United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
JOHANNES MARKUS SIEBER ET AL.
DELTA AIR LINES, INC. ET AL.
ORDER AND REASONS ON MOTION
C. WILKINSON, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Motion to Set Attorney's Fees, Record Doc. No. 97, is
before me. The instant motion was filed in compliance with my
predecessor's previous order granting defendants'
motion to compel and awarding sanctions. Record Doc. Nos. 68,
91. Plaintiffs filed a timely opposition memorandum. Record
Doc. No. 106.
the obligation of the court to make its own independent
evaluation of the reasonableness of awardable attorney's
fees. See In Re: High Sulfur Content Gasoline
Prods. Liab. Litig., 517 F.3d 220, 227 (5th Cir.
2008). In this case, defendants have requested an award of
$1, 260.00 in attorney's fees incurred in bringing the
motion to compel, based on nine (9) hours of work at the rate
of $140 per hour. Record Doc. Nos. 68, 97. Determination of
reasonable attorney's fees is a two-step process that
begins with determination of the “lodestar”
A lodestar is calculated by multiplying the number of hours
reasonably expended by an appropriate hourly rate in the
community for such work. After making this calculation, the
district court may decrease or enhance the lodestar based on
the relative weights of the twelve factors set forth in
Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d
714, 717-19 (5th Cir. 1974).
Heidtman v. County of El Paso, 171 F.3d 1038, 1043
(5th Cir. 1999) (citing City of Burlington v.
Dague, 505 U.S. 557, 562 (1992); Shipes v. Trinity
Indus., 987 F.2d 311, 319-20 (5th Cir. 1993)). The
Johnson factors are:
(1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and
difficulty of the issues; (3) the skill required to perform
the legal services properly; (4) the preclusion of other
employment by the attorney; (5) the customary fee; (6)
whether the fee is fixed or contingent; (7) the time
limitations imposed by the client or circumstances; (8) the
amount involved and 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) the award
in similar cases.
Johnson, 488 F.2d at 717-19. However, the Supreme
Court has"barred any use of the sixth factor,"
whether the fee is fixed or contingent. Walker v. United
States Dep't of Housing & Urban Dev.,
99 F.3d 761, 772 (5th Cir. 1996) (citing City of
Burlington, 505 U.S. at 567). An attorney's
requested hourly rate is prima facie reasonable when he
requests that the lodestar be computed at his customary
billing rate, the rate is within the range of prevailing
market rates, and the rate is not contested. Louisiana
Power & Light Co. v. Kellstrom, 50 F.3d
319, 329 (5th Cir. 1995).
reviewed defense attorney Daniel Martiny's affidavit and
the attached time report, Record Doc. Nos. 97-3, 97-4,
submitted in support of this motion. The time report reflects
services rendered in the instant matter between March 4 and
March 31, 2019. Record Doc. No. 97-4. Some billing entries
comprise work performed on defendants' motion to compel
and others relate to other tasks performed in relation to the
case as whole. Id.
opposition memorandum argues that defendants' time report
provides insufficient detail to distinguish which hours were
spent on the motion to compel and which hours were spent on
other tasks related to this case. Record Doc. No. 106 at pp.
2-3. Plaintiffs also contend that defendants reached their
nine-hour total by exercising billing judgment as to hours
worked on this case during the entire month of March 2019,
including hours spent on matters unrelated to the motion to
on review of the individual billing entries in the time
report, I find that defense attorneys Martiny and James
Mullaly performed work related to the motion to compel for
26.9 hours, for which they billed the remarkably modest rate
of only $140 per hour. However, defense counsel have
exercised prudent billing judgment by seeking attorney's
fees for only nine (9) hours of work. Record Doc. No. 97-3 at
p. 3. Martiny attests that the nine (9) hours comprise the
time Martiny and Mullaly spent researching, drafting, filing
and preparing for oral argument on the motion to compel, and
that they have omitted any time spent researching and
drafting their motion for leave to file a reply memorandum,
which was denied by this court. Id. I find
Martiny's attestation accurate in light of the billing
entries for March 11 and 31, 2019, which reflect at least
nine (9) hours of work on the specific tasks Martiny cites in
support of his time calculation. Record Doc. 97-4. Nothing in
the parties' briefing or other materials submitted with
the motion persuasively suggests that defense counsel
included tasks unrelated to the motion to compel in reaching
their final calculation. I find that the attorneys'
requested hours were reasonably and necessarily incurred in
connection with the motion to compel.
addition, the requested rate of $140 per hour is well below
Martiny and Mullaly's customary hourly rates. Record Doc.
No. 97-1 at p. 3 n.1. Both are attorneys with long years of
experience and substantial expertise in handling cases of
this sort in this court. Their experience and expertise would
justify an award at much higher hourly rates for each.
See, e.g., Mr. Mudbug, Inc. v. Bloomin' Brands,
Inc., 2017 WL 736044, at *2 (E.D. La. Feb. 24, 2017),
aff'd, 2017 WL 2274954 (E.D. La. May 25, 2017)
(awarding hourly rates of $300 and $240 for attorneys with 17
and 10 years of experience); Warder v. Shaw Grp.,
Inc., 2016 WL 3447950, at *2-3 (E.D. La. June 23, 2016)
(awarding hourly rates of $325 for partner with 14 years of
experience, $300 for associate who nonetheless had 20 years
of experience in commercial litigation); Hobson v. Abe
Dev. LLC, 2016 WL 4592170, at *2 (E.D. La. Sept. 2,
2016) (hourly rates of $250 and $275 in civil rights case to
lawyers with “roughly ten years of experience”);
Loiacano v. DISA Global Solutions, 2016 WL 2926679,
at *2 (E.D. La. May 19, 2016) (denying requested hourly rates
of $630 and $435 for partners, and awarding $350 per hour for
partners); Offshore Marine Contractors, Inc. v. Palm
Energy Offshore, LLC, 2014 WL 5039670, at *8 (E.D. La.
Sept. 25, 2014) ($325 and $275 per hour for attorneys with 19
and 7 years of experience). The $140 per hour they seek in
this matter is a more than appropriate hourly rate in this
legal community for the work performed.
the lodestar amount is the requested $1, 260.00 (9 hours
multiplied by the reasonable hourly rate of $140). I find
that the lodestar amount is eminently reasonable and requires
no adjustment by any of the Johnson factors.
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that plaintiffs
and/or their counsel must pay to defendants, no later than
MAY 29, 2019, one $1, 260.00 ...