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McRae Law Firm, PLLC v. Gilmer

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

April 11, 2018

MCRAE LAW FIRM, PLLC, PLAINTIFF
v.
BARRY W. GILMER, et al., DEFENDANTS

          ORDER AND OPINION

          DAVID BRAMLETTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff McRae Law Firm, PLLC's Motion [Doc. 14] to recover the costs and expenses, including attorney fees, it incurred as a result of Defendant Barry W. Gilmer's objectively unreasonable removal of this action.

         Background

         By Order dated January 3, 2018, the Court remanded this action, concluded that Gilmer lacked an objectively reasonable basis for removing it, and awarded McRae Law Firm, PLLC (“McRae Firm”) costs under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). See Doc. 13.

         The Court directed Gilmer and the McRae Firm to confer on an appropriate award. They did not. So the responsibility shifts to the Court to set an appropriate award under § 1447(c).

         The McRae Firm asks the Court to award it unspecified expenses and nearly $8, 000 in legal fees. In support, the McRae Firm offers only the name of the attorney or para-professional, their hourly rate, and the number of hours they worked on the case. No affidavits are offered; no bills are produced.[1] Gilmer opposes McRae's Motion, complaining it lacks detail and ignores the lodestar method.

         I

         Gilmer owes the McRae Firm the just costs and actual expenses, including attorney fees, it incurred as a result of Gilmer's removal -- his third -- of this action. 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c). To determine the attorney fee portion of the award, the Court conducts a two-step analysis. Portillo v. Cunningham, 872 F.3d 728, 741 (5th Cir. 2017).

         First, the Court calculates the lodestar -- “the number of hours reasonably expended multiplied by the prevailing hourly rate in the community for similar work.” Combs v. City of Huntington, Tex., 829 F.3d 388, 392 (5th Cir. 2016).

         Second, the Court considers whether to alter the lodestar based on the twelve Johnson factors: (1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the issues; (3) the skill required to perform the legal service adequately; (4) the preclusion of other employment by the attorney because he accepted this case; (5) the customary fee for similar work in the community; (6) whether the fee is fixed or contingent; (7) time limitations imposed by the client or the circumstances; (8) the amount involved and the results obtained; (9) the experience, reputation, and ability of the attorneys, (10) the undesirability of the case; (11) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client; and (12) awards in similar cases. Union Asset Mgmt. Holding A.G. v. Dell, Inc. 669 F.3d 632, 642 n. 25 (5th Cir. 2012).[2]

         As the party seeking fees, the McRae Firm must “present adequately documented time records.” Watkins v. Fordice, 7 F.3d 453, 457 (5th Cir. 1993). Documentation is adequate if it provides the Court the information it needs to “fulfill its duty to examine the application for noncompensable hours.” Louisiana Power & Light Co. v. Kellstrom, 50 F.3d 319, 324 (5th Cir. 1995) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         The attorney fee calculation is fact-intensive. Hopwood v. State of Texas, 236 F.3d 256, 281 (5th Cir. 2000). Hourly rates are not fixed by the fee-seeking-party's description; they are computed based on the “prevailing market rates in the relevant legal market.” Id. at 281.

         The relevant legal market is the Southern District of Mississippi. See Tollett v. City of Kemah, 285 F.3d 357, 368 (5th Cir. 2002). And a reasonable hourly rate is shown through affidavits of other attorneys ...


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