United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division
M. BROWN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
April 4, 2017, United States Magistrate Judge Jane M. Virden
issued an order directing Candace Williamson to pay to
Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (“Mass
Mutual”) attorney's fees in the amount of $3, 000.
Doc. #74. On December 26, 2019, this Court, on Mass.
Mutual's motion, found Williamson in civil contempt due
to her failure to pay the $3, 000, and directed Mass. Life to
submit documentation showing the losses it sustained in
seeking to enforce the April 4 order. Doc. #130. Mass. Mutual
submitted the required documentation on January 2, 2020. Doc.
#131. Mass. Mutual's submission shows that it incurred
$17, 613.50 in attorney's fees, representing 59.2 hours
of work, in its attempt to enforce Judge Virden's order.
Doc. #131-1 at 9. Despite being provided an opportunity to do
so, Williamson did not respond to Mass. Life's
for civil contempt must be coercive or compensatory. In
re White-Robinson, 777 F.3d 792, 795 (5th Cir. 2015). To
be compensatory, attorney's fees must reasonably
compensate the party in its efforts to seek enforcement of
the violated order. See In re Skyport Glob.
Commc'ns, Inc., 661 Fed.Appx. 835, 842 (5th Cir.
2016) (affirming contempt sanction where it “reasonably
The calculation of attorney's fees involves a
well-established process. First, the court calculates a
lodestar fee by multiplying the reasonable number of hours
expended on the case by the reasonable hourly rates for the
participating lawyers. The court then considers whether the
lodestar figure should be adjusted upward or downward
depending on the circumstances of the case. In making a
lodestar adjustment the court should look to twelve factors,
known as the Johnson factors, after Johnson v. Georgia
Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714 (5th Cir.1974). The
factors are: (1) the time and labor required for the
litigation; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions
presented; (3) the skill required to perform the legal
services properly; (4) the preclusion of other employment by
the attorney due to acceptance of the case; (5) the customary
fee; (6) whether the fee is fixed or contingent; (7) time
limitations imposed by the client or the circumstances; (8)
the amount involved and the result 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
Migis v. Pearle Vision, Inc., 135 F.3d 1041, 1047
(5th Cir. 1998) (cleaned up).
Mutual's fee request involves four separate hourly rates:
(1) a $400 hourly rate for Thomas Woodall, an attorney with
more than thirty years of experience; (2) a $385 hourly rate
for Kristen Cross, an attorney with twenty years of
experience; (3) a $285 hourly rate for Alyse Windsor, an
attorney with four years of experience; and (4) a $150 hourly
rate for Deana Breckenridge, a paralegal. The Court concludes
that these rates, while on the high end, are reasonable,
given the experience of the legal professionals involved.
See Olivia Y. v. Barbour, No. 3:04-cv-251, 2016 WL
11609575, at *2 (S.D.Miss. May 6, 2016) (finding reasonable
$300 hourly rate for attorney with 29 years of experience and
$350 hourly rate for attorney with over 30 years of
experience) (collecting Mississippi cases); Wiemer v.
Rubin, No. 1:16-cv-99, 2019 WL 2461814, at *2 (S.D.Miss.
June 12, 2019) (approving $130 hourly rate for paralegal).
Furthermore, while 59.2 hours of work may seem excessive for
enforcement of a $3, 000 fee award, Williamson's
contumacious bad faith conduct, which stretched over the
course of years,  made such efforts necessary. Finally,
after consideration of the relevant factors, the Court
declines to make a lodestar adjustment.
Mass. Mutual's fee request is APPROVED.
Candace Williamson is ORDERED to pay to
Mass. Mutual $17, 613.50 in fees. Williamson must make such
payment no later than 12:00 p.m. on January 17, 2020, and
must submit to the Court proof of such payment, as well as
payment of the previously ordered $3, 000 sanction, no later
than 2:00 p.m. the same day. Should Williamson fail to pay
either sanction by the deadline in this order, a judgment in
the outstanding amount will issue, and Williamson will be
suspended from practicing in this judicial district and
subject to potential civil confinement.
See Doc. #130.