United States District Court, S.D. Florida
ORDER AWARDING ATTORNEY'S FEES TO THE DEFENDANTS
AND AGAINST MR. MALIK LEIGH, ESQ., AND DANIELLE RENEE WATSON,
WILLIAM MATTHEWMAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
CAUSE is before the Court upon the Defendants, Cheryl
McKeever and Palm Beach County School Board's
("Defendants") Motion for Attorneys' Fees to
Determine the Amount of Fees to Be Awarded
("Motion") [DE 97]. Counsel for Plaintiff, Malik
Leigh, Esq., and Danielle Renee Watson, Esq., have failed to
file a timely response to the Motion. The Court has carefully
reviewed the Motion and the Court's prior Orders, as well
the entire docket in this case.
October 13, 2017, the undersigned entered an Order Granting
in Part and Denying in Part Defendants' Motion for
Sanctions and to Strike. [DE 94]. In that Order, the Court
granted Defendants' request for an award of
attorney's fees against both of Plaintiff, Raquel
Abrams-Jackson's counsel, Mr. Leigh and Ms. Watson, for
the time incurred by Defendants in having to research and
draft Defendants' motion for sanctions and to strike,
review and research Plaintiffs response thereto, and draft
and research Defendants' reply. Id. at p. 10.
The Court directed counsel for Defendants to file, within
seven (7) days of the date of the Order, a memorandum that
addressed the hourly rate of counsel, the time expended, the
amount of reasonable attorney's fees and costs that
Defendants incurred in researching and drafting
Defendants' motion for sanctions and to strike, reviewing
and researching Plaintiffs response, and drafting and
researching Defendants' reply, as well as any costs
incurred. Id. The Court also directed Plaintiff to
file a memorandum responding and/or objecting to the amount
of attorney's fees and costs sought by the Defendants,
including the hourly rate of counsel and time claimed to have
been expended by the Defendants' counsel. Id. at
pp. 10-11. The deadline for the response memorandum was seven
days after Defendants' filed their memorandum.
Id. Finally, the Court provided the Defendants with
an opportunity to file a reply. Id. at p. 11.
filed their Motion on October 20, 2017. They contend that
their counsel spent 5.74 hours at a $250 per hour rate
preparing the motion for sanctions and to strike. [DE 97, pp.
2-3]. However, Defendants are only seeking $932.75 because
Defendants' counsel has voluntarily reduced the
attorney's fees calculation by 35% after applying her
reasonable billing judgment. Id. at p. 2. Defendants
further explain that they "applied a significant
reduction because at least some of the case law research
cited in Defendants' Motion to Strike in this case was
previously researched/reviewed to prepare Defendants'
Motion for Sanctions and to Strike is case no.
9:16-cv-81612-KAM." Id. at p. 3, n. 4. Attached
to the Motion are Defendants' counsel's billing
entries [DE 97-1] and the Affidavit of Lisa M. Kohring, Esq.
reasonable attorney's fee award is "properly
calculated by multiplying the number of hours reasonably
expended on the litigation times a reasonable hourly
rate." Am. Civil Liberties Union v. Barnes, 168
F.3d 423, 427 (11th Cir. 1999) (quoting Blum v.
Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 888 (1994)). This
"lodestar" may then be adjusted for the results
obtained by the attorney. See Barnes, 168 F.3d at
427 (citing Lor anger v. Stierheim, 10 F.3d 776, 781
(11th Cir. 1994)). The reasonable hourly rate is defined as
the "prevailing market rate in the relevant legal
community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably
comparable skills, experience, and reputation."
Barnes, 168 F.3d at 436 (quoting Norman v.
Housing Auth. of Montgomery, 836 F.2d 1292, 1299 (11th
regard to the type of evidence that the fee claimant should
produce in support of a claim, in Barnes, the
Eleventh Circuit has stated,
The "fee applicant bears the burden of establishing
entitlement and documenting the appropriate hours and hourly
rates." Norman, 836 F.2d at 1303. That burden
includes "supplying the court with specific and detailed
evidence from which the court can determine the reasonable
hourly rate. Further, fee counsel should have maintained
records to show the time spent on the different claims, and
the general subject matter of the time expenditures ought to
be set out with sufficient particularity so that the district
court can assess the time claimed for each activity .... A
well-prepared fee petition also would include a summary,
grouping the time entries by the nature of the activity or
stage of the case." Id. (citations omitted).
168F.3d at 427.
Reasonable Hourly Rate
seeking reimbursement for its attorney's fees, Defendants
rely on the Affidavit of Lisa M. Kohring, Esq., supporting
her claimed hourly rate. According to the affidavit, Ms.
Kohring bills at the rate of $250 per hour. [DE 97-2]. She
has been practicing law since 2011 and specializes in
employment law. Id.
upon the Court's own experience in assessing the
reasonableness of attorney's fees, and having reviewed
the affidavit submitted in this case, this Court finds that
Ms. Kohring's hourly rate is reasonable in comparison to
the prevailing market rate in the relevant legal community.