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United Supreme Council v. United Supreme Council of Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

August 15, 2019

UNITED SUPREME COUNCIL, 33 DEGREE OF THE ANCIENT AND ACCEPTED SCOTTISH RITE OF FREEMASONRY, PRINCE HALL AFFILIATION, SOUTHERN JURISDICTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED SUPREME COUNCIL OF THE ANCIENT ACCEPTED SCOTTISH RITE FOR THE 33 DEGREE OF FREEMASONRY, SOUTHERN JURISDICTION, PRINCE HALL AFFILIATED, ETAL., Defendants.

          Hon. Ivan D. Davis Judges

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Liam O'Grady United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Expenses (Dkt. 355). On January 17, 2019, the Court determined that Defendants are entitled to attorneys' fees and expenses in this matter and ordered Defendants to file documentation supporting their requested award amount. See Dkt. 381. Briefing for the appropriate award is complete, and the issue is now ripe for resolution.[1] For the reasons stated below, and for good cause shown, the Court awards $245, 040.40 in attorneys' fees and $13, 424.98 in costs, plus interest accruing from the date of this Order.

         When shaping an award of attorney's fees, the Court "must first determine a lodestar figure by multiplying the number of reasonable hours expended times a reasonable rate." Robinson v. Equifax Info. Servs., LLC, 560 F.3d 235, 243 (4th Cir. 2009). To do this, the Court considers the twelve factors set forth in Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714 (5th Cir. 1974):

(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.

Id. at 243-44 (quoting Barber v. Kimbrell's Inc., 577 F.2d 216, 226 n.28 (4th Cir. 1978)). Although each factor is persuasive, the Court need not consider each factor individually because they all are "subsumed" into an analysis of what constitutes a reasonable rate and number of hours expended. Smith v. Loudoun Cty. Pub. Sch., 2017 WL 176510, at *2 (E.D. Va. Jan. 17, 2017).

         A. Lodestar Calculation.

         Defendants seek an award of attorneys' fees in two amounts. First, Defendants seek an award of 990.1 hours of work billed at $260 per hour for work performed by their primary attorneys at the Dozier Law Firm PLLC. Second, Defendants seek $13, 357.00 in fees for contract attorneys employed to conduct document review at a rate of $46/hour for reviewers and $80/hour for project managers.

         1. Reasonable Rate.

         The reasonable rates for attorneys' fees are determined based on the "prevailing market rates in the relevant community factoring in any required skill or experience." Burke v. Mattis, 315 F.Supp.3d 907, 913 (E.D. Va. 2018). This Court follows the Vienna Metro Matrix as a guide for reasonable rates in Northern Virginia. Id.

         All of Defendants' attorneys at the Dozier Law Firm PLLC billed at a rate of $260 per hour. Plaintiffs do not challenge the reasonableness of these rates. Defendants have also provided a persuasive affidavit from a local attorney, Craig Reilly, attesting that the requested rates are reasonable, if not under-compensatory, in this Court's community for attorneys with similar experience performing similar work. The Court also finds that the requested rates are reasonable under the Vienna Metro Matrix and the Johnson factors. In particular, the Court finds that the requested rate is exceptionally reasonable given the subject matter of this case (factors 2 and 3), Defendants' attorneys' inability to work on other matters or take on new clients given the demands and timeline of this case and the firm's late retention and small size (factors 1, 4, and 7), the customary fee for like work (factor 5), the skill and experience of the attorneys (factor 9), and the undesirability of the case among other lawyers in the community (factor 10). Accordingly, the Court will award the $260 hourly rate without reductions for the Dozier Law Firm attorneys.

         The Court also finds that the $46/hour and $80/hour rates charged by the contract attorneys conducting document review were reasonable in light of the Johnson factors and Craig Reilly's affidavit.

         2. Reasonable Hours.

         Defendants seek attorneys' fees for 990.1 hours worked by the Dozier Law Firm. The Court finds that the vast majority of the requested hours are reasonable, but nevertheless ...


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