United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. PHIL GILBERT, District Judge.
This matter comes before the Court on plaintiff Zane Holder's supplemental motion for an award of attorney's fees and costs pursuant to 29 U.C.S. § 2617(a)(3) (Doc. 104). The defendants have objected to various aspects of Holder's request (Doc. 107). Holder's request for attorney's fees is properly filed in the District Court even though the fees he seeks were incurred during the appeal of this case. See Jannotta v. Subway Sandwich Shops, Inc., 225 F.3d 815, 819-20 (7th Cir. 2000).
Holder brought this case under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. and prevailed on a portion of his claim. The Court of Appeals affirmed this Court's judgment in all respects. Under the FMLA, an award of reasonable attorney's fees and costs is mandatory where judgment is entered in favor of a plaintiff. See 29 U.S.C. § 2617(a)(3); Franzen v. Ellis Corp., 543 F.3d 420, 430 (7th Cir. 2008).
The parties agree that the Court should determine an appropriate fee beginning with the lodestar method, which involves "multiplying the number of hours the attorney reasonably expended on the litigation times a reasonable hourly rate." Mathur v. Board of Trs. of S. Ill. Univ., 317 F.3d 738, 742 (7th Cir. 2003) (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)). The Court can then adjust the total amount based on various factors specific to the litigation. Mathur, 317 F.3d at 742 & n.1.
Holder's counsel requests an attorney fee of $23, 200 ($200 per hour for 114 attorney hours plus $75 per hour for 4 paralegal hours), travel costs of $411.12 and copying costs of $801.45, for a total award of $24, 412. The defendants object to various aspects of this request, which the Court will address in turn.
I. Reasonableness of Attorney Hourly Rate
The defendants do not quibble with the hourly rates requested by Holder's counsel. For the reasons stated in the Court's October 18, 2012, order granting attorney's fees at the trial court level, the Court finds the rates requested are reasonable.
II. Reasonableness of Number of Hours
A. Secretarial Duties
The defendants argue that the hours worked by a paralegal are not reasonable because they could have been delegated to a secretary. Those tasks included reviewing Court of Appeals rules and preparing an appendix that complied with those rules. The Court should not allow payment for hours spent by counsel or paralegals that would not ordinarily be billed to a paying client or are easily delegated to non-professional staff such as a secretary. See Spegon v. Catholic Bishop of Chi., 175 F.3d 544, 553 (7th Cir. 1999); People Who Care v. Rockford Bd. of Educ., School Dist. No. 205, 90 F.3d 1307, 1315 (7th Cir. 1996). Such hours are not reasonable or necessary. Spegon, 175 F.3d at 553.
Interpreting and complying with court rules involves a level of legal skill, especially where, as here, the Court of Appeals demands strict compliance. The Court believes those tasks are appropriately performed by a paralegal and, accordingly, declines to reduce the paralegal hours claimed.
B. Excessive or Duplicative Hours
The defendants argue that Holder's attorney should not be paid for researching the same issue twice. The Court can disallow hours as not reasonably expended if they are "excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary." Stark v. PPM Am., Inc., 354 F.3d 666, 674 (7th Cir. 2004).
The Court has reviewed the total hours spent on each of the research issues that offended the defendants and find the total hours reasonable. The Court will not condone a rule that requires all research on a topic to be accomplished in a single ...