United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
Charles B. Day United States Magistrate Judge.
the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Entry of Order for
Attorney's Fees as Discovery Sanctions
(“Plaintiff's Motion”)(ECF No. 78). The Court
has reviewed Plaintiff's Motion and related filings. No.
hearing is deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md.). For
the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Plaintiff's
can be no dispute that Plaintiff is entitled to fees; the
only question is how much. A short history of the problems is
January 3, 2019, the Court granted Plaintiff's Motion to
Compel Defendant Sun Ridge Associates, LP d/b/a Autumn Woods
to Answer Interrogatories and Produce Documents. The Court
therein required the production of substantive discovery
responses within seven days and stated that “all
objections aside from those based on the attorney-client
privilege or work product doctrine are waived.” ECF No.
60. More than two months later, Plaintiff felt compelled to
file a second motion seeking discovery (the “Second
Motion”). ECF No. 66. Plaintiff therein complained that
Defendant continued to assert various objections the Court
deemed waived, continued withholding of discoverable
documents, and continued to posit inadequate answers to
interrogatories. Moreover, Plaintiff noted the deposition of
Defendant's corporate designee with the appropriate
identification of the subjects of inquiry. Sadly, the
designee was not prepared to respond to appropriate questions
at the deposition rendering the exercise unproductive. This
misconduct required a follow up deposition and a hearing
before the Court that was held on May 23, 2019. ECF No. 75.
At that time, the Court made clear that Plaintiff was
entitled to an award of reasonable attorney's fees and
expenses. Sanctions are in order pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
26(g) and 37.
Rule 26 and 37 are expressed in mandatory terms. The
certification requirement of Rule 26 states,
If a certification violates this rule without substantial
justification, the court, on motion or on its own, must
impose an appropriate sanction on the signer, the party on
whose behalf the signer was acting, or both. The sanction may
include an order to pay the reasonable expenses, including
attorney's fees, caused by the violation.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(g)(3). The certification was violative of
the Rule and Defendant has not offered a “substantial
justification.” Therefore, a sanction is required which
may include reasonable expenses. Defendant's conduct also
violated portions of Rule 37(a) and (b). For the sake of
simplicity, the Court will limit its consideration to Rule
37(a). Here, the Court has granted the motions to compel and
the Court is required to make Defendant pay the
“reasonable expenses incurred in making the motion,
including attorney's fees.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(5).
Again, Defendant has not shown a “substantial
justification” or “other circumstances”
that would “make an award of expenses unjust.”
Id. Defendant's arguments against the present
motion are focused on the fee award Plaintiff seeks.
determining the reasonableness of a fee award in the
sanctions context, the Court is to be guided by its
independent review of time records setting forth the services
required, and the rates charged for said services to insure
they conform to the typical rates found in the relevant legal
community. Poole ex rel. Elliott v. Textron, Inc.,
192 F.R.D. 494, 508 (D. Md. 2000). Plaintiff's counsel
has provided the former, and the Court can rely upon its own
Local Rules for guidance on the latter. Rules and Guidelines
for Determining Attorneys' Fees in Certain Cases (the
“Guidelines”). Loc. R., App. B.3(d) (D. Md. Dec.
1, 2018). Application of the Guidelines are not required;
however, they are instructive. Once a fee request is
submitted, it becomes the responsibility of the party
challenging the request to articulate the areas where an
award would be inappropriate. “[T]he Court will not
review any challenged entry in the bill unless the
challenging party has identified it specifically and given an
adequate explanation for the basis of the challenge.”
Thompson v. U.S. Dept. of Hous. and Urban Dev., No.
Civ. A. MJG-95-309, 2002 WL 31777631, at *10 (D. Md. Nov. 21,
2002). The Court will address the specific concerns raised by
The Hourly Rates.
opens with an attack on the hourly rates sought for legal
services provided. In support of Plaintiff's Motion,
counsel state that Ingmar Goldson has been a member of the
bar for over six years, while Emanwel Turnbull has been a
member for less than five years. Pl.'s Memo. in Supp. of
Pl.'s Mot. for Entry of Order for Attorney's Fees as
Discovery Sanction (“Pl.'s Mem.”) ECF No.
78-1, p. 5.
may be an oversight, Mr. Goldson's representation of his
years of experience at the bar is not supported by his
declaration. The declaration merely provides the years when
he completed his academic studies. Decl. of Ingmar Goldson in
Supp. of Pl.'s Pet. for Fees (“Goldson
Decl.”), at ¶¶ 1-2, ECF No. 78-2.
Nonetheless, in his application to membership of the bar of
this Court, he states under oath that he indeed became a
member of the bar in December 2012. It is clear from Mr.
Turnbull's declaration that he has been a member of the
bar for less than five years. Decl. of Emanwel Turnbull in
Supp. of Pl.'s Pet. for Fees (“Turnbull
Decl.”), at ¶ 4, ECF No. 78-3.
Court finds Plaintiff's counsels' efforts to apply
the Laffey Matrix to the present litigation unpersuasive.
There is no expressed justification for the Court to abandon
its historical formulation, or to apply an out of
jurisdiction calculation merely because it provides for a
higher fee award. The Court also finds unpersuasive
Defendant's argument that Plaintiff's fees should be
capped at a median hourly rate for each scale. The range is
merely a guide and is not to be mechanically applied when it
comes to the years of service within each given range.
Otherwise, the Guidelines would calculate the hourly rates by
articulating a specific rate for each year of experience
instead of a range. Given the levels of experience by
counsel, the maximum hourly rates under the Guidelines for