United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
F. ATLAS SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
case is before the Court on the Motion to Enforce Orders for
Sanctions (“Motion”) [Doc. # 14] filed by
Plaintiff Farrar & Ball, LLP (“Farrar &
Ball”) and Third-Party Defendants Wesley T. Ball, Kyle
W. Farrar, David Romagosa, Jr., and Rhonda Herbert.
Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff Nicole Hudson filed a
Response [Doc. # 42], and Movants filed a Reply [Doc. # 44].
Having reviewed the record and the applicable legal
authorities, the Court grants the Motion, enforces the award
of attorneys' fees ordered by Texas state court Judge
Michael Gomez, and fixes the amount of attorneys' fees at
noted by the Court in its Memorandum and Order [Doc. # 18]
entered April 30, 2017, Farrar & Ball is a law firm where
Nicole Hudson was employed as a paralegal. Farrar & Ball
filed this lawsuit against Hudson in Texas state court
alleging that Hudson's false claims for overtime
compensation constituted theft. Hudson filed counterclaims
against Farrar & Ball, including claims for defamation
and malicious prosecution. Judge Gomez dismissed these two
claims by separate orders.
reference to the defamation claim, Texas law requires an
award of attorneys' fees upon dismissal of the claim.
See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 27.009.
Similarly, Texas law requires an award of attorneys' fees
upon the dismissal of a malicious prosecution claim.
See Tex. R. Civ. P. 91a(7). As a result, Judge Gomez
awarded Movants their attorneys' fees in an amount to be
determined later. The requirement in § 27.009 is for an
award of “reasonable attorney's fees” to the
successful movant. See Sullivan v. Abraham, 488
S.W.3d 294, 299 (Tex. 2016) (citing Tex. Civ. Prac. &
Rem. Code § 27.009(a)(1)). “A
‘reasonable' attorney's fee ‘is one that
is not excessive or extreme, but rather moderate or
fair.'” Id. (quoting Garcia v.
Gomez, 319 S.W.3d 638, 642 (Tex. 2010)). “That
determination rests within the court's sound discretion,
but that discretion, under [§ 27.009], does not also
specifically include considerations of justice and
Judge Gomez determined the amount of attorneys' fees to
be awarded to Movants, the case was removed to federal court.
Movants seek enforcement of the award of attorneys' fees
and ask that the amount of fees be fixed at $11, 625.00.
Movants have provided affidavits and time records to support
this fee amount.
hearing on July 17, 2017, the Court held that if
“Hudson chooses to contest the amount of
Plaintiff's fee request associated with the state court
proceedings before Judge Gomez, ” she must do so by
August 7, 2017. See Hearing Minutes and Order [Doc.
# 39]. Hudson filed a “Response in Opposition to
Plaintiff's Request for Sanctions and Constest
[sic] of Attorney's Fees” [Doc. # 42]. In
the Response, Hudson challenges a sealing order that is the
subject of a separate motion. Hudson also opposes sanctions
other than the attorneys' fees awarded by Judge Gomez,
but the Court denied Movants' request for those sanctions
at the July 17 hearing. See Hearing Minutes and
Order, p. 2. Hudson in her Response again includes a lengthy
section on witness tampering, an issue completely unrelated
to this lawsuit. Hudson asserts that no fees should be
imposed or, alternatively, that the Court should defer fixing
the amount of fees awarded by Judge Gomez. At no point in the
Response, however, does Hudson challenge the amount of fees
requested by Movants.
Court has carefully reviewed the evidence submitted by
Movants in support of their request for fees in the amount of
$11, 625.00. Based on that review, and absent any evidence or
argument to the contrary, the Court finds the number of hours
were reasonable and necessary in connection with the
defamation and the malicious prosecution claims. The
attorneys billed at hourly rates of $350 and $450 per hour.
The Court finds these hourly rates to be reasonable, indeed
modest, relative to those charged in this area by attorneys
with comparable experience.
determining whether the lodestar amount reflects a reasonable
fee, Texas law allows courts calculating fees under
§ 27.009 and Rule 91a to consider several factors,
(1) the time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty
of the questions involved, and the skill required to perform
the legal service properly;
(2) the likelihood that the acceptance of the particular
employment will preclude other employment by the lawyer;
(3) the fee customarily charged in the locality for similar
(4) the amount involved and the results obtained;
(5) the time limitations imposed by the client or by the
(6) the nature and length of the professional relationship