United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Ocala Division
CARVER MIDDLE SCHOOL GAY-STRAIGHT ALLIANCE, an unincorporated association and H.F., a minor by and through parent Janine Faughnan, Plaintiffs,
SCHOOL BOARD OF LAKE COUNTY, FLORIDA, Defendant.
TIMOTHY J. CORRIGAN UNITED STATE DISTRICT JUDGE.
School Board of Lake County, Florida has conceded Plaintiffs
Carver Middle School Gay-Straight Alliance and H.F.'s
(“Plaintiffs”) entitlement to trial and appellate
attorneys' fees and litigation expenses awardable under
42 U.S.C. § 1988.The remaining disagreement is over the
amount of those fees and expenses. The parties have filed
voluminous papers addressing this issue (Docs. 106, 111, 113,
116 and 118), including briefing, billing records, and expert
opinions. In summary, Plaintiffs seek $225, 704 in trial and
appellate attorneys' fees and $6, 600.73 in litigation
expenses for a total award of $232, 304.73, plus taxable
costs. (Doc. 118 at 27). Defendant (somewhat confusingly)
argues that “a reasonable attorney's fee award
would range between $98, 100 and $135, 250, and any award in
excess of $128, 500 would be unreasonable and
excessive.” (Doc. 113 at 7).
the Court's Order will be relatively brief, the Court
assures the parties it has given the matter careful
In determining the reasonable hourly rate, the court
considers “the prevailing market rate in the relevant
legal community for similar services by lawyers of
reasonably comparable skills, experience, and
reputation.” Norman v. Hous. Auth. of
Montgomery, 836 F.2d 1292, 1299 (11th Cir. 1988).
“The relevant legal community” is generally the
place where the case is filed. Am. Civil Liberties
Union of Ga. v. Barnes, 168 F.3d 423, 437 (11th Cir.
1999). In determining if the requested rate is reasonable,
the court may consider the applicable Johnson
factors and may rely on its own knowledge and experience.
Norman, 836 F.2d at 1299-1300, 1303 (“The
court, either trial or appellate, is itself an expert on
the question and may consider its own knowledge and
experience concerning reasonable and proper fees and may
form an independent judgment either with or without the aid
of witnesses as to value.” (quotations omitted));
see Johnson [v. Ga. Hwy. Express, Inc.], 488 F.2d
[714, ] 717-19 [(5th Cir. 1974)]. “The applicant
bears the burden of producing satisfactory evidence that
the requested rate is in line with prevailing market rates,
” which must be more than just “the affidavit
of the attorney performing the work.”
Norman, 836 F.2d at 1299 (citations omitted).
Instead, satisfactory evidence may be opinion evidence or
the charges of lawyers in similar circumstances.
Id. “The weight to be given to opinion
evidence of course will be affected by the detail contained
in the testimony on matters such as similarity of skill,
reputation, experience, similarity of case and client, and
breadth of the sample of which the expert has
Church of Our Savior v. City of Jacksonville Beach,
108 F.Supp.3d 1259, 1271 (M.D. Fla. 2015).
these principles, the Court, while recognizing the skill and
experience of the Plaintiffs' lawyers and that their
proposed hourly rates may be appropriate in other
jurisdictions, nevertheless finds that a reduction in the
proposed rates is required to arrive at the “prevailing
market rate in the relevant legal community for similar
services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skills,
experience and reputation.” Id. (citation
omitted). The Court will therefore reduce the hourly rate for
attorney Leslie Cooper from $450 an hour to $400 an hour; for
Benjamin Stevenson from $400 an hour to $350 an hour; and for
Daniel Tilley from $350 an hour to $300 an hour.
to Plaintiffs, they expended 867.7 hours in the district
court and the court of appeals. (Doc. 118 at 6). However,
Plaintiffs have exercised billing judgment and request
compensation for 584 hours - a roughly 33% reduction from the
867.7 hours spent. (Id.). While Defendant argues for
further reductions of these hours, the Court, after reviewing
the history of the case, including preliminary injunction
practice, motion practice, discovery, the conduct of a trial,
a successful appeal and post-appeal work, determines that
Plaintiffs' total requested hours are appropriate given
the nature of the litigation. Thus, the Court finds that Ms.
Cooper's 24.9 hours, Mr. Stevenson's 301.2 hours, and
Mr. Tilley's 266.4 hours are reasonable and
compensable. (Doc. 118-1).
THE FEE AWARD
Ms. Cooper's hourly rate of $400 x 24.9 hours = $9, 960;
multiplying Mr. Stevenson's hourly rate of $350 x 301.2
hours = $105, 420; and multiplying Mr. Tilley's hourly
rate of $300 x 266.4 hours = $79, 920, which equals a total
trial and appellate fee award of $195, 300.
42 U.S.C. § 1988, the Court awards $6, 600.73 in
non-taxable litigation expenses in both the district and
appellate court. ...