United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is the Sixth Circuit's decision affirming in
part and vacating in part this Court's denial of
prejudgment interest and reduction of Plaintiff's
attorneys' fees. (Doc. No. 380 at 2.) In its opinion, the
Sixth Circuit panel explains that, in an order dated May 7,
2018 (Doc. No. 355), this Court: (1) refused to consider
several miscellaneous motions filed by Plaintiffs because
they were filed in blatant disregard of the Court's prior
order limiting such motions; and (2) awarded the
Plaintiffs' attorneys only the fees and costs that
Defendants agreed were appropriate, which amounted to
approximately $94, 000 in fees and no costs. (Doc. No. 380 at
4.) Plaintiffs appealed this Order. (See Doc. No.
357.) The Sixth Circuit affirmed this Court's Order in
nearly all respects but noted that the Order did not make
clear whether the Court reduced the fee award as a sanction,
given the Plaintiffs' blatant disregard for the
Court's prior order, or whether the reduced award
reflected the Court's judgment as to the amount of a
reasonable fee. (Id. at 5.) Thus, the Sixth Circuit
remanded the case to this Court to specify which, if any, of
these factors were the basis for the decision. (Id.
background, the parties' Settlement Agreement provided,
among other things, that Defendants would pay to Plaintiffs
$125, 000 of which $60, 000 would be for attorneys' fees.
(Doc. No. 137 at 3). It further provided that, upon complete
satisfaction of all obligations required in paragraph 3,
Plaintiffs' attorneys' fees and costs would be
completely satisfied, and Plaintiffs would make no further
claim of either attorneys' fees or expenses whatsoever
with the exception of any fees and expenses contemplated and
set forth in paragraph 11. (Id.) Paragraph 11
In the event any party breaches the terms of this Agreement,
the non-breaching party shall be entitled to reasonable
attorneys' fees, costs, and litigation expenses for any
legal action resulting from said breach. These attorneys'
fees, costs, and litigation expenses shall be in addition to
any other legal or equitable remedy available. The proper
venue for any legal action resulting from a breach of this
Agreement shall be the Chancery Court of Davidson County,
(Doc. No. 137 at 4.) Subsequently, Defendants attempted to
invalidate the Settlement Agreement through litigation at the
state level and in this Court through two Federal Rule Civil
Procedure 60 motions, Plaintiffs responded in opposition,
and, ultimately, this Court determined that: (1) the
Settlement Agreement remained valid; and (2) Plaintiffs'
attorneys were entitled to fees related to their efforts to
defend the Settlement Agreement in this Court. (See
Doc. No. 348 at 2-3.)
reexamining the prior Order, the Court acknowledges that it
did not fully delineate the basis for its ruling. In the
prior Order, the Court noted that Plaintiffs' Revised
Motion for Attorneys' Fees, Expenses, and Costs (Doc. No.
350) was essentially a “Motion to Reconsider many of
the Court's prior rulings.” (Doc. No. 355 at 2.) In
any event, setting aside these reconsideration arguments, the
Court explained that Defendants objected to Plaintiffs'
attorneys' revised time entries and expenses, but
ultimately agreed to pay $56, 564.38 in fees to Mr. Howell
and $37, 992.50 in fees to Mr. Harris. (Id.) The
Court concluded that, in light of Plaintiffs' blatant
disregard of and failure to comply with the Court's
previous Order (barring Plaintiffs from filing the
miscellaneous motions that they nonetheless filed), an award
to Plaintiffs' counsel of only those agreed-upon amounts
was appropriate. (Id.)
Court now clarifies that the reduced $94, 000 fee amount
represents the Court's judgment as to the amount of a
reasonable fee. A reasonable attorney fee is calculated by
the lodestar method. See Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S.
886, 888 (1984); The Ne. Ohio Coal. for the Homeless v.
Husted, 831 F.3d 686, 702 (6th Cir. 2016). The lodestar
is “the number of hours reasonably expended on the
litigation multiplied by a reasonably hourly rate.”
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983).
award-seeking party should submit evidence of the hours
worked and the rates sought. Id. If
“documentation of hours is inadequate, the district
court may reduce the award accordingly.” Id.
In determining hours, a court must “exclude from this
initial fee calculation hours that were not ‘reasonably
expended.'” Id. at 434 (quoting S.Rep. No.
94-1011, p. 6 (1976)). That is, fee applicants must exercise
“billing judgment.” Id. Counsel are
expected to “exclude from a fee request hours that are
excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary, just as a
lawyer in private practice ethically is obligated to exclude
such hours from his fee submission.” Id.
award of attorneys' fees lies within the sound discretion
of the district court. Smillie v. Park Chem. Co.,
710 F.2d 271, 275 (6th Cir. 1983) (citing Ramey v.
Cincinnati Enquirer, Inc., 508 F.2d 1188, 1196 (6th
Cir.1974)). The ultimate task for the district court is to
ensure that counsel is fairly compensated for the amount of
work performed and the results achieved. Rawlings v.
Prudential-Bache Props., Inc., 9 F.3d 513, 516 (6th Cir.
1993). Moreover, the district court must determine the
reasonableness of the fee request considering the particular
circumstances of the litigation. Rawlings, 9 F.3d at
516; Smillie, 710 F.2d at 275.
Court expressly limited Plaintiffs' attorneys' fees,
expenses and costs to those that were incurred in opposing
Defendants' Rule 60 motions. (Doc. No. 348 at 6.) In
reviewing the submitted time logs from Plaintiffs'
counsel (Doc. Nos. 350-1, 350-2) and Defendants'
objections and revisions to those logs (Doc. Nos. 352-1,
352-2), the Court agrees with the Defendants' objections
and fee calculations. Defendants have accurately isolated
those time entries that actually comply with the Court's
prior Order to limit such fees to those incurred in
litigating the Rule 60(b) motions. From the Court's
review, it appears that Mr. Howell spent 161.61 hours in
defending the Rule 60(b) motions and Mr. Harris spent 108.55
hours. (See Doc. Nos. 350-1, 350-2.) Taking these
hours and multiplying by the $350.00 hourly rate previously
set by the Court, Mr. Howell is entitled to $56, 564.38 and
Mr. Harris is entitled to $37, 992.50. Henlsey, 461
U.S. at 433.
extent that Plaintiffs' counsel asserts that more time
was spent in defense of these motions, the documentation of
those hours is simply lacking. On the record before the
Court, it is not clear that those hours were spent working on
the Rule 60(b) defense and are otherwise unreasonable because
they are excessive. The Court is entitled to reduce the award
accordingly. Id. at 434. Moreover, the Court notes
that the reduced fee award is reasonable even in light of the
Plaintiffs' revised request, which the Sixth Circuit
noted, and the Court finds, “plainly excessive.”
(Doc. No. 380 at 4.) Put simply, rather than engage in a
good-faith effort to pare its fee request to those efforts
that were directly related to defending against the Rule 60
motions, Plaintiffs' attorneys have favored a
kitchen-sink approach, including fees that, even when
cursorily examined, are not connected to the defense of those
motions. No. matter, the Court, with assistance from the
Defendants, have done the work for them.
remand, Plaintiffs are AWARDED
attorneys' fees in the total amount of $94, 556.88 ($56,
564.38 to Mr. Howell and $37, 992.50 to Mr. Harris) for work
related to opposing Defendants' “Motion for Relief
from the Settlement Agreement.” This reduced fee ...