United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ON PLAINTIFF'S REQUEST
FOR AN AWARD OF REASONABLE ATTORNEY'S FEES AND
JOSEPH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
10, 2019, I submitted a report and recommendation that Rachel
Kelty's motion for default judgment against defendant
John M. Patterson be granted, with compensatory and punitive
damages totaling $2.4 million. (Docket # 26.) I deferred
making a recommendation on counsel's request for
attorney's fees and costs, ordering counsel to submit
information demonstrating the reasonableness of the requested
amounts. (Id. at 16.) On June 20, 2019, Attorney
Matthew Pinix filed the requested supplement. (Docket # 37.)
1988(b) of Title 42 provides that in any action to enforce a
provision of § 1983, the court, in its discretion, may
allow the prevailing party a reasonable attorney's fee.
“A person is considered to be a prevailing party only
if he receives ‘some relief on the merits of his
claim.'” Mounson v. Moore, 117 Fed.Appx.
461, 462 (7th Cir. 2004) (quoting Farrar v. Hobby,
506 U.S. 103, 111 (1992)). In other words, a prevailing party
is one who “‘obtain[s] an enforceable judgment
against the defendant from whom fees are sought.'”
Id. (quoting Farrar, 506 U.S. at 111).
general rule for calculating attorney's fees awards under
fee-shifting statutes is applicable here. The starting point
for determining reasonable attorney's fees is the
lodestar, which is calculated by multiplying the number of
hours reasonably expended by the reasonable hourly rate.
Johnson v. GDF, Inc., 668 F.3d 927, 929 (7th Cir.
2012). There is a “strong presumption that the lodestar
represents the reasonable fee.” City of Burlington
v. Dague, 505 U.S. 557, 562 (1992) (internal quotation
marks omitted); Pickett v. Sheridan Health Care
Ctr., 664 F.3d 632, 639 (7th Cir. 2011). However, once
the lodestar is determined, the court may adjust the fee
upward or downward based on a variety of factors, the most
important of which is the degree of success obtained.
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 430 n.3, 436
(1983). Other factors to be considered include:
(1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and
difficulty of the question; (3) the skill requisite to
perform the legal service properly; (4) the preclusion of
employment by the attorney due to the acceptance of the case;
(5) the customary fee; (6) whether the fee is fixed or
contingent; (7) any time limitations imposed by the client or
the circumstances; (8) the amount involved and the results
obtained; (9) the experience, reputation, and ability of the
plaintiff's attorney; (10) the
“undesirability” of the case; (11) the nature and
length of the professional relationship with the client; and
(12) awards in similar cases.
Tolentino v. Friedman, 45 F.3d 645, 652 (7th Cir.
1995) (citing Hensley, 461 U.S. at 441). In sum,
“[t]he standard is whether the fees are reasonable in
relation to the difficulty, stakes, and outcome of the
case.” Connolly v. Nat'l Sch. Bus Serv.,
Inc., 177 F.3d 593, 597 (7th Cir. 1999). The fee
applicant bears the burden of “produc[ing] satisfactory
evidence-in addition to the attorney's own
affidavits-that the requested rates are in line with those
prevailing in the community.” Id. (quoting
Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895 n.11 (1984)). If
the fee applicant satisfies this burden, the burden shifts to
the other party to offer evidence that sets forth “a
good reason why a lower rate is essential.”
Id. (internal quotation and citations omitted).
Calculating the Lodestar
Pinix seeks fees for three attorneys, himself and two others
from his office. He requests a rate of $350 per hour
multiplied by 45 hours for himself (totaling $15, 750), 1.1
hours for Attorney Michael G. Soukup (totaling $385.00), and
0.9 hours for Attorney Rebecca R. Lawnicki (totaling
$315.00). (Docket # 35 at 2, 35-2, 35-3.)
Reasonable Hours Worked
calculating the reasonable hours worked, I must first
determine the actual time Kelty's attorneys spent on her
claim against Patterson. “Where the hours spent on
successful claims can easily be distinguished from those
spent on unsuccessful claims, the court can simply strike the
latter entries when computing the lodestar.”
Montanez v. Simon, 755 F.3d 547, 553 (7th Cir.
2014); see also Muscare v. J. Quinn, 614 F.2d 577,
580-81 (7th Cir. 1980) (the court can only consider the time
spent on issues upon which the plaintiff prevailed).
filed her complaint against the defendants on May 18, 2018.
(Docket # 1.) After Patterson neither appeared nor responded
to her complaint, Kelty requested an entry of default against
Patterson on June 26, 2018. (Docket # 10.) After settling
matters with the other defendants, Kelty moved for an entry
of default judgment against Patterson on February 6, 2019
(Docket # 28), and has been litigating towards entry of that
judgment since. Thus, the timeline for attorney's fees
and costs would properly include 1) the reasonable hours
worked from the initiation of Kelty's lawsuit to the time
of the entry of default against Patterson and 2) the
reasonable hours worked from the time of her filing the
motion for default judgment against Patterson to the present.
Pinix attached to his declaration for attorney's fees and
costs copies of the fee agreement signed by Kelty on January
3, 2018 (Docket # 35-1 at 9) and the time entries for the
attorneys' work associated with Kelty's case (Docket
# 35-2, 35-3). Notably, the time sheets coincide with the
timeline I found appropriate. The dates span February 2, 2018
to June 13, 2018 and February 6, 2019 to April 10, 2019.
(Docket # 35-2, 35-3.) Thus, I do not need to exclude any of
the time based on it being outside the proper time frame.
determine whether any of the noted hours worked were
“excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary.”
Johnson, 668 F.3d at 929 (quoting Hensley,
461 U.S. at 434). Attorney Pinix asserts that the three
attorneys, but mostly him, worked a total of 47 hours on
Kelty's case. Included in these hours are entries for
complaint drafting, reviewing, and editing; telephonic
meetings with Kelty; research and review of a police report
and Patterson's court file; research and review of
Kelty's incarceration and medical records; and preparing
for Kelty's damages hearing. (Docket # 35-2, 35-3.) None
of this work appears excessive, redundant, or otherwise
unnecessary. In most cases, the entries do not exceed half an
hour and ...