United States District Court, D. Maryland
STEPHANIE A. GALLAGHER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation (“Nissan”)
has filed a Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Expenses, ECF
32, as permitted by this Court's order, ECF 31.
Defendants Pensare, LLC (“Pensare”) and Donato
Sauro a/k/a Danny Sauro (collectively
“Defendants”) have not filed an opposition. No
hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md.
2018). For the reasons stated herein, Nissan's Motion
will be granted in part and denied in part.
the financing documents governing this case provide that
Nissan is entitled to recover “all costs and expenses,
including [its] attorney fees and in house counsel fees at
prevailing rates” for this litigation to enforce its
rights and collect amounts owed. See, e.g. ECF 28-3
at 4; see also ECF 28-4 at 9 (“Borrower shall
pay to [Nissan], upon demand, all expenses (including
reasonable attorneys' fees and other legal expenses)
incurred by Nissan in effecting, or attempting to effect,
collection”); ECF 28-5 at 4 (“If any legal action
or actions are instituted by Lender to enforce any of its
rights against Guarantor hereunder, then Guarantor agrees to
pay lender all expenses incurred by Lender relative to such
legal action or actions including, but not limited to, court
costs plus reasonable attorneys' fees”).
Nissan seeks its costs: $400.00 for the filing fee, $280.00
in process service fees, $16 in courier charges, $186.30 in
mailing fees, and $112.00 in financing statement amendments
made. The charges are substantiated in the legal bills and
represent reasonable expenses under the circumstances of this
Nissan seeks seek attorneys' fees in the amount of $73,
313.20. To calculate the appropriate award of attorneys'
fees, the Court must first determine the lodestar amount,
defined as a “reasonable hourly rate multiplied by
hours reasonably expended.” Grissom v. The
Mills Corp., 549 F.3d 313, 320-21 (4th Cir.
2008); see Plyler v. Evatt, 902 F.2d 273, 277 (4th
Cir. 1990) (stating that “[i]n addition to the
attorney's own affidavits, the fee applicant must produce
satisfactory specific evidence of the prevailing market rates
in the relevant community for the type of work for which he
seeks an award”) (internal citations omitted). A trial
court may exercise its discretion in determining the lodestar
amount because it possesses “superior understanding of
the litigation, ” and the matter is
“essentially” factual. Thompson v. HUD,
No. MJG-95-309, 2002 WL 31777631, at *6 n. 18 (D. Md. Nov.
21, 2002) (quoting Daly v. Hill, 790 F.2d 1071,
1078-79 (4th Cir. 1986) (internal quotation marks omitted)).
Once the lodestar amount has been determined, the Court
determines whether or not it constitutes a reasonable fee,
and makes any necessary adjustments. See Carroll, 53
F.3d at 629. In evaluating both the lodestar calculations and
the overall reasonable fee, this Court uses “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
to determine the lodestar amount, the Court multiplies a
reasonable hourly rate by the hours reasonably expended.
Here, the rates charged for three of the four attorneys
performing work on the case comport with this Court's
Guidelines. See Loc. R., Appx. B (Guidelines). The
most junior attorney, Matthew Cassilly, was admitted to the
bar in 2013, and therefore has practiced for six years. ECF
32-1 at 2. The Guidelines provide an hourly rate range
between $165 and $300 for attorneys with five to eight years
of practice. See Loc. R., Appx. B (Guidelines).
Accordingly, the hourly rates of $310 and $320 that the firm
charged, at various times, for Mr. Cassilly's work exceed
the range suggested in the Guidelines. His hourly rate will
be reduced to $220. Similarly, the firm charged $220 per hour
for the paralegal on the case, and the Guidelines provide for
a maximum rate of $150. The rate for paralegal services
(which only amount to 0.3 hours) therefore will be reduced to
to the number of hours billed, most of the entries appear
entirely reasonable, with just two exceptions. First, on
November 15, 2018, an experienced attorney, charging $310 per
hour, billed one hour of time to file the complaint and
associated documents with the Court. Clerical work is not
properly billable as legal fees to one's adversary.
See Gates v. Barnhart, 325 F.Supp.2d 1342, 1348
(M.D. Fla. 2002) (“Tasks of a clerical nature are not
compensable as attorney's fees”) (quoting
Mobley v. Apfel, 104 F.Supp.2d 1357, 1360 (M.D. Fla.
2000)) (denying compensation for mailing a complaint and
summons); see also Magwood v. Astrue, 594 F.Supp.2d
557, 563 (E.D. Pa. 2009) (finding that clerical tasks should
be excluded from the total attorney fee); Chapman v.
Astrue, 2:08CV00040, 2009 WL 3764009, at *1 (W.D. Va.
Nov. 9, 2009) (finding “purely clerical tasks are
ordinarily a part of a law office's overhead and should
not be compensated for at all.”). The entry will
therefore be redacted. Second, on January 2, 2019, the date
of the preliminary injunction hearing, two attorneys (Mr.
Cassilly and Mr. Greenberg) appear to have been engaged in at
least partially duplicative work. The Local Rules provide
that only one attorney can bill for hearings and client
conferences. See Loc. R., Appx. B, Guideline 2.
While the time entries prepared by counsel do not allow the
court to determine that the work was precisely duplicative,
it appears clear that both attorneys engaged in witness
preparations, settlement discussions, and the hearing itself.
Accordingly, this Court will disallow the entry attributable
to the attorney with the lower billing rate (5.7 hours billed
by Mr. Cassilly).
those reductions, calculating the lodestar rate, the
following numbers were used for each timekeeper identified on
the billing statement, ECF 32-1:
adjusted lodestar rate, then, totals $68, 443.20.
the Johnson factors to the adjusted lodestar amount,
I find it to be a reasonable fee in this matter. The time
billed and work performed were reasonable and necessary, and
the case presented certain exigent circumstances requiring
prompt and somewhat complex legal action, such as the pursuit
of injunctive relief to stop ongoing sales of collateral, and
ultimately overseeing the sales of the automobile dealership
at issue. The attorneys are experienced in the field, and
obtained good results for their client. As noted, the
attorneys' rates, as adjusted, are within the ranges