If you are a civil litigator and you do not know of this rule, you’re welcome:
Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a motion for attorney fees “must . . . be filed no later than 14 days after the entry of judgment.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(d)(2)(B)(i). Noncompliance with this timing requirement is a sufficient reason to deny a motion for fees absent some compelling showing of good cause.
It is painful to read when lawyers — good lawyers — have to prostrate themselves before a court, own and accept responsibility for carelessness, and ask for leniency. We have occasion to feel such schadenschade (an antonym of schadenfreude that we have just made up and a synonym of sympathy) this week. Two distinguished local firms appear to have missed the deadline for filing a petition to the U.S. District Court for an award of their attorneys’ fees — missed the deadline by a mile and then some — and, nevertheless asked the court to overlook their error and entertain a motion for award of attorneys’ fees.
It could have been worse. The lawyers’ admitted negligence hurt only themselves rather than their client.
It is also important to keep in mind that, in many lawsuits, we bystanders sometimes have a materially incomplete picture. Before coming to any conclusions about how this apparent lapse happened, we have to remind ourselves that lawyers are very often effectively under a gag order and cannot freely discuss the details of puzzling situations.