United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division
ORDER AWARDING ATTORNEYS' FEES TO THE LAMAR
GUIROLA, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER COMES BEFORE THE COURT on the  claim of The Lamar
Company, LLC for attorneys' fees of $15, 335.15. In
addition to the documents attached to docket entry 25, the
Court considers declarations previously filed at docket
entries 15-1 and 18-1, which The Lamar Company has
incorporated by reference. The defendants have filed
objections to the fee request. After due consideration of the
submissions, arguments of counsel and the relevant law, it is
the Court's opinion that The Lamar Company should be
awarded $7766 in attorneys' fees pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
Court's remand order adjudicating Lamar's  Motion
to Remand, it determined that this case is essentially a
zoning dispute, with no federal question that would justify
removal at stake. (Mem. Op. & Order Granting Mot. to
Remand & Denying Mot. to Strike New Argument, ECF No.
22). The Court granted attorneys fees and costs to The Lamar
Company, LLC, because there was no objectively reasonable
basis for defendants to believe removal was legally proper.
Lamar's request for attorneys' fees and costs
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) was granted, and Lamar
was directed to file documentation supporting its request.
Lamar has requested attorneys' fees, but no costs. In
order to determine the reasonableness of Lamar's
attorneys' fees request, the Court starts with a
calculation of the lodestar.
calculate the lodestar, the court first multiplies the
reasonable number of hours spent working on the case by the
reasonable hourly rate for the attorney to determine the
lodestar figure. Black v. SettlePou, P.C., 732 F.3d
492, 502 (5th Cir. 2013).
REASONABLE HOURLY RATE
litigation, Lamar was represented by Lisa A. Reppeto, an
attorney with seventeen years of experience in litigation
involving outdoor advertising signs and regulation. (Repetto
Decl. 1, ECF No. 15-1). Reppeto's standard rate is $360
per hour but she bills her time to Lamar at $250 per hour.
(Id.). The defendants object that Reppeto has not
properly documented her professional qualifications and
experience “in a resume or other supporting
evidence.” Defendants do not cite to any authority for
this objection. Rather than requiring proof of qualifications
and experience, the Court relies on affidavits from counsel
as officers of the Court. See Tollett v. City of Kemah,
Tex., 285 F.3d 357, 368 (5th Cir. 2002) (reasonable
hourly rates are typically calculated through affidavits by
attorneys practicing in the community in which the district
court is located). Defendants do not contend that Reppeto has
misstated her qualifications or experience. Accordingly,
there is no basis for rejecting Reppeto's declaration
has supported her assertion that $250 per hour is reasonable
for an attorney of her experience in this community with the
declaration of S. Trent Favre. (Ex. C to Lamar Notice of
Submission, ECF No. 25-3). Favre has practiced law on the
Mississippi Gulf Coast for almost twenty years and states
that Reppeto's hourly rate of $250 is consistent with
hourly rates charged by other experienced lawyers in the
area. (Id.). The defendants counter with the
Mississippi Bar 2014 Economic Survey, showing that among
attorneys who billed hourly in 2014, only 10.6 percent
charged $250 per hour. (Def. Resp. Ex. A 5, ECF No. 29-1)
(ECF pagination). The largest cohort, at almost twenty
percent, charged $200 per hour.
“trial courts are considered experts as to the
reasonableness of attorney's fees, ” Primrose
Operating Co. v. Nat'l Am. Ins. Co., 382 F.3d 546,
562 (5th Cir. 2004), this Court also reviews attorney fee
awards made in local cases. This Court approved an hourly
rate of $225 per hour in a civil rights case. Nobach v.
Woodland Vill. Nursing Home Ctr., No. 1:11cv346-HSO-RHW,
2013 WL 2145738, at *4 (S.D.Miss. May 15, 2013). In a SPEECH
Act case, this Court awarded fees of $250 per hour. Trout
Point Lodge Ltd. v. Handshoe, No. 1:12cv90-LG-JMR, 2013
WL 6524650, at *6 (S.D.Miss. Dec. 11, 2013). In a Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act case, this Court held that $300 per
hour was a reasonable rate. Meyer v. Turner, No.
1:13cv443-JCG, 2015 WL 7300562, at *5 (S.D.Miss. Nov. 18,
2015). A rate of $400 per hour is appropriate for complex
litigation in this community. Jones v. Singing
River Health Sys., No. 1:14cv447-LG-RHW, 2016 WL
3248449, at *3 (S.D.Miss. June 10, 2016); U.S. ex rel.
Rigsby v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., No.
1:06cv433-HSO-RHW, 2014 WL 691500, at *14 (S.D.Miss. Feb. 21,
2014). Rates ranging from $375 per hour to $200 per hour were
awarded in an insurance case in the Southern District of
Mississippi. Penthouse Owners Ass'n v. Certain
Underwriters at Lloyd's, No. 1:07cv568-HSO-RHW, 2011
WL 6699447, at *12 (S.D.Miss. Dec. 21, 2011). The attorney
awarded $375 per hour had over forty-one years of experience,
while the attorneys awarded $200 per hour had four or five
years of experience. Id. at **7, 10-11. The Court
approved $350 per hour for attorneys with thirty-eight to
thirty-one years of experience. Id. at *9-11.
all of this information, the Court finds that Reppeto's
hourly fee of $250 per hour is reasonable in this area for an
attorney of her experience.
also seeks reimbursement for work performed by Legal
Assistant Angela Pittman, billed at $95 per hour,
“finalizing and electronically filing” the motion
and rebuttal briefs. (Repetto Decl. 1, ECF No. 15-1). Pittman
also spent time redacting billing documents and calculating
hours and fees. (Ex. B to Lamar Notice of Submission, ECF No.
25-2). The defendants object that the listed services are
secretarial in nature and should be disallowed. In the
alternative Defendants object that an hourly rate of $95 for
a legal assistant is excessive, because an internet
employment service calculates an average salary for a legal
assistant in Jackson as $48, 265, or the equivalent hourly
rate of $23.
time spent by Pittman is not recoverable to the extent that
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, Rigsby, 2014 WL
691500, at *1, assisting with the filing and service of
briefs, formatting an appendix to a brief, Davis v.
Perry, Nos. SA-11-CA-788-OLG-JES-XR,
SA-11-CA-855-OLG-JES-XR, 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, No.
3:10cv1418-K, 2014 WL 3534991, at *6 (N.D. Tex. July 17,
Pittman's billing entries is time spent preparing an
entry of appearance and a notice regarding removal, e-filing
documents, redacting records and calculating hours and fees.
This work, totaling 2.9 hours, appears to be clerical rather
than legal. The remaining entries indicate legal work, such
as drafting documents, and editing and revising briefs. ...