United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
CARLTON W. REEVES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is the plaintiff's motion for attorney's
fees and costs. Docket No. 113. The matter is fully briefed
and ready for adjudication.
Factual and Procedural History
Sturkin filed this lawsuit alleging that her former Drug
Court parole officer, Vicky Patrick, violated Sturkin's
constitutional rights. Sturkin said that during the period of
supervision, she “was subjected to regular and repeated
harassment, coercion, punishment, and false reporting by
Defendant Patrick.” For example, Sturkin claimed that
Patrick went to Sturkin's places of employment and
demanded that Sturkin look the other way while Patrick stole
goods or otherwise defrauded Sturkin's employers. Sturkin
also claimed that Patrick falsely told the Drug Court's
presiding judge that Sturkin had tested positive for alcohol
consumption, which caused Sturkin to be imprisoned.
trial, a jury found in Sturkin's favor and awarded her
$350, 000 in compensatory damages. The present motion
argues that as the prevailing party, she is entitled to $69,
962.25 in attorney's fees and $636.49 in costs. This sum
reflects a $275 hourly rate for attorney S. Craig Panter, a
$175 hourly rate for attorney Ronald E. Stutzman, Jr., and
lesser hourly rates for paralegals. Patrick opposes the
motion in part: she contends that opposing counsel's
hourly rates should be lowered to $200 for Panter and $150
always, the Court uses the lodestar method to calculate an
award of fees.” Lighthouse Rescue Mission, Inc. v.
City of Hattiesburg, Miss., No. 2:12-CV-184-KS-MTP, 2014
WL 4402229, at *3 (S.D.Miss. Sept. 5, 2014) (citation
omitted). The lodestar is calculated by multiplying the
number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation by the
reasonable hourly billing rate. Id.; see Hensley
v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). “[T]he
lodestar method yields a fee that is presumptively
sufficient.” Perdue v. Kenny A. ex rel. Winn,
559 U.S. 542, 552 (2010) (citations omitted).
Court may then adjust the lodestar to account for factors
that bear on the propriety of a fee award-the so-called
Johnson factors. Shipes v. Trinity Indus.,
987 F.2d 311, 320 & n.6 (5th Cir. 1993) (citing
Johnson v. Ga. Highway Express, 488 F.2d 714 (5th
Cir. 1974)). The “most critical” factor is
“the degree of success obtained.” Abner v.
Kan. City S. Ry. Co., 541 F.3d 372, 377 (5th Cir. 2008).
party seeking reimbursement of attorneys' fees has the
burden of establishing the number of attorney hours expended,
and can meet that burden only by presenting evidence that is
adequate for the court to determine what hours should be
included in the reimbursement.” La. Power &
Light Co. v. Kellstrom, 50 F.3d 319, 324 (5th Cir. 1995)
(quotation marks, citation, brackets, and ellipses omitted).
The amount sought and the hours expended must be reasonable.
Id. at 325. “The court should exclude all time
that is excessive, duplicative, or inadequately
documented.” Jimenez v. Wood Cnty., Tex., 621
F.3d 372, 379-80 (5th Cir. 2010).
attorney's fee award ruling should “explain how
each of the Johnson factors affects its award”
but “need not be meticulously detailed to survive
appellate review.” In re High Sulfur Content
Gasoline Prod. Liab. Litig., 517 F.3d 220, 228 (5th Cir.
2008); see Blanchard v. Bergeron, 893 F.2d 87, 89
(5th Cir. 1990) (“we will not require the trial
court's findings to be so excruciatingly explicit in this
area of minutiae that decisions on fee awards consume more
judicial paper than did the cases from which they
arose”). As the Supreme Court has explained,
“trial courts need not, and indeed should not, become
green-eyeshade accountants. The essential goal in shifting
fees (to either party) is to do rough justice, not to achieve
auditing perfection.” Fox v. Vice, 563 U.S.
826, 838 (2011).
hourly rates in this State vary. See Brown v. Miss.
Dep't of Health, No. 3:11-CV-146-CWR-FKB, 2013 WL
12128785, at *3 (S.D.Miss. Mar. 5, 2013) (collecting cases).
Several federal judges in Mississippi have awarded $400 an
hour and beyond for experienced attorneys handling complex
litigation. See Jones v. Singing River Health Sys., ...