United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND
W. Grimm United States District Judge.
a three-day bench trial, I entered a preliminary order of
judgment in favor of Plaintiff Client Network Services, Inc.
(“CNSI”) and against Stephen Alan Smith for
nominal damages for the termination of CNSI's contract
with a non-party and order of disgorgement of Mr. Smith's
salary and “success bonus.” Prelim. Or. J., ECF
No. 74. I entered judgment in favor of Mr. Smith on
CNSI's claim for punitive damages. Id. After
CNSI moved for attorneys' fees, I referred this motion to
Magistrate Judge Charles Day for a report and recommendation.
Judge Day issued a thorough and well-reasoned recommendation,
ECF No. 88. Plaintiff has objected to Judge Day's
recommendations regarding a reduction in the hourly rate for
Mr. Platt's services and Judge Day's reduction of
overall fees by twenty percent. Pl.'s Obj., ECF No. 89.
Mr. Smith objects to (1) Judge Day's recommended rates
for Mr. Antonelli and Mr. McLin because they were calculated
at rates in excess of their years of experience and (2) Judge
Day's recommendation to reduce Plaintiff's
attorneys' fees by only 20 percent. Def.'s Obj., ECF
No. 90. I find, on de novo review, that the
Magistrate Judge's report and recommendations were
correct with the exception of the hourly rate used for Mr.
McLin, and therefore, overrule both parties remaining
objections. Because I find that Mr. McLin's hours were
compensated at too high a rate, I adopt the report and
recommendation with modifications, and award CNSI
attorneys' fees in the amount of $252, 142.00.
Court reviews de novo any portions of a magistrate
judge's R&R to which a specific objection is made, 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), but may adopt, without explanation,
any of the magistrate judge's recommendations to which no
objections are filed, Solis v. Malkani, 638 F.3d
269, 274 (4th Cir. 2011) (citing Camby v. Davis, 718
F.2d 198, 200 (4th Cir. 1983). Any objection to a magistrate
judge's findings and recommendations must be served and
filed within fourteen days of their issuance. Fed.R.Civ.P.
72(b)(2); see also Loc. R. 301.5(a). Absent a timely
objection, the Court need “only satisfy itself that
there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to
accept the recommendation.” Diamond v. Colonial
Life & Acc. Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir.
2005) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's
Fourth Circuit recently articulated the procedure by which
attorneys' fees are awarded in Randolph v. Powercomm
Constr. Inc., 715 Fed.Appx. 227, 230 (4th Cir. 2017):
First, “the court must determine the lodestar figure by
multiplying the number of reasonable hours expended times a
reasonable rate.” Id. (internal quotation
marks omitted). “To ascertain what is reasonable in
terms of hours expended and the rate charged, the court is
bound to apply the factors set forth in Johnson v.
Georgia Highway Express Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-19 (5th
Cir. 1974).” McAfee, 738 F.3d at 88. Second,
“the court must subtract fees for hours spent on
unsuccessful claims unrelated to successful ones.”
Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). When
“all claims involve a common core of facts much of
counsel's time will be devoted generally to the
litigation as a whole, making it difficult to divide the
hours expended on a claim-by-claim basis.” Brodziak
v. Runyon, 145 F.3d 194, 197 (4th Cir. 1998)
(alterations, ellipsis, and internal quotation marks
omitted). Third, “the court should award some
percentage of the remaining amount, depending on the degree
of success enjoyed by the plaintiff.” McAfee,
738 F.3d at 88 (internal quotation marks omitted).
is a ‘strong presumption' that the lodestar figure
is reasonable, but that presumption may be overcome in those
rare circumstances in which the lodestar does not adequately
take into account a factor that may properly be considered in
determining a reasonable fee.” Perdue v. Kenny A.
ex rel. Winn, 559 U.S. 542, 554 (2010). In determining
whether the lodestar results in a reasonable fee, this Court
evaluates “the twelve well-known factors articulated in
Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d
714, 717-19 (5th Cir. 1974) and adopted by the Fourth Circuit
in Barber v. Kimbrell's, Inc., 577 F.2d 216, 226
(4th Cir. 1978).” Thompson, 2002 WL 31777631,
at *6 (footnotes omitted). Those factors are:
(1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and
difficulty of the questions; (3) the skill requisite to
properly perform the legal service; (4) the preclusion of
other 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
with the client; and (12) awards in similar cases.
Id. at *6 n.19 (citing Johnson, 488 F.2d at
717-19). However, the Supreme Court has noted (and experience
awarding attorneys' fees has confirmed) that the
subjective Johnson factors provide very little
guidance and, in any event, that “‘the lodestar
figure includes most, if not all, of the relevant factors
constituting a ‘reasonable attorney's
fee.'” Perdue, 559 U.S. at 551, 553
(quoting Pennsylvania v. Del. Valley Citizens'
Council for Clean Air, 478 U.S. 549, 566 (1986)).
Mr. Smith does not object to Judge Day's recommendations
on any of the line item billing entries or for the rate he
awarded fees to Mr. Platt, a Partner at Saul Ewing and the
senior attorney representing Plaintiff. Therefore, I adopt
Judge Day's recommendations as to Mr. Platt's hourly
rate and the line item billing entries. See Solis,
638 F.3d at 274; Diamond, 416 F.3d at 315.
Antonelli and Mr. McLin's Hourly Rates
Smith specifically objects to the hourly rates Judge Day
recommended for two of CNSI's attorneys, Mr. Antonelli
and Mr. McLin. Def.'s Obj. 2-3. The Local Rules of this
Court provide guidelines as to what a presumptively
reasonable billing rate is, based upon the number of years of
practice of an attorney, paralegal, or law clerk, and Judge
Day applied each attorney's experience to those
guidelines to determine the appropriate rate.
B to this Court's Local Rules, Rules and Guidelines for
Determining Attorneys' Fees in Certain Cases, provides
the following ...