United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Delta Division
KENDRICK SALES, Individually, WILLIAM E. WHITE, JR., Individually, WAYNE TUBBS, JR., Individually, And on Behalf of Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiffs,
JAMES BAILEY, DELTA PRODUCTS TREE SERVICE, LLC, And MS RIGHT OF WAY PROFESSIONALS, LLC, Defendants.
SHARION AYCOCK, District Judge.
Plaintiffs prevailed in an action under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"). At the Court's direction, Plaintiffs have filed a Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs . Defendants have filed no response, and the motion is now ripe. Upon consideration of the motion, responses, rules, and authorities, the Court finds as follows:
Factual and Procedural Background
Eleven employees collectively brought suit against James Bailey, Delta Products Tree Service, LLC, and MS Right of Way Professionals, LLC to recover unpaid overtime compensation and liquidated damages under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"). See 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Following a three day bench trial, the Court found in favor of the Plaintiffs and awarded them a total of $29, 623.12. In the present motion, Plaintiffs request more than $85, 000 in attorneys' fees and more than $6, 000 in costs and expenses. The Court addresses each request in turn. Attorneys' Fees
The Court shall "allow a reasonable attorney's fee to be paid by the defendant" to the prevailing parties in a suit under the FLSA. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) (emphasis added). The first step in determining the appropriate fee award is the lodestar calculation. Saizan v. Delta Concrete Products Co. , 448 F.3d 795, 799 (5th Cir. 2006). This entails "[m]ultiplying the number of hours reasonably spent on the case by an appropriate hourly rate in the community for such work" to arrive at the lodestar amount. Id.
Hours Reasonably Spent
Plaintiffs have requested compensation for a total of 347 hours spent by three different attorneys and one legal assistant. The individuals seeking compensation "bear the burden of establishing entitlement to an award...." La. Power & Light Co. v. Kellstrom , 50 F.3d 319, 324 (5th Cir. 1995) (quoting Hensley v. Eckerhart , 461 U.S. 424, 433, 103 S.Ct. 1933, 76 L.Ed.2d 40 (1983)). The Court "must determine whether the hours claimed were reasonably expended on the litigation.'" Id. (citation and quotation omitted). To demonstrate that hours spent were reasonable, Plaintiffs must show "they exercised billing judgment." Saizan, 448 F.3d at 779. This requires "documentation of the hours charged and of the hours written off as unproductive, excessive, or redundant." Id.
Plaintiffs have provided a detailed list, accounting for two-and-a-half years' time spent on the case in four hundred forty-seven entries, fifty-two of which contain only "written-off" hours for which they do not seek to recover. Within each entry, Plaintiffs have listed a detailed description of the work performed, the individual who executed the task, the date, hourly rate, time billed, and time not credited. The Court finds that this detailed accounting constitutes sufficient evidence of billing judgment.
Regardless of billing judgment, however, the time spent by the legal assistant for Plaintiffs' counsel, Dolores Luna, is not recoverable insofar as it is considered purely clerical work. Coleman v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist. , 202 F.3d 264, 1999 WL 1131554, at *9 (5th Cir. 1999) (citing Allen v. U.S. Steel Corp. , 665 F.2d 689, 697 (5th Cir. 1982)). Rather, to be recoverable, time spent by a legal assistant must be similar to that typically performed by lawyers. Id.
Examples of purely clerical tasks that have been held not recoverable are seeking pro hac vice admission, U.S. ex rel. Rigsby v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 2014 WL 691500, at *1 (S.D.Miss. Feb 21, 2014), assisting with the filing and service of briefs, formatting an appendix to a brief, Davis v. Perry, 2014 WL 172119, at *1 (W.D. Tex. Jan. 15, 2014), drafting cover letters to the court, calendaring deadlines, filing appearance forms, ordering transcripts, reorganizing materials, and filing notices of an address change. Black v. SettlePou, PC, 2014 WL 3534991, at *6 (N.D. Tex. July 17, 2014).
Ms. Luna made travel preparations, arranged for interpretive services, informed Plaintiffs of the scheduling of various events throughout the litigation, and compiled information for the Plaintiffs' travel expenses. This work, which took 8.55 hours in total, closely resembles the clerical tasks that have been held not recoverable as part of the award of attorneys' fees. Conversely, Ms. Luna also made several phone calls and sent several emails to the Plaintiffs relating to the merits of their wage claims. On the days of trial, she accompanied the Plaintiffs before, during, and after court. She also provided interpretive assistance at trial. The Court finds these actions to be similar to work performed by lawyers, and thus recoverable as part of the fee award.
The Plaintiffs' request is accordingly reduced by 8.55 hours. Aside from this reduction, the Court finds the ...