United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
M. BRINKEMA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is plaintiff Kalvin Donnell Coward's
("Coward" or "plaintiff) Motion for Attorney
Fees and Expenses ("PL's Mot. Fees") [Dkt. No.
242], in which plaintiff seeks an order awarding his counsel
$388, 967.50 in attorneys' fees and $31, 255.00 in
litigation expenses. Defendants A. David Robinson and Harold
W. Clarke (collectively, "defendants") argue that
the amount of plaintiff s request is unreasonable due to
block-billing and vague entries, multiple timekeepers billing
time for the same task, and that some portions of the request
relate to irrelevant matters. For the reasons that follow,
plaintiffs motion will be granted in part and denied in part,
and counsel for plaintiff will be awarded a total of $338,
268.30, consisting of $310, 748.30 in attorneys' fees and
$27, 520.00 in expenses.
factual and procedural background of this case is fully
recounted in the Court's Memorandum Opinion. See
Coward v. Robinson. No. 10-cv-147, 2017 WL 3699866 (E.D.
Va. Aug. 28, 2017). In brief, plaintiff alleged that
defendants, in their capacities as employees of the Virginia
Department of Corrections, unlawfully impeded his religious
exercise as an adherent of the Nations of Gods and Earths
("NGE" or "the Nation") in violation of
the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
("RLUIPA") and the First Amendment by refusing to
recognize the NGE as a religion and instead designating it as
a gang subject to the Department's zero tolerance policy.
Id. at 1-2. Plaintiff filed his initial complaint
pro se and litigated the case pro se for several
years, during which the Court granted several dispositive
motions in favor of defendants. Plaintiff successfully
appealed the dispositive rulings, resulting in three remands.
his third appeal, the Fourth Circuit appointed pro
bono counsel to represent plaintiff, who have
voluntarily continued to represent plaintiff before this
Court. Id Upon the third remand, the parties sought
to resolve the case and plaintiff made at least two offers to
settle without seeking attorneys' fees. See,
e.g., PL's Mot. Fees, Ex. 3; id., Ex. 6. As late as
July 10, 2017, plaintiff offered to settle the litigation
without seeking attorneys' fees, but the proposed
settlement provisions were unacceptable to the Department.
Ultimately the parties were unable to resolve their dispute.
After a two-day bench trial, the Court found that defendants
had violated plaintiffs rights under both the RLUIPA and the
First Amendment, and ruled in favor of plaintiff on all
Standard of Review
1988(b) allows a "prevailing party ... a reasonable
attorney's fee as part of the costs" for claims
brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and RLUIPA. A party
prevails for purposes of § 1988 if it secures
"actual relief on the merits of [its] claim [that]
materially alters the legal relationship between the parties
by modifying the defendant's behavior in a way that
directly benefits the plaintiff." See Lefemine v.
Wideman. 568 U.S. 1, 4 (2012). When a party obtains
complete relief, counsel should receive "a fully
compensatory fee." Rum Creek Coal Sales, Inc. v.
Caperton. 31 F.3d 169, 174-75 (4th Cir. 1994).
court determines that the prevailing party is entitled to
attorneys' fees, the court must then determine whether
the requested attorneys' fees are reasonable. To
calculate an appropriate award, "a court must first
determine a lodestar figure by multiplying the number of
reasonable hours expended times a reasonable rate."
Robinson v. Equifax Info. Services. LLC. 560 F.3d
235, 243 (4th Cir. 2009) (citing Grissom v. The Mills
Corp.. 549 F.3d 313, 320 (4th Cir. 2008)). The "fee
applicant bears the burden of establishing entitlement to an
award and documenting the appropriate hours expended and
hourly rates." Henslev v. Eckerhart. 461 U.S.
424, 437 (1983). "The applicant should exercise
'billing judgment' with respect to hours worked, and
should maintain billing time records in a manner that will
enable a reviewing court to identify distinct claims."
IcL (internal citations omitted). "Where the
documentation of hours is inadequate, the district court may
reduce the award accordingly." Id. at 433.
evaluating "what constitutes a 'reasonable'
number of hours and rate" for the work performed,
"a district court's discretion should be guided
by" the twelve factors enumerated in Johnson v.
Georgia Highway Express. Inc.. 488 F.2d 714 (5th Cir.
1974) and adopted by the Fourth Circuit in Barber v.
Kimbrell's. Inc.. 577 F.2d 216 (4th Cir. 1978).
These factors include:
(1) the time and labor expended; (2) the novelty and
difficulty of the questions raised; (3) the skill required to
properly perform the legal services rendered; (4) the
attorney's opportunity costs in pressing the instant
litigation; (5) the customary fee for like work; (6) the
attorney's expectations at the outset of the litigation;
(7) the time limitations imposed by the client or
circumstances; (8) the amount in controversy and the results
obtained; (9) the experience, reputation and ability of the
attorney; (10) the undesirability of the case within the
legal community in which the suit arose; (11) the nature and
length of the professional relationship between attorney and
client; and (12) attorneys' fees awards in similar cases.
Robinson, 560 F.3d at 243-44 (quoting
Barber. 577 F.2d at 226 n.28). Some of these
"factors may not have much, if anything, to add in a
given case, " but those "that do apply should be
considered." In re Abrams & Abrams. P.A..
605 F.3d 238, 244 (4th Cir. 2010).
seeks to recover $388, 967.50 in attorneys' fees, relying
on the hourly totals and rates reproduced below:
PL's Mot. Fees at 14. Defendants argue that the number of
hours is unreasonable because of overstaffing, ...