United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
ALAN J. HYATT, et al., Plaintiffs,
KOSMAS N. JOHNS, et al., Defendants.
J. Hazel United States District Judge
pending before the Court is Jonathan M. Wall, Robert D.
Miller and Alan J. Hyatt's (together,
"Plaintiffs") request for attorneys' fees and
expenses, arising out of their successful Motion to Remand.
ECF No. 13. No hearing is necessary. Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md.
2016). For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' Motion for
Attorneys' Fees and Expenses is granted.
April 16. 2014, the above-captioned matter was commenced in
the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland by the
filing of an Order to Docket in the foreclosure of a deed of
trust granted by Defendants Kosmas Johns and Aphrodite Johns
(collectively, "Defendants") and secured by real
property located in Montgomery County (hereinafter, "the
Foreclosure Matter"). ECF No. 6-1. On August 18, 2016,
Defendants removed the Foreclosure Matter to this Court. ECF
No. 1. On August 22, 2016. Plaintiffs filed a Motion to
Remand the case back to the Circuit Court for Montgomery
County, arguing that removal based on diversity jurisdiction
was barred by the forum-defendant rule and no federal cause
of action was present on the face of the complaint. ECF No.
3. Included in their Motion was a request for costs, expenses
and reasonable attorneys" fees incurred while litigating
the removal. Id. ¶ 14. On August 26, 2016,
Defendants submitted a Response in Opposition to
Plaintiffs" Motion for Remand, ECF No. 7, and on August
31, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a Reply, ECF No. 8. Shortly
thereafter Defendants submitted a further Supplement in
support of their opposition. ECF No. 9.
Memorandum Opinion issued on October 14, 2016, the Court
granted Plaintiffs* Motion to Remand, holding that Defendants
had failed to demonstrate that removal was proper under
either the Court's federal question or diversity
jurisdiction. ECF No. 10. Because Defendants "lacked an
objectively reasonable basis for seeking removal,
"" id. at 5. the Court held that an award
of attorneys" fees was appropriate, since it would
support the goal of "deter[ing] removals sought for the
purpose of prolonging litigation and imposing costs on the
opposing party.'* Id. at 6 (quoting Martin
v. Franklin Capital Corp.. 546 U.S. 132. 140
(2005)). However, because Plaintiffs did not
sufficiently document their request for attorneys" fees,
the Court granted leave for Plaintiffs to file a more
detailed affidavit in support of their requests. Id.
November 1, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a supplemental briefing
requesting $19, 003.66 in attorneys" fees and expenses
arising from their litigation of the removal action. ECF No.
Although Defendants were served with a copy of Plaintiffs*
motion, the Court has not received a response to Plaintiffs*
court grants an order to remand, it may also "require
payment of just costs and any actual expenses, including
attorney fees, incurred as a result of the removal." 28
U.S.C. § 1447(c). Having already held that
attorneys' fees are warranted because Defendants lacked
an objectively reasonable basis for seeking removal, the
Court is left to determine whether the amount Plaintiffs
request is reasonable, keeping in mind "fain award under
§ 1447(c) is remedial, not punitive, and is designed to
compensate the plaintiff when, in the court's discretion,
justice so requires." McPhatter v. Sweitzer,
401 F.Supp.2d 468. 479-80 (M.D. N.C. 2005) (citations
most useful starting point for establishing the proper amount
of an award is the "lodestar." or "the number
of hours reasonably expended, multiplied by a reasonable
hourly rate." Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S.
424, 433 (1983); see also Rum Creek Coal Sales, Inc. v.
Caperton, 31 F.3d 169, 174 (4th Cir. 1994). The court
must adjust the number of hours to delete duplicative or
unrelated hours, and the number of hours must be reasonable
and represent the product of "billing judgment."
Caperton, 31 F.3d. at 175 (citing Hensley,
461 U.S. at 437). In assessing the overall reasonableness of
the lodestar, the court may also consider the twelve factors
set forth in Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express,
Inc., 488 F.2d 714. 717-19 (5th Cir. 1974)
('"the Johnson factors"), specifically:
(1) The time and labor required; (2) The novelty and
difficulty of the questions raised; (3) The skill requisite
to perform the legal services properly; (4) The preclusion of
employment by the attorney due to acceptance of the case; (5)
The customary fee; (6) Whether the fee is fixed or
contingent; (7) Time limitations imposed by the client or the
circumstances; (8) The amount involved and the results
obtained; (9) The experience, reputation, and ability of the
attorneys; (10) The undesirability of the case; (11) The
nature and length of the professional relationship between
the attorney and the client; and (12) Attorney's fee
awards in similar cases.
See Caperton, 31 F.3d at 175. These factors,
however, "usually are subsumed within the initial
calculation of hours reasonably expended at a reasonable
hourly rate [, i.e., the lodestar]." Randle
v. H&P Capital. Inc., 513 F.App'x 282. 283-84
(4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Hensley. 461 U.S. at 434 n.
9) (alteration in original). Furthermore, "'[i]n
considering the Johnson/Barber factors, the court is to
consider all twelve factors, but need not robotically list
each factor or comment on those factors that do not
apply." Dodeka, LLC v. AmrolDavis, No.
7:10-CV-17-D. 2010 WL 3239117. at *2 (E.D. N.C. Aug. 16.
determining whether counsel's hourly rates are
reasonable, the Court must consider whether "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, 890 n.11 (1984).
"[Determination of the hourly rate will generally be the
critical inquiry in setting the reasonable fee, and the
burden rests with the fee applicant to establish the
reasonableness of a requested rate." Plyler v.
Evatt,902 F.2d 273, 277 (4th Cir. 1990) (citation
omitted). As part of its inquiry, the Court may rely on
"affidavits from other attorneys attesting to the
reasonableness of the hourly rates." and also the
Court's "knowledge of the market." Beyond
Sys.. Inc. v. World Ave. USA. LLC, No. PJM-08-921. 2011
WL 3419565 at *3 (D. Md. Aug. 11, 2011). In this District,
the Court's "market ...