United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division
TREY L. MILLER
LENARD ENTERPRISES, LLC
D. CAIN, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the court is a Memorandum in Support of Request for
Attorney's Fees [doc. 29] filed by plaintiff Trey L.
Miller, following this court's award of summary judgment
on his Fair Labor Standards Act suit. Defendant Lenard
Enterprises, LLC has filed no response and its time for doing
so has passed.
brought suit in this court against defendant, his former
employer, under the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq.
He alleged that he was a non-exempt employee and was owed
overtime compensation during the time he was employed by
defendant, from March 2015 to May 2017. Doc. 1. On
plaintiff's unopposed motion for summary
this court found that defendant had violated the FLSA and
that plaintiff was entitled to unpaid overtime wages and
liquidated damages in a total amount of $94, 108.12. Docs.
with his motion for summary judgment plaintiff also requested
an award of costs and attorney fees under the FLSA. He
supported this request with an invoice from his attorney. The
court held that plaintiff was entitled to such an award, but
that the proper amount could not be determined on the
evidence submitted. Accordingly, it ordered supplemental
briefing from plaintiff and allowed additional time for
defendant to file a response. Plaintiff has submitted his
briefing, but the court has received no response.
Plaintiff's contentions are thus regarded as unopposed.
FLSA provides that the court “shall, in addition to any
judgment awarded to the plaintiff . . ., allow a
reasonable attorney's fee to be paid by
the defendant, and costs of the action.” 29 U.S.C.
§ 216(b) (emphasis added). Courts use the lodestar
method to calculate such an award, multiplying the number of
hours an attorney reasonably spent on the case by an
appropriate hourly rate based on the market for that work in
the community. Smith & Fuller, P.A. v. Cooper Tire
& Rubber Co., 685 F.3d 486, 490 (5th Cir. 2012). The
lodestar is presumptively reasonable but may be adjusted due
to one or more of the twelve factors set out in Johnson
v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714 (5th Cir.
1974). Black v. SettlePou P.C., 732 F.3d 492, 502
(5th Cir. 2013). Accordingly, the court first determines the
appropriate lodestar and then whether a departure is
indicated above, the first step in ascertaining the lodestar
is determining counsel's reasonable hourly rate. This
rate is the market rate for similar services by similarly
trained and experienced attorneys in the relevant legal
community. Tollett v. City of Kemah, 285 F.3d 357,
368 (5th Cir. 2002). The relevant legal community is
generally the judicial district where the case is
tried - here,
the Western District of Louisiana - rather than the
particular division. Comar Marine Corp. v. Raider Marine
Logistics, LLC, 2016 WL 99208, at *4 (W.D. La. Jan. 7,
2016). “An attorney's requested hourly rate is
prima facie reasonable when he requests that the
lodestar be computed at his or her customary billing rate,
the rate is within the range of prevailing market rates, and
the rate is not contested.” Pickney v. Strategic
Restaurant Acquisition Co., LLC, 2017 WL 1821125, at *2
(W.D. La. May 4, 2017) (citing La. Power & Light Co.
v. Kellstrom, 50 F.3d 319, 328 (5th Cir. 1995)). The
reasonable hourly rate for a community may be established
based on the affidavits of other attorneys practicing there.
Id. (citing Thompson v. Connick, 553 F.3d
836, 867-68 (5th Cir. 2008)).
counsel is James Sudduth, an attorney who specializes in
employment law and practices in this district. For the
purposes of this request, Mr. Sudduth bills himself at a rate
of $250/hour, associate attorneys Kourtney Kech and Erin
Abrams at a rate of $200/hour, and paralegals and law clerks
at a rate of $125/hour. Mr. Sudduth avers that the regular
rates for these individuals are $350/hour, $250/hour, and
$150/hour, respectively, but that he has voluntarily reduced
their rates after consultation with other attorneys on
prevailing rates in the community. Doc. 29, att. 4. He
provides affidavits from local attorneys Scott Scofield and
James R. Morris, who attest to Mr. Sudduth's ability and
the reasonableness of the reduced rates. Doc. 30; doc. 29,
att. 2. Mr. Scofield, however, expresses that the rates are
on the “upper end of reasonable.” Doc. 30, ¶
7. This court has typically applied lower rates for
paralegals. See, e.g., Fontenot v. Safety
Council of Southwest La., 2018 WL 4326477, at *6 (W.D.
La. Sep. 10, 2018) (noting an average hourly rate of $96.50
for paralegals in Southwest Louisiana, with a range of $75 to
$100 per hour); Latiolais v. Griffith, 2015 WL
4253976, at *5 (W.D. La. Jul. 13, 2015) (reducing paralegal
rate from $85/hour to $65/hour). A rate of $125 to $130/hour
has been approved, however, where the fee-seeking party