutual's Motion for Contempt, finding that it was entitled to attorneys' fees under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(a)(5)(A). R. Doc. 337. As a part of that Order, the Court ordered that Liberty Mutual file a motion to fix attorneys' fees and costs. Id. Liberty Mutual, thereafter, filed the subject motion on August 15, 2017, requesting $1, 575.50 in attorneys' fees. R. Doc. 359, p. 2. Liberty Mutual's motion is unopposed.

         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 v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th Cir. 1974). See Watkins v. Fordice, 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 attorneys' 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. Analysis

         A. Reasonable Hourly Rate

         Here, Liberty Mutual has submitted the affidavit of Craig N. Mangum. R. Doc. 359-2. Liberty Mutual has requested an hourly rate of $225 for work conducted by David J. Krebs (“Krebs”), $225 for work conducted by Craig N. Mangum (“Mangum”), and $185 for work conducted by Cassandra R. Hewlings (“Hewlings”). R. Doc. 359-2, p. 3.

         Additionally, attached to Mangum's affidavit are on-line biographies of each attorney. Krebs' biography lays out that he is managing partner of Krebs Farley and has been practicing law for thirty-five (35) years. R. Doc. 359-3. Furthermore, Krebs' biography notes that he is ranked by Chambers among the “top construction attorneys in the region . . . [and] represents some of the country's largest corporations in major litigation matters.” Id. Mangum is a partner with Krebs Farley and has nine (9) years of legal experience, and Hewlings is an associate with Krebs Farley and has four (4) years of legal experience. R. Doc. 359-4, p. 1; 359-5.

         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)). 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 Miss. v. City of Starkville, 876 F.2d 468, 469 (5th Cir. 1989)).

         Note, “attorney travel time is typically compensated at 50% of the reasonable hourly rate.” Int'l Transp. Workers Fed'n, 2013 WL ...

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