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Batiste v. Lewis

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

April 11, 2019

PAUL BATISTE d/b/a ARTANG PUBLISHING, LLC, a Louisiana Limited Liability Company
v.
RYAN LEWIS, BEN HAGGERTY, Professionally known as MACKLEMORE, Professionally and collectively known as MACKLEMOE AND RYAN LEWIS, Individuals, MACKLEMORE PUBLISHING, RYAN LEWIS PUBLISH, MACKLEMORE, LLC ALTERNATIVE DISTRIBUTION ALLIANCE, ANDREW JOSLYN, ALLEN STONE, ANDREW JOSLYN MUSIC, LLC, STICKY STONES PUBLISHING

         SECTION: “AF” (4)

          ORDER

          KAREN WELLS ROBY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Before the Court is Motion to Fix Attorneys' Fees (R. Doc. 91). The motion is opposed. R. Doc. 99. The motion was heard on the briefs.

         I. Factual Summary

         This is copyright infringement case was filed by Paul Batiste, a New Orleans jazz musician that is the founding member and owner of Artang Publishing, LLC and the Batiste Brothers Band. Id. at p. 2. Defendants Ryan Lewis and Ben Haggerty are a famous hip-hop duo known as “Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, ” who have achieved international success for their singles “Thrift Shop” and “Can't Hold Us. Id.” Defendants have also received several Grammy awards, including those for best new artist, best album, and best rap performance for their single “Thrift Shop.” Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that defendants willfully infringed on his copyrights by using unauthorized samples and copying elements of eleven of plaintiff's original songs in the composition of “Thrift Shop, ” “Can't Hold Us, ” “Need to Know, ” “Same Love, ” and “Neon Cathedral.” Id. Plaintiff also sued several others who were credited with writing the songs, and the publishing companies who own the rights to the compositions. Id. Plaintiff contends, inter alia, that he is entitled to actual damages and defendants' profits in connection with the infringed copy-righted songs. R. Doc. 40 at p. 13-22.

         Discovery in this case was a bit taxing. Nonetheless, the Court issued an Order & Reasons (R.Doc. 89, revised order) on the Defendants Motion to Compel finding that not only was the Plaintiff required to respond to the written discovery but also to supplement his discover responses. Additionally, the court found that due to the failure to adequately respond and in face of the unopposed motion to compel that attorney's fees were appropriate.

         II. Standard of Review

         The Supreme Court has indicated that the “lodestar” calculation is the “most useful starting point” for determining the award of attorney's fees. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). The lodestar equals “the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.” Id. The lodestar is presumed to yield a reasonable fee. La. Power & Light Co. v. Kellstrom, 50 F.3d 319, 324 (5th Cir. 1995). After determining the lodestar, the Court must then consider the applicability and weight of the twelve factors set forth in Johnson v. Ga. Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th Cir. 1974).[1] The Court can make upward or downward adjustments to the lodestar figure if the Johnson factors warrant such modifications. See Watkins v. Fordice, 7 F.3d 453, 457 (5th Cir. 1993). However, the lodestar should be modified only in exceptional cases. Id.

         After the calculation of the lodestar, the burden then shifts to the party opposing the fee to contest the reasonableness of the hourly rate requested or the reasonableness of the hours expended “by affidavit or brief with sufficient specificity to give fee applicants notice” of the objections. Rode v. Dellarciprete, 892 F.2d 1177, 1183 (3d Cir. 1990).

         III. Analysis

         A. Reasonableness of the Hourly Rates

         Defendants seek to recover the attorney's fees for Erin Dennis (“Dennis”) of Loeb & Loeb LLP and Mary Elen Roy (“Roy”) and Dan Zimmerman (“Zimmerman”) of Phelps Dunbar as a result of work performed on one Motion to Compel. The rates billed to the client range from $250 to $375.

         The Plaintiff contends that the rates charged by the Loeb & Loeb LLP attorneys exceed the rates available in the New Orleans Market. The Plaintiff contends that reasonable rates are $200 per hour for partner level and $150 per hour for associates. Therefore, Batiste contsends ...


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