• July 6, 2010

Plaintiff in Hart Security v. Number One Health (Middle East) et al. entered into a settlement with Defendant Gary Butters but, as sometimes happens, Butters does not appear to have been very eager to actually pay the settlement.

Plaintiff’s counsel brought this to the Court’s attention with a motion to enforce the settlement agreement, seeking an award of its attorneys’ fees for the expense of having to bring the motion.  U. S. Mag. Judge Raymond L. Erickson (D. Minn.) granted the motion, but not before going through the lawyer’s bill and giving it a haircut (50%).

Judge Erickson had no problem with the $300/hour rate for plaintiff’s counsel but he found the amount of time billed to be “modestly excessive.”

[T]he Plaintiff has documented 8.4 hours of work by its attorney, with respect to the Motion.   After closely reviewing the documentation concerning that work, we find that several of the entries are modestly excessive.  Counsel has documented that she invested 5.35 hours into drafting the Motion and its supporting papers, and 1.5 hours into preparing for, and attending, the Motion Hearing, which was held in St. Paul, and which lasted for twenty (20) minutes.  Counsel further represents that she spent more than one (1) hour in various conferences with her colleagues, with opposing counsel, and with our Chambers, and approximately one-half (½) hour in drafting letters.

Judge Erickson found 8.4 hours excessive and knocked the total down to 4 hours.  He was at pains to emphasize, however:

We make clear that, in ascertaining a reasonable attorney fee, we express no criticism of the efforts, or expertise, of the Plaintiff’s counsel, who plainly performed successful work before this Court.   Our obligation, however, is to determine a ‘reasonable fee,’ and not one that, given a vast array of considerations, a client is willing to expend in order to retain the services of a specific attorney of the client’s personal choice. While the Plaintiff’s attorneys performed successfully in this case, there was nothing in the Motion to Enforce which presented issues so novel or complex, as would justify the total amount of hours expended.

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