United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
DON H. KONIPOLAS, as Trustee of Wolverine Mortgage Partner Retirement, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
TXS UNITED HOUSING PROGRAM, INC., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
FISH Senior United States District Judge
the court is the plaintiffs' motion for attorney's
fees and costs (docket entry 15). For the reasons stated
below, the plaintiffs' motion is granted in part and
denied in part. The plaintiffs are entitled to recover $12,
576.55 in attorney's fees and costs.
plaintiffs commenced these forcible detainer actions in a
Texas state court to recover possession of properties located
on Treetop Lane (“Treetop Property”) and Mexicana
Road (“Mexicana Property”) in Dallas, Texas.
Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorney's Fees
(“Motion”) (docket entry 15). The defendant
subsequently removed the actions to this court. First Notice
of Removal (docket entry 1); Second Notice of Removal (docket
entry 5). This court remanded the actions to the state court
on February 23, 2017. Memorandum Opinion and Order Remanding
Case to State Court (docket entry 14). Pursuant to the
court's memorandum opinion and order, the plaintiffs are
entitled to attorney's fees and costs incurred as a
result of the defendant's removal. Id. at 6
(“[P]laintiffs are entitled to recover from TXS all
just costs and any actual expenses, including attorney's
fees, incurred by the plaintiffs as a result of the removal
of this action.”) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c)).
the plaintiffs timely filed the instant motion under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d)(2). See Motion at 2. The
plaintiffs seek attorney's fees and actual expenses in
the amount of $17, 544.65. Id. Their motion includes
a declaration from the attorney on this case, Martin J.
Lehman (“Lehman”), and invoices with charges from
Lehman and his legal assistants, Shelia Shafer
(“Shafer”) and Lori Fitzgerald
(“Fitzgerald”). See generally Appendix
in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for Expenses Including
Attorney's Fees (“Appendix”) (docket entry
15-1). The defendant did not file a response. The motion is
now ripe for decision.
Fifth Circuit employs a two-step process to calculate
attorney's fees. Smith v. Acevedo, 478 Fed.
App'x 116, 124 (5th Cir. 2012). The first step is
determining the lodestar fee by multiplying the number of
hours reasonably expended on the litigation by a reasonable
hourly rate. Id. The court should exclude work that
is excessive, duplicative, or inadequately documented.
Id. Then, the court may adjust the lodestar based on
twelve factors announced in Johnson v. Georgia Highway
Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th Cir. 1974),
abrogated by Blanchard v. Bergeron, 489 U.S. 87
(1989). Many of these factors are usually subsumed
in the initial lodestar calculation. Jason D.W. by
Douglas W. v. Houston Independent School District, 158
F.3d 205, 209 (5th Cir. 1998). “The court must provide
a reasonably specific explanation for all aspects of a fee
determination.” Smith, 478 Fed. App'x at
124 (quoting Jimenez v. Wood County, Texas, 621 F.3d
372, 380 (5th Cir. 2010), on reh'g en banc, 660
F.3d 841 (5th Cir. 2011)).
Reasonable Hourly Rate
party seeking attorney's fees has the burden of showing
“that the requested rates are in line with those
prevailing in the community for similar services by lawyers
of reasonably comparable skill, experience and
reputation.” Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886,
895 n.11 (1984). “Generally, the reasonable hourly rate
for a particular community is established through affidavits
of other attorneys practicing there.” Tollett v.
City of Kemah, 285 F.3d 357, 368 (5th Cir.), cert.
denied, 537 U.S. 883 (2002). However, a court may also
rely on its own expertise in deciding the reasonableness of
an hourly rate. Gromer v. Mack, No. 3:11-CV-0682-D,
2012 WL 28835, at *2 (N.D. Tex. Jan. 4, 2012) (Fitzwater,
Chief J.) (citing Primrose Operating Company v. National
American Insurance Company, 382 F.3d 546, 562 (5th Cir.
Lehman has been licensed to practice in Texas since 1982.
Appendix at 2. Lehman's hourly rate is $425.00 per hour
and his legal assistants, Shafer and Fitzgerald, bill at a
rate of $95.00 per hour. Id. at 3-4. In his
declaration, Lehman states that “[b]ased on my
experience, in my opinion, my hourly rate and the hourly rate
of our legal assistants are reasonable.” Id.
at 4. However, Lehman's declaration lacks information
about the hourly rate for attorneys with similar experience
and does not include affidavits or declarations from other
attorneys regarding reasonable rates in Dallas, Texas.
court, relying on its expertise, concludes that the rates of
Lehman, Shafer, and Fitzgerald are reasonable. Other
attorneys with over thirty years of experience and their
legal assistants have charged similar rates on similar
matters in Dallas. See Task Force Logistics
International, Ltd. v. Teasley Partners, Ltd., No.
3:14-CV-2101-L, 2014 WL 6673482, at *2-3 (N.D. Tex. Nov. 25,
2014) (Lindsay, J.) (discussing hourly rates for an
experienced bankruptcy attorney and his legal assistant in
Dallas). Moreover, the court's conclusion is further
supported because the defendant did not object to it. See
Baulch v. Johns, 70 F.3d 813, 818 n.8 (5th Cir.
1995). Accordingly, the hourly rates for Lehman, Shafer, and
Fitzgerald are deemed reasonable.