United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
THOMAS P. HUBERT
JOANNE CURREN, ET AL.
ORDER & REASONS
M. AFRICK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is plaintiff Thomas Hubert's
(“Hubert”) application for attorneys' fees. In
the Court's order remanding this case to state court
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c), the Court also ordered
the payment of attorneys' fees. Hubert now requests $5,
892.50, to which defendant Joanne Curren
(“Curren”) objects. For the following reasons,
Hubert's request is granted in part and denied in part.
August 14, 2014, the day before a state court trial was
scheduled on the issue of damages, Curren removed this case
to this Court. Shortly thereafter, Curren filed a motion
for judgment on the pleadings and Hubert filed a motion to
remand.On September 5, 2018, the Court granted
Hubert's motion and remanded the case to state court. It
simultaneously awarded Hubert attorneys' fees pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1447(c), having determined that there was no
objectively reasonable basis for Curren's
removal. The only remaining issue is the amount of
attorneys' fees to be awarded.
court determines that remand is proper, “[the] order
remanding the case may require payment of just costs and any
actual expenses, including attorney fees, incurred as a
result of the removal.” 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c).
“[Section] 1447(c) gives a court discretion to
determine what amount of costs and fees, if any, to award the
plaintiff, ” although “Congress has plainly
limited such an award to those costs and fees ‘incurred
as a result of removal.'” Avitts v. Amoco Prod.
Co., 111 F.3d 30, 32 (5th Cir. 1997) (quoting 28 U.S.C.
§ 1447(c)). “[T]he fee applicant bears the burden
of establishing entitlement to an award and documenting the
appropriate hours expended and hourly rates.”
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 437 (1983).
determining an award of attorneys' fees under §
1447(c), courts apply the lodestar method. Halliburton
Latin Am. SA v. Int'l Tech. Sols. Inc., 2001 WL
1013047, at *1 (5th Cir. 2001) (per curiam). The lodestar
method entails a two-step process. Louisiana Power &
Light Co. v. Kellstrom, 50 F.3d 319, 323-24 (5th Cir.
1995) “Initially, the district court must determine the
reasonable number of hours expended on the litigation and the
reasonable hourly rates for the participating lawyers.”
Id. at 324 (citing Hensley, 461 U.S. at
433). “Then, the district court must multiply the
reasonable hours by the reasonable hourly rates.”
Id. The resulting product is the lodestar.
calculating the lodestar, the second step permits the
district court to adjust the amount upward or downward based
on “the relative weights of the twelve factors set
forth in Johnson [v. Georgia Highway Express,
Inc.].” Saizan v. Delta Concrete
Prods. Co., Inc., 448 F.3d 795, 800 (5th Cir. 2006). The
Johnson factors are:
(1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and
difficulty of the issues in the case; (3) the skill requisite
to perform the legal services properly; (4) the preclusion of
other employment by the attorney due to acceptance of the
case; (5) the customary fee charged for those services in the
relevant community; (6) whether the fee is fixed or
contingent; (7) time limitations imposed by the client or the
circumstances; (8) the amount involved and the results
obtained; (9) the experience, reputation, and ability of the
attorneys; (10) the undesirability of the case; (11) the
nature and length of the professional relationship with the
client; and (12) awards in similar cases.
Black v. SettlePou, P.C., 732 F.3d 492, 502 n.7 (5th
Cir. 2013) (citing Johnson v. Ga.
Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th Cir. 1974),
abrogated on other grounds, 489 U.S. 87
(1989)). Among the factors, “the court should
give special heed to the time and labor involved, the
customary fee, the amount involved and result obtained, and
the experience, reputation and ability of counsel.”
Migis v. Pearle Vision, Inc., 135 F.3d
1041, 1047 (5th Cir. 1998). “The lodestar may not be
adjusted due to a Johnson factor, however, if the
creation of the lodestar amount already took that factor into
account; to do so would be impermissible double
counting.” Saizan, 448 F.3d at 800. “The
lodestar . . . is presumptively reasonable and should be
modified only in exceptional cases.” Watkins v.
Fordice, 7 F.3d 453, 457 (5th Cir. 1993).
initial matter, Curren objects to all fees assessed for work
performed by summer associates because they are not lawyers.
However, she cites no case law to support her objection, and
the Fifth Circuit permits parties to recover fees billed for
work completed by non-lawyers. See League of United Latin
Am. Citizens No. 4552 v. Roscoe Indep. Sch. Dist., 119
F.3d 1228, 1234-35 (5th Cir. 1997); see also Missouri v.
Jenkins by Agyei, 491 U.S. 274, 285 (1989)
(“Clearly, a ‘reasonable attorney's fee'
cannot have been meant to compensate only work performed
personally by members of the bar.”). Hubert may recover
the expenses incurred as a result of the summer
associates' work on this case.
request for attorneys' fees is broken down as follows:
Larry Centola, III
Number of Hours Worked
“As noted, the first step in determining reasonable
attorneys' fees is an evaluation of the number of hours
reasonably expended.” Louisiana Power & Light
Co., 50 F.3d at 324. “The party seeking
attorneys' fees must present adequately documented time
records to the court.” Watkins, 7 F.3d at 457.
Additionally, the fee applicant “[has] the burden of
showing the reasonableness of the hours billed and that the
attorneys exercised billing judgment.” Black,
732 F.3d at 502. The Court uses the records provided as a
“benchmark, ” but it must “exclude all time
that is excessive, duplicative, or inadequately
documented.” Watkins, 7 F.3d at 457.
submitted contemporaneous billing records for the time spent
on this case. Hubert's lead attorney, Lawrence J.
Centola, III (“Centola”), also attested in an
affidavit that he reviewed the time entries for vagueness and
relevance and “spent significant time ensuring that
duplicative and excessive time were [sic] not ...