United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
June 4, 2004.
JAMES A. SHULA, Plaintiff, V. PAUL D. LAWENT, and J.V.D.B. & ASSOCIATES, INC., Defendants
The opinion of the court was delivered by: ARLANDER KEYS, Magistrate Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
James Shula sued Paul Lawent, J.V.D.B. & Associates, Inc., and
Denise Bugno, for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
("FDCPA"), and won. The Court entered summary judgment in Mr. Shula's
favor on December 20, 2002, awarding him statutory damages under the
FDCPA of $1,000, plus attorney's fees and costs. The case is now before
the Court on Mr. Shula's petition for an award of attorney's fees and
costs. For the reasons explained below, the petition is granted, as
modified in this opinion.
In this case, the parties have litigated for almost three years over
claims worth just over $1,000. The Court's previous opinion explains the
factual background of this case in detail, see Shula v. Lawent,
No. 01 C 4883, 2002 WL 31870157 at *1-3 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 23, 2002). But to
summarize briefly, defendant J.V.D.B. & Associates, Inc., a
collection agency, called James Shula twice about a bill Mr. Shula allegedly owed to Dr. Harry
Goldin, who had previously treated him. Mr. Shula disputed the debt.
Nevertheless, a couple of months later, J.V.D.B. sued Mr. Shula, on
behalf of Dr. Goldin, in state court. Mr. Shula, not wanting to hassle
with the lawsuit, paid the bill to Dr. Goldin (most of which the doctor
later returned, suggesting that Mr. Shula was actually right to dispute
the debt in the first instance). About a month later, J.V.D.B. wrote to
Mr. Shula, demanding that he pay $52.73 in court costs. Mr. Shula didn't
pay; instead, he retained the law firm of Beeler, Schad & Diamond,
P.C., and he sued J.V.D.B., as well as Paul Lawent (J.V.D.B.'s attorney)
and Denise Bugno (a principal in the company and the person who managed
its legal department). Mr. Shula alleged that J.V.D.B. and Lawent
violated various sections of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
(Counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7), and that J.V.D.B. and Ms. Bugno violated
the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act (Count 6).
The defendants moved for summary judgment on all of Mr. Shula's claims,
arguing that Counts 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, and 7 were barred by the applicable
statutes of limitation, and that the facts alleged in Counts 1, 2, 3, 5,
6, and 7 did not amount to violations of the FDCPA. Mr. Shula filed a
cross-motion for summary judgment on Counts 1, 2, 3, and 5. In a
memorandum opinion and order issued December 23, 2002, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of Mr. Shula on Counts 1 and 2, which
alleged, respectively, that J.V.D.B. and Mr. Lawent violated the FDCPA
when they sent the court costs letter demanding a payment not expressly
authorized by agreement or law, and that Mr. Lawent violated the FDCPA
when he failed to include a validation notice in the letter.
Shula, 2002 WL 31870157, at *8-11. The Court otherwise denied
the motions. Id. at *4-8, *11-13. Shortly thereafter, the
parties reached an agreement with respect to the remaining counts, and
the Court dismissed them with prejudice. The defendants then appealed the
Court's summary judgment ruling, and the Seventh Circuit affirmed.
See Shula v. Lawent, 359 F.3d 489 (7th Cir. 2004). In doing so,
the Court noted that the FDCPA violations disclosed in the record were
"blatant, and reflect very poorly upon attorney Lawent's
professionalism." Id. at 491.
While the appeal was pending, Mr. Shula filed a petition for attorney's
fees and expenses under Local Rule 54.3, and the defendants responded.
Consistent with an agreement reached by the parties, the petition is now
ripe for consideration.
A successful FDCPA plaintiff is entitled to recover "the costs of the
action, together with a reasonable attorney's fee as determined by the
court." 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(3); Zagorski v. Midwest Billing
Services, Inc., 128 F.3d 1164, 1166 (7th Cir. 1997). A reasonable
attorney's fee is "the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable
hourly rate." Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983).
This calculation, known as the "lodestar," may then be adjusted upward or
downward, depending on a variety of factors. Altergott v. Modern
Collection Techniques, Inc., 864 F. Supp. 778, 780 (N.D. Ill. 1994).
The plaintiff bears the burden of proving both that the hourly rates
requested are reasonable and that the hours claimed to have been worked
were reasonably expended on the litigation. Hensley, 461 U.S. at
433. And, although Courts have broad discretion in fixing the amount of
the award, to the extent they deviate from the petitioner's claimed rates
and hours, they must explain those deviations. McNabola v. Chicago
Transit Authority, 10 F.3d 501, 519 (7th Cir. 1993).
Mr. Shula unquestionably prevailed in this case; indeed, the defendants
do not argue otherwise. The parties disagree, however, on how much money
Mr. Shula should be entitled to recover, given his status as a prevailing
party. Mr. Shula seeks an award of attorney's fees in the amount of
$57,790.00; he seeks to recover 15.3 hours for attorney James Shedden,
billed at the rate of $475/hour, 166.7 hours for attorney Michael
Hilicki, billed at the rate of $300/hour, and 4.1 hours for law clerk
Valerie Walker, billed at the rate of $125/hour. He also seeks
reimbursement from the defendants for expenses totaling $3,358.61. Thus,
in total, Mr. Shula seeks an award of fees and costs in the amount of $61,148.61.
The defendants argue that the hourly rates urged by Mr. Shula are too
high. They also argue that the total time submitted by Mr. Shula's
counsel is excessive, that many of the hours worked were unnecessary, and
that the time totals are not adequately documented. They claim that, at
most, Mr. Shula is entitled to an award of $15,423.75, though they do not
explain how they arrived at this number.
The Court first considers the reasonable hourly rates for the attorneys
and the law clerk who worked on Mr. Shula's case. In determining the
reasonable hourly rate to be used in calculating the lodestar, the Court
looks to the market rate, the "rate that lawyers of similar ability and
experience in the community normally charge their paying clients for the
type of work in question." McNabola, 10 F.3d at 519 (citations
and quotations omitted). Awarding fees at the market rate helps to ensure
that attorneys will take on fee-shifting cases, rather than selling their
time to someone else at a higher rate. Tolentino v. Friedman,
46 F.3d 645, 652 (7th Cir. 1995). The burden of establishing the market rate
is on the fee applicant; once he meets this burden, the opposing party
then has the burden of demonstrating why a lower rate should be awarded.
Spegon v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago, 175 F.3d 544, 554-55 (7th
Cir. 1999). If the fee applicant fails to establish the market rate, and
if the Court is unable to determine the actual billing rates of the
attorneys involved in the case, the Court should look to the next best
evidence affidavits from similarly experienced attorneys
attesting to the rates they charge paying clients for similar work, or
evidence of fee awards the attorney has received in similar cases. See
People Who Care v. Rockford Board of Education, School District No.
205, 90 F.3d 1307, 1310 (7th Cir. 1996); Spegon, 175 F.3d
at 556. An attorney's self-serving affidavit cannot, by itself, establish
the market rate for that attorney's services. Spegon, 175 F.3d
Here, Mr. Shula seeks reimbursement for fees at the rates of $475 for
attorney Shedden, $300 for attorney Hilicki, and $125 for law clerk
Walker. To support his proposed award, Mr. Shula submitted a declaration
from Mr. Shedden stating: (1) that he has been an attorney since 1982 and
a shareholder at Heeler, Schad & Diamond, his current firm, since
1991; (2) that he has litigated well over a hundred cases under the
FDCPA; (3) that his hourly rate was, until June of 2003, $475 for both
contingent fee and non-contingent fee work; (4) that in June of 2003, his
hourly rate increased to $525, a rate he has been paid in at least one
other case in this district, Sharif v. International Development
Group Co., No. 02 C 5430. See Declaration of James Shedden, ¶¶ 3,
7-8 (attached to Plaintiff's Petition as Exhibit D). With respect to
attorney Hilicki, who also worked on Mr. Shula's case. Mr. Shedden states: (1) that Mr. Hilicki, who became a lawyer in
1994, is a senior associate at Beeler, Schad & Diamond; (2) that he
has worked on over one hundred FDCPA cases; (3) that his hourly rate was,
until June of 2003, $300; and (4) that, in June of 2003, his hourly rate
went up to $350. See id., ¶¶ 5, 7-8.
In addition to Mr. Shedden's declaration, Mr. Shula submitted
affidavits from two attorneys who were not involved in this case, but who
handle FDCPA cases in the Chicago area. The first, David Philipps, states
that he has been a lawyer since 1987, that he has been practicing law in
the Chicago area for fifteen years, and that he specializes in consumer
protection and fair debt collection practices cases; he states that his
hourly rate for such cases is $300, and that he typically charges clients
$250 per hour for work done by his associate. See Affidavit of
David J. Philipps, ¶¶ 2, 4-6 (attached to Plaintiff's Petition as
Exhibit H). Mr. Philipps also states that, in his view, and given his
experience litigating FDCPA cases and especially FDCPA cases
against J.V.D.B. the rates Mr. Shula requests are imminently
reasonable. See id. ¶¶ 7-9. The second attorney, Christopher
Langone, who, like Mr. Philipps, practices in the areas of consumer
protection and fair debt collection practices, similarly stated in his
affidavit that the rates Mr. Shula requests are reasonable. See Affidavit
of Christopher V. Langone, ¶¶ 6-7 (attached to Plaintiff's Petition as
Exhibit I). Mr. Langone further states in his affidavit that he has been a
lawyer since 1992, that he concentrates his practice in the areas of
consumer rights and unfair business practices, and that he typically
charges clients $320 per hour for his work in these types of cases.
Id., ¶¶ 1-3, 5.
For their part, the defendants cite Mitchell v. Allied Interstate,
Inc., No. 97 C 7177, 1999 WL 1100961 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 2, 1999), a
class action FDCPA case in which Beeler, Schad & Diamond claimed
hourly rates of just $240 for a shareholder and just $160 for a
raid-level associate roughly half the rates being sought in this
case. According to the defendants, the fact that the firm's rates have
almost doubled in a period of less than five years suggests that the
rates sought here are unreasonable. The defendants suggest that the
reasonable rate for both attorneys involved in this case is $225 per
After considering all of this, the Court finds that Mr. Shula has
failed to satisfy his initial burden of proving the market rate for the
attorneys and the law clerk who worked on his case. With respect to the
latter, Mr. Shula submitted nothing, no affidavit or other evidence,
suggesting that $125/hour is the going rate for services such as those
provided by Ms. Walker here. Similarly, the Court is unwilling to award
fees at the rates suggested in Mr. Shedden's declaration based solely on
his self-serving representations that the rates are reasonable and that his firm received those rates in other cases, including a case
in this district, Sharif v. International Development Group.
Mr. Shedden provided no documentation showing that he actually received
the claimed rate in that case, and, more importantly, he has said nothing
about whether Sharif involved the same types of claims or the
same types of services involved in this case; in fact, it appears that
Sharif involved a multi-million dollar contract claim against a
foreign defendant, see Brief" for Appellant at 12, Sharif v.
Int'l Develop. Group, No. 03-3814, 2003 WL 23340166 (7th Cir. 2003),
arguably a much more complex case than this one.
The affidavits of attorneys Philipps and Langone do little to help Mr.
Shula's cause: the fact that these attorneys charge considerably less
than Mr. Shedden for the same type of work certainly undercuts their
claim that Mr. Shedden's rates are reasonable. Although Mr. Shedden has
more experience than Mr. Philipps and Mr. Langone, he has not
demonstrated that his experience merits an extra $150 to $175 per hour.
And attorney Hilicki actually has less experience than both attorneys,
which suggests that his hourly rate should reasonably be expected to be
lower than their rates.
Based on prior awards in FDCPA cases and based on its own experience,
the Court finds that the reasonable hourly rate for James Shedden is
$350, the reasonable hourly rate for Michael Hilicki is $225, and the reasonable hourly rate for Valerie Walker
The Court next considers whether the number of hours claimed in Mr.
Shula's Petition is reasonable. As a general rule, "hours that are not
properly billed to one's client are also not properly billed to
one's adversary pursuant to statutory authority." Hensley, 461
U.S. at 434 (emphasis in original). The party seeking the fee award bears
the burden of proving the reasonableness of the hours worked, and the
Court should exclude from the fee request any hours that are excessive,
redundant, or otherwise unnecessary to the litigation. Spegon,
175 F.3d at 550, 552. The Court may also exclude hours that are
inadequately documented if the lack of documentation prevents the Court
from gauging reasonableness. See Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433;
People Who 2Care, 90 F.3d at 1314. Any exclusions or reductions
should be explained, however. People Who Care, 90 F.3d at 1314.
Here, Mr. Shula seeks reimbursement for 15.3 hours for Mr. Shedden,
166.7 hours for Mr. Hilicki, and 4.1 hours for Ms. Walker. The defendants
argue that the majority of these hours were excessive, duplicative, and
unnecessary to the litigation. The Court will consider the question of
reasonableness by looking at the litigation in six separate stages: stage
one, from September 21, 2000 through January 9, 2002, involved the
initial investigation into Mr. Shula's claims, the filing of the complaint and amended complaints, and the first efforts at
settlement with the defendants; stage two, from January 15, 2002 through
July 5, 2002, involved discovery efforts; stage three, from July 12, 2002
through January 29, 2003, involved the summary judgment proceedings;
stage four, from approximately February 17, 2003 through August 13, 2003,
involved negotiating a final resolution of the remaining claims; stage
five, which began in late July of 2003 and ended on September 21, 2003,
involved litigation over fees; and stage six, running from September 2,
2003 through September 27, 2003, involved proceedings on appeal.
For stage one, Mr. Shula seeks to recover 3.3 hours for James Shedden,
10 hours for Michael Hilicki, and 4.1 hours for Valerie Walker. With
respect to these hours, the defendants launch a three-fold attack. They
first argue that attorneys Shedden and Hilicki spent an unreasonable
amount of time communicating with David Gorodess, who was the initial
defendant in the case and who was later dismissed. The Court agrees. On
August 2, 2001, Mr. Hilicki obtained an affidavit from Mr. Gorodess
stating that he did not write or authorize the court costs letter to Mr.
Shula. On August 28, 2001, Mr. Hilicki began amending the complaint to
include J.V.D.B. & Associates, Inc., as a defendant. Yet, despite
having an affidavit showing no involvement by Mr. Gorodess, and despite
having identified the correct defendant, Mr. Hilicki spent an additional
3.2 hours, and Mr. Shedden spent an additional 1.2 hours, trying to communicate
with, and serve process upon Mr. Gorodess. Those hours were unnecessary,
and the Court, therefore, declines to impose upon the defendants the
obligation to pay these fees.
The defendants next argue, with respect to stage one, that the
attorneys spent too much time drafting the complaint and the amended
complaints. As to the initial complaint, the Court agrees. In total, the
attorneys seek 4.5 hours for the initial complaint (4 hours for Ms.
Walker, and .5 hours for Mr. Shedden), The complaint was not complex, and
Beeler, Schad & Diamond presumably had an ample store of forms at its
disposal to aid in this task. The Court will, therefore, reduce Ms.
Walker's time on this task by 2.5 hours, but otherwise allow the fees as
requested, including the 1.3 hours requested for time spent by Mr.
Hilicki to draft the amended complaint.
Finally, with respect to time billed during stage one, the defendants
argue that they should not have to pay for certain conferences between
attorney Shedden and attorney Hilicki, that it is unreasonable for both
attorneys to bill their time for these conferences. Here, the Court
cannot agree. Although the tendency of law firms to overstaff a case
should cause the court to scrutinize a fee petition carefully for
excessive time, see Jardien v. Winston Network, Inc.,
888 F.2d 1151, 1160 (7th Cir. 1989), reasonable consultation among
lawyers also ensures that they do not overlook significant facts or inquiries, Bohen v.
City of East Chicago, 666 F. Supp. 154, 157 (N.D. Ind. 1987). Here,
Messrs. Shedden and Hilicki met for .3 hours during the initial stage of
the litigation. This is hardly excessive.
For stage two, Mr. Shula seeks fees for 46.8 hours for Mr. Hilicki, and
4.6 hours for Mr. Shedden. Defendants object to many of these hours in
general as being excessive and duplicative.*fn1 On a couple of points,
the Court agrees. First, the attorneys spent too much time drafting the
second amended complaint Mr. Hilicki spent 4.4 hours planning,
researching, and drafting the second amended complaint, plus another 2.3
hours drafting the motion to amend the complaint, and Mr. Shedden billed
another 2.4 hours related to these same tasks. The Court recognizes that
the second amended complaint was more complicated than the first
it added Ms. Bugno and Mr. Lawent as defendants, and added new claims.
But attorneys with Messrs, Shedden's and Hilicki's expertise in this area
of the law should have been able to accomplish the tasks involved in less
time. Accordingly, the Court will reduce Mr. Hilicki's time by 3.0 and Mr. Shedden's hours
Counsel also spent too much time drafting, and preparing to argue, a
two-page motion to compel; on this task, Mr. Hilicki billed 2.3 hours,
and Mr. Shedden billed another .2 hours. The Court will reduce Mr.
Hilicki's time by one hour. Counsel also spent too much time preparing
for depositions. From May 27 to June 26, 2002, Mr. Hilicki spent 5.3
hours preparing for the deposition of Paul Lawent and 4.6 hours preparing
for the depositions of Denise Bugno and John Vanko.*fn2 Given that Mr.
Hilicki has litigated over a hundred FDCPA cases, the Court finds that he
reasonably should have spent just three hours preparing for Mr. Lawent's
deposition, and a total of just three hours preparing for the other two.
Thus, the Court will shave 3.9 hours off the bill.
The Court further reduces the number of hours worked to eliminate time
not adequately documented, and to correct arithmetical errors. For
example, on February 22, 2002, Mr. Hilicki spent 2.2 hours analyzing the
case file and strategizing, as well as on drafting a plan for the case;
yet, the draft plan was not included, and the Court has no way of determining whether
this time was reasonably expended. Additionally, the billing entries from
February 25, 2002 and May 29, 2002 are simply incorrect, over by .7 hours
for work done by Mr. Hilicki.
At stage three of the litigation, which spanned July 12, 2002 to
January 29, 2003 and involved summary judgment proceedings, Mr. Shula
seeks reimbursement for 73.9 hours for Mr. Hilicki and for 5.7 hours for
Mr. Shedden. Most of this time is well-documented and reasonable. There
are, however, a couple of exceptions. First, in the first part of
September 2002, Mr. Hilicki spent 1.1 hours trying to obtain an extension
to the briefing deadlines for summary judgment. Because the fee petition
says nothing about whether the firm had to seek the extension because of
something that could properly be charged to the client, the Court will
not charge this time to the defendants. Second, the Court finds that the
number of hours submitted by Mr. Hilicki is somewhat excessive. Although
counsel's submissions to the Court included two well-drafted, fairly
lengthy memoranda, a Local Rule 56.1(b) statement of facts, and an
appendix of exhibits, the facts of the case were relatively simple (the
statement of facts contains only 28 responses to the Defendants' facts
and 26 counterstatements of fact from Mr. Shula), and many of the legal
issues were researched during earlier stages of the litigation. Spending almost seventy hours on this task is simply too much. See
Altergott v. Modern Collection Techniques, Inc., 864 F. Supp. 778,
781-82 (N.D. Ill. 1994) (finding that only 16 hours were reasonably
spent on summary judgment in a single-plaintiff FDCPA case). The Court
will reduce Mr. Hilicki's time by 25 hours in this regard, still a
generous allowance by any measure.
For stage four of the litigation, Mr. Shula seeks to recover fees for
10.7 hours for Mr. Hilicki hours spent writing letters,
conducting teleconferences with the defendants, and appearing in court on
various matters and for the .8 hours Mr. Shedden spent reviewing
settlement proposals. The defendants argue that they should not have to
pay for the time Mr. Hilicki spent on the motion to amend the Court's
judgment or for any court appearances on that motion, because that work
was necessitated by a mistake made by the Court, and was not at all
caused by the defendants' conduct. Because this time would properly be
charged to a client, it may be charged to the defendants. Nevertheless,
the Court will disallow 1.1 hours claimed by Mr. Hilicki for research on
whether the FDCPA's statutory damages award of $1,000 is available per
proceeding or per defendant; having litigated over a hundred FDCPA cases,
he should have known what damages the law allowed his client to recover
without having to research the issue at his client's expense. For stage five of the litigation, which was related to the fee issue,
Mr. Shula seeks to recover fees comprised of 15.7 hours for Mr. Hilicki
and .9 hours for Mr. Shedden. The defendants argue that many of the
specific time entries related to the fee petition were excessive. And the
Court finds several instances where Mr. Hilicki spent too much time on
particular tasks. First, Mr. Hilicki spent 4.4 hours preparing his
disclosure materials for the defendants, not counting his work preparing
supporting affidavits; because this task involved little more than
sending a bill, the Court will allow just 2.0 hours from his claimed
time. Second, the Court subtracts .5 hours for an entry on September 9,
2003, for research on an issue that a seasoned FDCPA attorney like Mr.
Hilicki should have known already: whether a fee applicant can seek fees
for preparing fee materials. Third, Mr. Hilicki spent 2.4 hours between
September 17 and September 22 on a motion that was apparently never
filed, but which, in any event, should not have taken so long to prepare;
the Court will allow just one hour for this task.
Stage six of the litigation involved the appeal; here, Mr. Shula claims
9.6 hours for work performed by Mr. Hilicki. The defendants' objections
notwithstanding, the Court finds that the time Mr. Hilicki spent on
matters relating to the appeal was both reasonable and necessary.
In sum, the Court finds that Mr. Shula is entitled to an award of attorney's fees in the amount of $32,015.00. This amount
Includes: for Mr. Shedden, 13.1 hours at the rate of $350 per hour, for a
total of $4,585.00; for Mr. Hilicki, 121.1 hours at the rate of $225 per
hour, for a total of $27,270.00; and for Ms. Walker, 1.6 hours at the
rate of $100 per hour, for a total of $160.00.
Having now determined the lodestar, the Court next considers whether
that amount should be adjusted upward or downward. Hensley, 461
U.S. at 434. On this score, the Court considers a number of factors,
including, most importantly, the degree of success obtained by the
prevailing party.*fn3 Id. Mr. Shula does not argue that the
lodestar amount should be enhanced, and so the Court need not consider
adjusting the figure upward. But the defendants do argue that the
lodestar amount should be adjusted downward. They argue that the level of
success Mr. Shula obtained here an award of $1200 cannot
justify more than a hundred hours of attorney time. But success is not measured solely
by the damages award; here, Mr. Shula also had his rights vindicated.
Moreover, Mr. Shula attempted to settle with J.V.D.B. as early as
November 7, 2001, and it was the defendants' refusal that prolonged this
case that is particularly troubling in light of the fact that the
FDCPA violations were, as the Seventh Circuit pointed out, blatant. The
Court will award the full lodestar amount, $32,015.00, as determined
Finally, the Court turns to the question of expenses. Mr. Shula seeks
reimbursement of $3,358.61 in expenses. This amount consists of a $150.00
filing fee, $1,064.20 in photocopying expenses, $142.56 in fax charges,
$39.65 in postage charges, $1.43 in long distance telephone charges,
$102.02 in computerized legal research charges, $254.75 for legal
document management and copying charges (including service of process),
and $1,604.00 for costs incurred in connection with depositions. The
defendants argue that none of these expenses is adequately documented,
and that they should all be disallowed. With the exception of the filing
fee, the Court must agree.
A district court has broad discretion in determining the appropriate
expenses and costs to be awarded. See Haroco, Inc. v. American
National Bank and Trust Company of Chicago, 38 F.3d 1429, 1439 (7th
Cir. 1994). The court may award costs that are reasonable in amount and
necessary to the litigation, Harkins v. Riverboat Services, Inc., 286 F. Supp.2d 976, 979 (N.D.
Ill. 2003), and may reduce or deny reimbursement for any expenses that
are inadequately documented. See Altergott, 864 F. Supp. at 783.
Unfortunately for Mr. Shula, that is largely the case here. With respect
to the copying charges, for example, neither Mr. Shula nor counsel
provided any documentation that would allow the Court to determine the
per page rate being charged. The monthly charges for June of 2001 were
$17.80, which seems reasonable. But if counsel copied just ten pages, the
per page rate would be $1.78 clearly excessive. The same analysis
would apply for the telephone charges and the postage charges included in
counsel's bills. Nor does counsel provide the Court with the means to
assess the reasonableness of the charges incurred in connection with
depositions. The Court would need to know, for example, how many pages
the deposition transcripts were, and whether the charges include fees for
expedited delivery, or special form transcripts, etc. Presumably counsel
received invoices from the court reporting agencies, yet they chose not
to include them with Mr. Shula's fee petition. So too with the charges
for service of process and document management. Without those invoices
or some other documentation demonstrating the reasonableness of
the charges incurred the Court is unwilling to impose the charges
on the defendants. The Court will, therefore, disallow all but $150.00 of
the requested expenses. In so doing, the Court is in no way suggesting that counsel for Mr. Shula did not spend the
amounts claimed for depositions, photocopying, etc. But without adequate
documentation, the Court simply has no way of gauging the reasonableness
of those charges.
For the reasons stated above, the Court grants James Shula's Petition
for Attorney's Fees and Expenses, as modified in this opinion. Mr. Shula
is entitled to recover attorney's fees in the amount of $32,015.00, and
expenses in the amount of $150.00, from the Defendants, for a total award