United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636, the Rules of this Court, and Standing Order 13-02.
before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Lift Stay and
Re-open Discovery [Doc. 122] and Defendant's Motion for
Leave to File Supplement to Defendant's Objection to
Plaintiff's Motion to Lift Stay and Re-Open Discovery
with the Declaration of William Turner (“Motion to
Supplement”) [Doc. 125]. The parties appeared before
the Court on October 31, 2018, for a motion hearing.
Attorneys Jennifer Morton and Maha Ayesh appeared on behalf
of Plaintiff. Attorneys Christopher Yates and Brandi Stewart
appeared on behalf of Defendant.
initial matter, Plaintiff did not object to Defendant's
Motion to Supplement, and therefore, the Motion [Doc.
125] is GRANTED, and the Court has
considered the Declaration of William Turner in its analysis
below. Accordingly, for the reasons more fully explained
below, the Court finds Plaintiff's Motion to Lift Stay
and Re-Open Discovery [Doc. 122] not well
taken, and it is DENIED.
of background, the parties proceeded to try this matter
before a jury from June 19, 2018, to June 27, 2018, wherein
the jury returned a verdict in Plaintiff's favor.
Thereafter, the parties requested that the Court stay the
matter so that they could engage in mediation in order to
resolve the remaining claims. The District Judge stayed the
case until October 1, 2018, so that the parties could engage
in mediation. The parties were able to resolve the remaining
matters, except Plaintiff's request for attorney's
fees and costs. The District Judge referred the issue of
attorney's fees and costs to the undersigned and
continued the stay in this case until the Court ruled on
Plaintiff's forthcoming motion for attorney's fees
to the filing and subsequent briefing of Plaintiff's
request for attorney's fees and costs, Plaintiff filed
the instant Motion, which the Court addressed at the motion
hearing on October 31, 2018. At the motion hearing, the Court
also provided a briefing schedule for Plaintiff's request
for attorney's fees and costs. The parties have now
completed briefing on Plaintiff's request for
attorney's fees and costs, and such briefing has aided
the Court in its decision below.
Court will now turn to the parties' position with respect
to the instant Motion.
POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES
requests [Doc. 122] that she be permitted to serve discovery
upon Defendant limited to information relevant to the
reasonableness of her claim for attorney's fees and
costs. Plaintiff states that the Court previously stayed the
case to allow the parties an opportunity to participate in
mediation in an attempt to resolve several outstanding claims
pending in this Court and in other venues. Plaintiff states
that the parties reached an agreement as to the remaining
claims, except Plaintiff's request for attorney's
fees and costs. Plaintiff explains that the parties could not
reach an agreement with respect to attorney's fees
because Defendant disputed the overall time expended,
claiming it was excessive and not proportional to the
verdict. Plaintiff asserts that in disputing the overall time
that her counsel spent on the case, Defendant has not
provided her with information about the amount of time his
own attorneys and staff expended for their work in connection
with this case. Plaintiff states that the Court has
discretion to allow discovery into a non-prevailing
party's attorney's time and fees to determine whether
the prevailing party's fee request is reasonable.
filed a Response [Doc. 124], objecting to Plaintiff's
request. Defendant asserts that the employees with the
Department of Justice (“DOJ”) are not required to
report the amount of time that they spend working on an
individual task. Further, Defendant states that
Plaintiff's Motion is premature because whether his
attorneys' billing records are relevant depends on the
nature of the objections, and the parties have not briefed
Plaintiff's request for attorney's fees and costs.
Defendant submits that Plaintiff's discovery requests
seek information that is irrelevant and not proportional to
the needs of this case. Finally, Defendant supplemented his
Response with an Declaration of William D. Turner [Doc.
125-1], the Assistant Director of the Data Integrity and
Analysis Staff for the DOJ.
filed a Reply [Doc. 125], asserting that Defendant's time
records are relevant. Plaintiff states that Defendant does
not dispute that his attorneys and legal staff kept records,
but instead, Defendant states that they are not
required to specify the tasks that they performed
and may have reported time spent by case type rather
than by the specific case name. Further, Plaintiff asserts
that her request for discovery at this time was made to avoid
unnecessary delay in reaching a final resolution of this
case. Plaintiff states that the only way Defendant's time
records would be irrelevant is if Defendant does not object
to the amount of time Plaintiff's counsel spent on the
litigation. Finally, Plaintiff claims that Defendant's
time and expense records related to her whistleblower
retaliation claim are relevant and proportional.
Court has considered the parties' positions, and for the
reasons more fully explained below, the Court
DENIES Plaintiff's Motion [Doc.
mentioned above, the Court addressed the parties on October
31, 2018, with respect to the instant matter. During the
hearing, Plaintiff argued that her discovery requests were
limited to three interrogatories and three requests for
document production. Defendant maintained that the Motion is
premature because during the mediation, they were able to
review her fees but not in sufficient detail to make specific
objections. Defendant insisted that the relevancy of his
attorneys' billing records depends on the nature of his
objections and that he has not been able to fully assess the
reasonableness of the billing records. Further, Defendant
explained that DOJ attorneys do not have accurate billing
records. Defendant stated that DOJ attorneys are able to
document time spent on a case, but because the DOJ is more
concerned with the area of law where the time is spent, DOJ
attorneys may not document time in connection with a specific
case. Further, Defendant explained ...