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Idel v. Leblanc

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 13, 2019

KENNETH IDEL
v.
JAMES LEBLANC, ET AL

         SECTION: “G” (4)

          ORDER

          Karen Wells Roby, United States Magistrate Judge

         Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Fix Attorney's Fees (R. Doc. 75). The motion is opposed. R. Doc. 80. The motion was heard on the briefs.

         I. Factual Summary

         Kenneth Idel (“Idel”) alleges that on November 10, 2015 Richard Pope (“Pope”) broke Idel's jaw when he intentionally kneed the back of his head into a concrete walkway. Idel was an inmate in Rayburn Correctional Center at the Louisiana Department of Corrections, where he allegedly sustained a broken jaw even though he posed no threat to other inmates or officers because he was fully restrained in handcuffs and face down on the ground. Idel alleges that Pope's use of force was excessive and resulted in significant pain and permanent damage to Idel's jaw.

         Now Idel's counsel, Emily Posner (“Posner”) has submitted an application for the award of attorney fees totaling $2, 392.00 for the fees incurred in trying to secure a complete response to discovery requests and interrogatories. The Defendant opposes the motion noting that the Court issued a revised order that gave the defendant through February 8, 2019 to provide verified responses and found that the only remaining interrogatories which were disputed were “irrelevant and outside the scope of Rule 26”. Pope opposes Idel counsel's rate of $175.00 as not reasonable and contends that a rate of $150.00 is actually reasonable, given counsel's background and experience. Pope also challenges the reasonableness of the hours billed. Having set forth the position of the parties, the Court will proceed with analyzing the application.

         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

         Plaintiff seeks to recover the attorney's fees for Emily Posner and the work of a law clerk as a result of work performed on one Motion to Compel. The rate billed to the client is $175 per hour for Posner and $15.00 per hour for the Law Clerk. R. Doc. 575-2. Posner contends that she has been licensed to practice law since 2013. She is a graduate of Loyola University and graduated in the top 15% of her class. She also graduated Magna Cum Laude from Colby College in 2004.

         Posner also hired a law student to assist with research who billed at a rate of $15.00 per hour on one occasion. No. other information has been provided regarding the law student's billing.

         The defendant contends that the rates charged by Posner exceed the rates available in the New Orleans Market. The defendant further contends that rates for the New Orleans Market would have generally been less than $175.00 per ...


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