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Vo v. Gee

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

February 20, 2018

VIET ANH VO
v.
REBEKAH E. GEE, SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, ET AL

         SECTION “B” (5)

          ORDER AND REASONS

         Before the Court is counsel for Plaintiff Viet Anh Vo's “Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs” (Rec. Doc. 111) and Reply (Rec. Doc. 118), Defendants, Diane Broussard, Vermilion Parish Clerk of Court and Michael Thibodeaux, Iberia Parish Clerk of Courts' Memorandum in Opposition (Rec. Doc. 112), Louis J. Perret, Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court's Memorandum in Opposition (Rec. Doc. 113), and Secretary for the Louisiana Department of Health, Rebekah Gee, and the Louisiana State Registrar, Devin George's Memorandum in Opposition (Rec. Doc. 114).

         IT IS ORDERED that the Motion for Attorney's Fees and Costs is Granted in part and Denied in part.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Viet Anh Vo (“Plaintiff”) filed suit against Rebekah Gee as Secretary for the Louisiana Department of Health, Diane Broussard as Vermilion Parish Clerk of Court, Michael Thibodeaux, as Iberia Parish Clerk of Court, Louis J. Perret as Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court, and Devin George as the Louisiana State Registrar (collectively herein referred to as “Defendants”), in October 2016. (Rec. Doc. 1). Plaintiff asserted that the Louisiana statute requiring United States citizens to provide a certified birth certificate for a marriage and not permitting a waiver of the requirement for naturalized United States citizens born outside of the United States or one of its territories was unconstitutional. (Rec. Doc. 1 at 2). After oral argument (Rec. Doc. 76), the Court granted a preliminary injunction (Rec. Doc. 77), which was converted into a permanent injunction and declaratory judgment on August 8, 2017 (Rec. Doc. 96).

         Plaintiff files the instant motion pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988 and Federal Rules for the Eastern District of Louisiana Local Rules 54.2 and 54.3, as the “prevailing party” for an award of attorney's fees and costs. (Rec. Doc. 111). Plaintiff requests this Court to order Defendants to pay $212, 580.00 in attorneys' fees and $11, 267.65 in costs[1]. Defendants' Responses in Opposition object to: 1) the reasonableness of Plaintiff's requested attorney's fees and costs, 2) the reasonableness of the number of attorneys and support staff, 3) the amount hours and fees associated with locating a potential plaintiff, 4) plaintiff counsel's lack of exercise billing judgment, and 5) duplicative work.

         Further, defendants Diane Broussard as Vermilion Parish Clerk of Court, Michael Thibodeaux, as Iberia Parish Clerk of Court, and Louis J. Perret as Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court (collectively herein referred to as “Clerk Defendants”) contend that the State is solely responsible for paying the prevailing party's attorney's fees and costs. They argue that as the Clerk Defendants they were acting in their official capacity on behalf of the State in enforcing the challenged Louisiana state law.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Title 42 of the United States Code, Section 1988 provides the Court with discretion to award attorney's fees and costs to the prevailing party in Civil Rights' litigation. 42 U.S.C. § 1988 (2018). On August 8, 2017, this Court granted Plaintiff's Motions for Partial Summary Judgment, Declaratory Judgment, and Permanent Injunction (Rec. Doc. 96). As final Judgment was entered in favor of Plaintiff (Rec. Doc. 97), it is clear that Plaintiff is the prevailing party in this litigation.[2] However, the reasonableness of the submitted fees and costs remains to be determined.

         Determination of a reasonable attorney's fee involves calculating the lodestar, which is a two-step process. Louisiana Power & Light Co. v. Kellstrom, 50 F.3d 319, 324 (5th Cir. 1995). In the first step, this Court is to determine the reasonable number of hours expended on the litigation and the reasonable hourly rates for the participating attorneys. Id. Next, this Court is to multiply the determined hours by the determined rate. Id. This calculation comprises the lodestar. Id. The lodestar is then either accepted or adjusted according to the twelve factors delineated in Johnson v. Georgia Highway Exp., which are:

(1) the time and labor involved; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved; (3) the skill requisite to perform the legal services properly; (4) the preclusion of other employment by the attorney due to this case; (5) the customary fee; (6) whether the fee is fixed or contingent; (7) time limitations; (8) the amount involved and results obtained; (9) the experience, reputation. And ability of counsel; (10) the undesirability of the case; (11) the nature and length of the proceedings; and (12) awards in similar cases.

488 F.2d 714, 717-19.

         Calculation of Lodestar

         Reasonable ...


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