United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Western Division
ASHLEY BROOKS, ET AL. PLAINTIFFS
ILLUSIONS, INC., ET AL. DEFENDANTS
MICHAEL T. PARKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
December 14, 2016, the Court conducted a telephonic
conference with the parties, during which Plaintiffs moved
ore tenus to compel Defendants to respond to their
interrogatories, requests for admissions, and requests for
production. The Court granted Plaintiffs' ore
tenus motion to compel and directed Defendants to
respond to Plaintiffs' discovery requests. See
Order . Thereafter, disputes arose between the parties
regarding the sufficiency of Defendants' discovery
responses, and on January 13, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a Motion
to Compel , complaining that Defendants provided,
inter alia, interrogatory responses which are not
sworn under oath, some discovery responses which were
inconsistent, and others which were incomplete.
February 3, 2017, the Court ordered Defendants to sign under
oath their answers to interrogatories and provide them to
Plaintiffs. See Order . The Court also granted
Plaintiffs leave to depose Defendants Thomas Walsh and
Illusions, Inc. and directed the parties to confer on or
before February 10, 2017, to schedule these depositions.
February 17, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Sanctions
, asserting that Defendants failed to provide sworn
answers to interrogatories or respond to their requests to
schedule the depositions of Thomas Walsh and Illusions, Inc.
The Court granted in part and denied in part Plaintiffs'
Motion for Sanctions . See Order . The Court
found that an award of sanctions was proper and directed
Plaintiffs' counsel to file an affidavit and itemization
of fees and expenses incurred in connection with the Motion
to Compel  and Motion for Sanctions . Plaintiffs'
counsel submitted the required affidavit. See
Affidavit . No opposition was filed by Defendants
although they were afforded an opportunity to do so.
attorney's fees are determined by calculating the
“lodestar” by multiplying the reasonable hours
expended by a reasonable hourly rate. League of United
Latin Am. Citizens No. 4552 v. Roscoe Indep. Sch. Dist.,
119 F.3d 1228, 1232 (5th Cir. 1997). A court must determine
whether the total number of hours claimed was reasonable and
whether specific hours claimed were reasonably expended.
Id. After calculating the hours reasonably expended,
a court must determine a reasonable hourly rate “based
on the prevailing market rates in the relevant
community.” Assoc. Builders & Contractors of
La., Inc. v. Orleans Parish Sch. Bd., 919 F.2d 347, 379
(5th Cir. 1990) (quotations and citation omitted). In making
these considerations, a court should consider the factors
articulated in Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express,
Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th Cir.
affidavit, Plaintiffs' counsel requests attorney's
fees for 16.25 hours at a rate of $260.00 per hour for a
total amount of $4, 225.00. Regarding the hours expended,
“[t]he Fifth Circuit has emphasized that district
courts should reduce attorneys' fees awards where
attorneys do not exercise billing judgment, i.e., exclude
‘unproductive, excessive, or redundant
hours.'” Brown v. Ascent Assurance, Inc.,
191 F.Supp.2d 729, 733 (N.D. Miss. 2002) (quoting Walker
v. United States Dep't. of Hous. and Urban Dev., 99
F.3d 761, 770 (5th Cir. 1996)). Hours which “are
excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary, ” or
which result from the case being “overstaffed, ”
are not hours “reasonably expended” and are to be
excluded from the lodestar calculation. Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 434 (1983).
Court finds that the number of hours requested by
Plaintiffs' counsel is reasonable under the
circumstances. No unusual or unique skills were required to
perform the legal services rendered, nor were the questions
presented in the subject motions novel or difficult. However,
the Court has reviewed the submissions of Plaintiffs'
counsel and finds that the amount of the claimed hours
(16.25) was reasonably expended.
the reasonable hourly rate, Plaintiffs' counsel argues
that the relevant community for lodestar purposes should be
the Jackson, Mississippi, legal community- counsel's home
district-because he is not aware of any attorneys located in
the Western Division of the Southern District of Mississippi
who are bringing collective actions under the Fair Labor
Standards Act. Plaintiffs' counsel cites McClain v.
Lufkin Industries, Inc., 649 F.3d 374 (5th Cir. 2011) in
support of his argument. According to McClain,
out-of-district counsel may be entitled to the rates they
charge in their home districts under certain limited
circumstances. Unlike counsel in McClain, however,
Plaintiffs' counsel has not provided “abundant and
uncontradicted evidence” that it was necessary for
Plaintiffs to turn to out-of-district counsel. Accordingly,
the relevant legal community for this action is the Western
Court is familiar with the prevailing hourly rates in the
community and finds that $260.00 per hour is a reasonable
hourly rate. Attorneys in the Western Division of this Court
routinely appear in the Northern Division and vice versa. The
fees charged in each community are similar.
reviewing the record and applicable law, including the
Johnson factors, the Court finds that Plaintiffs
should be awarded $260.00 per hour for 16.25 hours for a
total sum of $4, 225.00. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 37(b)(2)(C), a court may “order the
disobedient party, the attorney advising that party, or
both” to pay the sanction. Given the nature of the
ongoing discovery issues (such as Defendants' failure to
provide sworn answers to interrogatories and their failure to
cooperate in scheduling depositions) and given
Defendants' failure to respond to pending motions and
orders,  the Court finds that Defendants and their
counsel should be sanctioned.
THEREFORE, ORDERED that Defendants and their counsel, jointly
and severally, shall pay to Plaintiffs, through
Plaintiffs' counsel, the sum of $4, 225.00 in sanctions
on or before May 12, 2017.