United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
MICHAEL J. BROOME, Plaintiff,
KOHN LAW FIRM, SC and JASON DONALD HERMERSMANN, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
D. PETERSON, DISTRICT JUDGE
a case brought under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
In his complaint, plaintiff Michael J. Broome alleged that
defendants Kohn Law Firm, SC and Jason Donald Hermersmann
violated the FDCPA by filing a debt-collection lawsuit
against him in the wrong venue. See Oliva v. Blatt,
Hasenmiller, Leibsker & Moore LLC, 864 F.3d 492 (7th
Cir. 2017); Suesz v. Med-1 Sols., LLC, 757 F.3d 636
(7th Cir. 2014). The court entered judgment for $2, 500 after
Broome accepted defendants' offer of judgment.
Broome's counsel have filed a motion for $18, 058.25 in
attorney fees and $446 in costs. Dkt. 12. Defendants do not
oppose counsel's request for costs, so the court will
grant that aspect of counsel's motion as unopposed. As
for counsel's fee request, defendants make three
alternative proposals: (1) deny counsel's request in full
because counsel hasn't shown that Broome consented to
representation; (2) award $1, 735 for time expended before
defendants made a settlement offer in April 2018; or (3)
award $2, 595 for all of counsel's time to reflect awards
in other cases.
reasons discussed below, the court will grant the fee
petition in full. Although there may have been ways that
counsel could have reduced their fees, the court concludes
that the claimed rates and hours are reasonable overall,
particularly in light of defendants' own aggressive
litigation tactics. The court will also approve counsel's
supplemental request for an additional 11.5 hours of work to
respond to defendants' 26-page opposition brief.
parties do not dispute that the counsel of a prevailing
plaintiff is entitled reasonable fees under the FDCPA.
See 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(3). The court uses a
lodestar method to determine a reasonable fee, multiplying
the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation by
a reasonable hourly rate. Pickett v. Sheridan Health Care
Ctr., 664 F.3d 632, 639 (7th Cir. 2011). Defendants
challenge both the rates and the amount of time claimed by
threshold matter, defendants question whether Broome's
counsel are entitled to any fees because counsel
failed to submit “evidence establishing that Plaintiff
agreed to their services and/or rates, or that he was even
aware of their involvement.” Dkt. 27, at 4-5. But
Broome submitted a declaration with his reply brief in which
he says that he retained each of the lawyers included in the
fee petition and agreed to pay the requested rates. Dkt. 32,
¶¶ 4- 5. So that objection is moot.
counsel requests different hourly rates for three different
lawyers: for DeVonna Joy, $450; for Nicholas Fairweather,
$355 for work performed in 2018 and $400 for 2019; for
Michael Godbe, $225 for 2018 and $250 for 2019. In support of
her rate, Joy relies on the following:
• she has more than 31 years of legal experience and
“exclusively practice[s] consumer protection law,
” Dkt. 14, ¶ 2;
• in affidavits, three other experienced Wisconsin
consumer lawyers report that their hourly rates are between
$400 and $475, Dkt. 20; Dkt. 24; Dkt. 26;
• in affidavits, two former clients aver that they paid
Joy an effective rate of $450 an hour out of settlements they
received, Dkt. 18 and Dkt. 21;
• according to the Consumer Law Fee Report, the median
hourly rate for a lawyer with ...