United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Macon Division
T. TREADWELL, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Kylee Gordon moves for an award of attorney's fees and
litigation expenses. For the following reasons, that motion
(Doc. 8) is GRANTED in part, and the
Defendant is ORDERED to pay the Plaintiff
$11, 426.70 in reasonable attorney's fees and litigation
Plaintiff alleged Defendant Southern Credit Bureau
Corporation violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
(“FDCPA”) by falsely representing itself as a
government entity in a state court collection action against
the Plaintiff. Doc. 1 at 3-6. Within a month, the Plaintiff
gave notice of her acceptance of the Defendant's offer of
judgment pursuant to Rule 68 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. Doc. 7. The judgment resolved the claims for
statutory and actual damages under the FDCPA and recognized
the Defendant's liability for fees and expenses, although
the amount of fees and expenses was unresolved. Doc. 7-1 at
1-2. After the parties failed to agree on an amount, the
Plaintiff moved for an award of $15, 812.00 in attorney's
fees, claiming a reasonable hourly rate of $295.00 per hour
for 53.6 hours, and $426.70 in costs. See generally
FDCPA allows a successful plaintiff to recover “the
costs of the action, together with a reasonable
attorney's fee as determined by the court.” 15
U.S.C. § 1692k. “The starting point for
determining the amount of a reasonable fee is the number of
hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a
reasonable hourly rate.” Bivins v. Wrap It Up,
Inc., 548 F.3d 1348, 1350 (11th Cir. 2008) (citation and
quotation marks omitted). This number is called the
“lodestar, ” and “there is a strong
presumption that the lodestar is the reasonable sum the
attorneys deserve.” Id. (citation and
quotation marks omitted). The district court should exclude
“hours that were not reasonably expended, ” such
as work that was “excessive, redundant, or otherwise
unnecessary.” Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S.
424, 434 (1983). In determining whether a lodestar is
reasonable, the district court should consider twelve factors
enumerated in Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express,
Inc.: (1) the time and labor required, (2) the novelty
and difficulty, (3) the skill required to perform the legal
service properly, (4) the opportunity cost of the
attorney's inability to work on other cases as a result
of accepting this one, (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 of money at
issue and the results obtained, (9) the experience 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) attorney's fee
awards in similar cases. 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th Cir.
1974),  overruled on other grounds by Blancher
v. Bergeron, 489 U.S. 87 (1989); see also
Blancher, 489 U.S. at 92 (“Johnson's
‘list of 12' thus provides a useful catalog of the
many factors to be considered in assessing the reasonableness
of an award of attorney's fees[.]”). Downward
adjustment of the lodestar is “merited only if the
prevailing party was partially successful in its efforts,
” a determination the district court makes on a
case-by-case basis. Resolution Trust Corp. v. Hallmark
Builders, Inc., 996 F.2d 1144, 1150 (11th Cir. 1993). It
is the burden of the party seeking an award of fees to submit
evidence to support the hours and rate claimed, and
“[w]here the documentation of hours is inadequate, the
district court may reduce the award accordingly.”
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433. The Court may also
consider its own experience in determining reasonable fees.
Norman v. Housing Authority of City of Montgomery,
836 F.2d 1292, 1303 (11th Cir. 1988).
reasonable hourly rate is the prevailing market rate in the
relevant legal community for similar services by lawyers of
reasonably comparable skills, experience, and
reputation.” Norman, 836 F.2d at 1299
(citation omitted). “The party seeking attorney's
fees bears the burden of producing satisfactory evidence that
the requested rate is in line with prevailing market
rates.” Loranger v. Stierheim, 10 F.3d 776,
781 (11th Cir. 1994) (quotation marks and citation omitted).
Satisfactory evidence is “more than the affidavit of
the attorney performing the work.” Id.
(quotation marks and citation omitted).
the Plaintiff's lawyers claim a rate of $295.00. Doc. 7
at 5-6. They argue, based on affidavits, a consumer law
survey, and fee awards in two of the Court's prior
decisions, Drew v. Mamaroneck Capital, LLC, 2018 WL
3232779, at *1 (M.D. Ga. July 2, 2018) and Lahey v. S.
Credit Bureau Corp., 2018 WL 5724442, at *1 (M.D. Ga.
Nov. 1, 2018), that the rate is reasonable. Id. In
response, the Defendant argues that rate is unreasonable and
unsubstantiated. Doc. 12 at 4. The Defendant argues $275.00
would be reasonable and notes that Court awarded only $275.00
in late 2018 to the same counsel in a similar case.
Id. In reply, the Plaintiff's counsel argue they
handled this case skillfully (by obtaining a Rule 68 offer of
judgment) and that they have gained experience since 2018.
Doc. 16 at 3-5.
Court finds that a rate of $275.00 is appropriate. The past
cases the Plaintiff cites are inapposite because in
Drew the rate was based in part on “the
novelty of the Plaintiff's case, ” and in
Lahey the requested rate was unopposed.
Drew at *3; Lahey at *2. The national
survey the Plaintiff cites states a standard rate for Macon,
Georgia, but it does not state the basis of that rate. Doc.
8-3 at 1-2. The Court attempted to find the basis of that
rate but could not determine important parameters of the
survey, such as sample size for the Macon area. Further,
there are some indicia of unreliability: for instance,
according to the survey, an attorney with 26-30 years of
experience would bill $275.00 per hour, and an attorney one
year out of law school would bill $290.00. The survey is not
evidence of a reasonable rate. Doc. 8-3 at 2. The Defendant
does not oppose a rate of $275.00, and after considering
prior cases and the Court's own experience, $275.00 per
hour is reasonable. See Doc. 12 at 5.
a district court finds the number of hours claimed is
unreasonably high, the court has two choices: it may conduct
an hour-by-hour analysis or it may reduce the requested hours
with an across-the-board cut.” Bivins, 548 at
1350 (citation omitted). Here, the Court reduces the hours
with an across-the-board cut.
Plaintiff's counsel claims that after excluding
excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary hours, they
are entitled to a fee award for 53.6 hours reasonably spent
on this litigation. Doc. 8-1 at 7. In response, the Defendant
argues that some time entries are too vague, that some time
entries describe administrative tasks, that some of the
claimed hours are excessive, and that some claimed hours
reflect work unrelated to the case. Doc. 12 at 6-7, 13-15.
After carefully considering the arguments in the briefs and
examining the time entries, the Court finds that some of the
requested hours are excessive and that others are not hours
attributable to this case. For instance, the Plaintiff's
counsel claims 10 hours for “rough[ing] out” a
possible reply brief for this fee motion on March 24-25,
2019, before the Plaintiff even filed the fee motion. Doc.
8-2 at 2. At least part of that ten hours likely reflects the
difficulty inherent in drafting a reply brief without knowing
the issues raised in the response. As another example, the