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J & J Sports Productions, Inc. v. Best Boilers Enterprise LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

November 20, 2017

J & J SPORTS PRODUCTIONS, INC.
v.
BEST BOILERS ENTERPRISE LLC d/b/a BEST BOILERS AND ADRIAN HAMMOND

          RULING

          SHELLY D. DICK, DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Attorney's Fees and Court Costs'[1]by Plaintiff, J & J Sports Productions, Inc. ("Plaintiff'). The motion is unopposed. This motion comes after a Ruling[2]and Judgment[3]entered in favor of Plaintiff for claims brought pursuant to the Communications Act of 1934[4] and the Cable & Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992.[5]

         I. ATTORNEY'S FEES

         Plaintiff seeks reasonable attorney's fees in an amount ranging between $3, 000.00 and $4, 500.00. Plaintiff has attached counsel's billing records for this matter and an Affidavit by Plaintiff's counsel, Ronnie J.Berthelot, ("Berthelot"), wherein Berthelot attests that he is an experienced attorney in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with nearly thirty-five years of practice experience, primarily in civil litigation. Berthelot argues that he has generally been awarded $300.00/hour in similar cases. Berthelot's billing records show that he billed a total of 12.3 hours for his work on this case.

         In the Fifth Circuit, the "lodestar" method is used to calculate reasonable attorneys' fees.[6] The "lodestar" analysis involves a two-step procedure.[7] Initially, the district court must determine the reasonable number of hours expended on the litigation and the reasonable hourly rates for the participating lawyers. Then, the court must multiply the reasonable hours by the reasonable hourly rates.[8] The product is the "lodestar, " which the court either accepts or adjusts upward or downward, depending on the circumstances of the case, assessing the factors set forth in Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc.[9]

         A court's discretion in fashioning a reasonable attorney's fee is broad and reviewable only for an abuse of discretion, i.e., it will not be reversed unless there is strong evidence that it is excessive or inadequate, or the amount chosen is clearly erroneous.[10]To determine a reasonable fee, a court must provide a concise but clear explanation of its reasons for the fee award, making subsidiary factual determinations regarding whether the requested hourly rate is reasonable, and whether the tasks reported by counsel were duplicative, unnecessary, or unrelated to the purposes of the lawsuit.[11] The Fifth Circuit has noted that its "concern is not that a complete litany be given, but that the findings be complete enough to assume a review which can determine whether the court has used proper factual criteria in exercising its discretion to fix just compensation."[12]

         In assessing the reasonableness of attorneys' fees, the court must first determine the "lodestar" by multiplying the reasonable number of hours expended and the reasonable hourly rate for each participating attorney.[13] The party seeking the fee bears the burden of proof on this issue.[14]

         The Court begins by determining whether the number of hours claimed by Plaintiffs attorney is reasonable.[15] Local Rule 54 provides specific guidance regarding how this burden is met, stating: "the party desiring to be awarded such fees shall submit to the court a contemporaneous time report reflecting the date, time involved, and nature of the services performed. The report shall be in both narrative and statistical form and provide hours spent and justification thereof."[16] "Where the documentation of hours is inadequate, the district court may reduce the award accordingly."[17] The burden of proving the reasonableness of the hours expended is on the fee applicant.[18]

         Berthelot contends he has expended 12.3 attorney hours in this lawsuit. The Court has reviewed line by line the billing statement submitted on behalf of counsel and finds the hours expended to be reasonable. The Court finds that Plaintiff's counsel has indeed exercised proper billing judgment. Berthelot struck the hours for clerical work, such as filing on the Court's electronic filing system. Berthelot prepared the initial pleadings, the initial disclosures, and participated in the discovery process. He also drafted the summary judgment motion. The Court finds 12.3 hours to be a reasonable expenditure of time for the necessities of this litigation.

         Next, the Court must determine if the hourly rate of $300.00/hour for Berthelot's services is reasonable given his ability, competence, experience, and skill. An attorney's reasonable hourly rate should be "in line with those prevailing in the community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill, experience and reputation."[19] The Fifth Circuit has emphasized that "the relevant market for purposes of determining the prevailing rate to be paid in a fee award is the community in which the district court sits."[20]

         Berthelot has established that he has received this hourly rate in similar cases in Louisiana district courts. Considering the related precedent, the Court finds that the hourly rate of $300/hour is reasonable.[21]

         Therefore, having determined the "lodestar" reasonable hourly rate and hours for Plaintiffs counsel, and after consideration of the Johnson factors, [22] the Court finds that an attorney's fee in the amount of $3, 690.00 is reasonable.

         In accordance with Local Rule 54(a), the Court will refer the matter of costs and expenses to ...


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