United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division
PATRICK J. HANNA MAG. JUDGE.
A. DOUGHTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is Defendants' Supplemental Request for
Attorney's Fees [Doc. No. 51]. The motion is fully
briefed, and the Court is prepared to rule.
filed this suit on February 15, 2016, asserting claims for
discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in violation of
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §
2000e, et seq.; 42 U.S.C. § 1981; the Civil
Service Reform Act, 5 U.S.C. § 7703(b)(2); and the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621,
response, on June 6, 2016, Defendants filed a Motion to
Compel Arbitration, to Stay Proceedings, and for an Award of
Reasonable Attorney's Fees on grounds that Plaintiff was
required to submit her claim to arbitration in accordance
with an arbitration agreement. [Doc. No. 11]. On February 6,
2017, Magistrate Judge Hanna issued a Report and
Recommendations suggesting that the Defendants' Motion to
Compel Arbitration and Stay Proceedings be granted in part
and denied in part. [Doc. No. 21]. Magistrate Judge Hanna
concluded that that the lawsuit should be stayed and that
Plaintiff should be ordered to submit her claims to
arbitration, but that Defendants were not entitled to
attorney's fees and costs.
response, on February 16, 2017, Defendants filed an Objection
to the Report and Recommendations contesting the denial of
attorney's fees and costs. [Doc. No. 22]. Plaintiff's
counsel did not respond. Consequently, on March 9, 2017,
then-presiding Judge James entered a Memorandum Ruling and a
Judgment adopting in part and declining to adopt in part
Magistrate Judge Hanna's Report and Recommendations.
[Doc. Nos. 23 & 24]. Specifically, the March 9, 2017
Judgment adopted the recommendation that the lawsuit be
stayed and that Plaintiff be ordered to submit her claims to
arbitration, but declined to adopt the recommendation that
Defendants not be awarded attorney's fees and costs.
Again, Plaintiff's counsel did not respond. Thus, on
March 30, 2017, Defendants' legal counsel filed a Motion
for Bill of Costs, seeking attorney's fees in the amount
of $13, 302.00 and costs. [Doc. No. 25]. Once again,
Plaintiff's counsel did not respond.
4, 2017, Judge James entered Judgment against Plaintiff,
awarding Defendants attorney's fees, but in the reduced
amount of $10, 095.00. [Doc. No. 27].
March 20, 2018, Plaintiff's new counsel filed a Motion
for Relief from Judgment [Doc. No. 36], contending that
Plaintiff was entitled to relief from the March 9, 2017
Judgment and the May 4, 2017 Judgment due to her prior
attorney's neglect. Defendants filed an Opposition [Doc.
No. 38] to Plaintiff's Motion for Relief from Judgment.
April 25, 2018, this Court denied Plaintiff's
Motion for Relief as to the March 9, 2017 Judgment which
awarded Defendants attorney's fees, but
granted Plaintiff's Motion for Relief as to the
May 4, 2017 Judgment which set the amount of
attorney's fees. [Doc. Nos. 44 and 45]. Defendant
Strategic Restaurants Acquisition Co. LLC was given a time
limit in which to file a supplemental memorandum requesting
additional attorney's fees, if it so desired, and
Plaintiff was given a time limit in which to respond to the
original Motion for Bill of Costs [Doc. No. 25] and to any
filed the instant Supplemental Request for Attorney Fees
[Doc. No. 51] on May 10, 2018. Plaintiff filed her Memorandum
in Opposition [Doc. No. 54] on May 31, 2018.
Court's May 4, 2017 Memorandum Ruling [Doc. No. 27] found
a rate of $275 per hour for David M. Whitaker and $150 per
hour for Zoe Vermeulen to be reasonable rates for attorneys
of comparable experience in Lafayette, Louisiana. Plaintiff
acknowledges that the hourly rate is not at issue in this
matter [Doc. No. 54, p. 4].
at issue is the reasonableness of the hours expended.
Defendants seek the original attorney fee amount awarded of
$10, 095.00 as well as additional attorney's fees of $4,
411.00 incurred in opposing Plaintiff's Motion for Relief
from Judgment, for a total of $14, 506.00.
argues that counsel for Defendants have failed to exercise
billing judgment. Plaintiff contends that Defendants'
counsel have billed for duplicative and excessive hours, and
that, when a party chooses two attorneys to represent it in a
lawsuit, the opposing party is not required to pay for
duplicative work among the attorneys. Plaintiff asserts that
the number of billable hours is excessive in view of the lack
of complexity and the lack of novelty in the issues presented
in this case. Plaintiff objects to the hours billed for
unproductive tasks, such as for time spent considering a
motion to dismiss that Defendants ultimately did not file.
Plaintiff complains that several billing entries involve
clerical work performed by attorneys, and that it is well
settled that clerical work performed by attorneys is not
recoverable at the attorney's rate. Plaintiff objects to
Defendants' counsel billing the full hourly rate for
travel time in the absence of documentation that any legal
work was accomplished during said travel time.
Plaintiff argues that the inability to pay is a proper factor
to be considered in granting or denying taxable costs, and
that the award of costs to the prevailing party may be
overcome by a showing of indigency. (See Williams v. J.B.
Hunt Transp., Inc., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 112801 *12
(S.D. Tx Aug. 24, 2016) citing Hartnett v. Chase Bank of
Tex. Nat'l Ass'n, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16872
*1, (N.D. Tx. 1999)). Plaintiff attaches affidavits and
supporting documents indicating that Plaintiff and her
husband are on a fixed monthly income currently surviving on
his social security disability benefits in the amount of
$1482.00; that they reside in a 34-year old mobile home; that
their monthly expenses for cable, utilities, automobile
payments and insurance total $1, 590.00; that Plaintiff has
$699.98 in her checking account and $20.93 in savings; that
her husband has a balance of $963.14 in his checking account
with no savings account; that neither party has any 401K or
retirement account; that they owe approximately $25, 576.15
in back taxes to the IRS; that her husband has suffered with
persistent cardiovascular medical issues and on January 11,
2018, he ...