United States District Court, D. Maine
ORDER AWARDING ATTORNEY'S FEES
LEVY, CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
February 6, 2019, I sanctioned the Plaintiff, Carrington
Mortgage Services, LLC (“Carrington Mortgage”),
and ordered Carrington Mortgage to pay Defendant Roxane
Gionest Haynes' reasonable attorney's fees incurred in
connection with the judicial settlement conference held on
March 9, 2018, and the hearings that followed, encompassing
services rendered through February 6, 2019. See ECF
No. 84. As required by that Order, Haynes filed an
attorney's fee affidavit from her attorney, Joseph L.
Goodman (ECF No. 85), which states that Haynes'
reasonable attorney's fees and expenses total $22,
659.20. Thereafter, Carrington Mortgage filed its response in
opposition (ECF No. 87), and Haynes then filed a reply (ECF
reasonable fee typically is determined through the lodestar
method, which involves multiplying the number of hours
productively spent by a reasonable hourly rate to calculate a
base figure.” Torres-Rivera v.
O'Neill-Cancel, 524 F.3d 331, 336 (1st Cir. 2008)
(citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433
(1983); Coutin v. Young & Rubicam P.R.,
Inc., 124 F.3d 331, 337 (1st Cir. 1997)). Carrington
Mortgage does not question the reasonableness of the hourly
rates charged for the services provided by Attorney Goodman
and his paralegal or the expenses that he incurred, but does
object to the number of hours billed. In arriving at the
lodestar, the court “may adjust the hours claimed to
eliminate time that was unreasonably, unnecessarily, or
inefficiently devoted to the case.” Id.
Mortgage challenges the lodestar amount of hours set forth in
Attorney Goodman's affidavit in two respects. First,
Carrington Mortgage objects to billing entries which bill at
Attorney Goodman's full hourly rate for court appearances
held on March 9, July 24, and October 1, 2018, arguing that
they combine travel time and substantive tasks. In her
response, Haynes explains that Attorney Goodman's office
is a brief walk from the United States Courthouse in Portland
and that any time billed for Attorney Goodman's travel
was de minimis. I find that the amounts charged for Attorney
Goodman's travel time are nominal and, therefore, do not
unreasonably inflate the attorney fees sought in this case.
Carrington Mortgage challenges several entries in Attorney
Goodman's billing records that employ block billing for
certain services. Carrington Mortgage does not, however,
challenge the need for, or overall reasonableness of, the
services billed on the relevant dates. I have reviewed the
relevant billing entries and find that the services
encompassed by each block billing entry were largely related
and are fairly treated as a single service, as illustrated by
the entry for July 23, 2018:
Prepared for Show Cause Hearing and Reviewed
client's file regarding same. Office conference
with client regarding Show Cause hearing.
325.00/hr 3.00 975.00
ECF No. 85-1 at 4. The block description of the services
described above is functionally the same as a single entry:
for example, “Prepared for show cause hearing,
including office conference with client.” In addition,
the billing entries provide more than mere generic
descriptions such as “‘[t]elephone call,'
‘[r]eview court order,' ‘review
correspondence,' and ‘prepare correspondence,'
‘work on brief,' ‘review documents' and
‘conduct legal research[, ]' Torres-Rivera v.
Espada-Cruz, 2007 WL 906176, *1 (D. P.R. 2007),
vacated on other grounds sub nom. Torres-Rivera v.
O'Neill-Cancel, 524 F.3d 331 (1st Cir. 2008), which
provide little guidance in assessing the reasonableness of
the fee request. Attorney Goodman's entries do not
“impede the court's ability to evaluate the
utility” of the hours spent on various tasks,
ONeill-Cancel, 524 F.3d at 340, because the entries
include “some description of the subject matter of the
task[.]” Tenn. Gas Pipeline Co. v. 104 Acres of
Land, 32 F.3d 632, 634 (1st Cir. 1994).
Mortgage also challenges billing entries which consist of
multiple similar tasks performed over several months. For
example, the entry for the period October 1, 2018 to February
6, 2019 states: “Reviewed (16) e-mails from [paralegal]
to Attorney Wagner and client's daughter . . . regarding
this matter, ” for which Attorney Goodman billed 1.00
hour. This entry provides sufficient detail to deduce that
both the services provided (i.e., the attorney's review
of emails sent by his paralegal to opposing-counsel and the
client's daughter regarding mediation-related
negotiations involving the foreclosure of the family's
residence) and the time expended (on average, slightly less
than four minutes per email) were reasonable.
on my review of the challenged billing entries and my
familiarity with this proceeding (having conducted a judicial
settlement conference, two evidentiary hearings, and a
telephonic hearing over the course of a year), I conclude
that the challenged entries provide sufficient detail to
permit a fair evaluation of the lodestar amount of hours
claimed by Haynes. See O'Neill-Cancel, 524 F.3d
at 340 (stating that, in reviewing attorneys' time
records, “the district court's discretion in
separating wheat from chaff is quite broad.”). Viewed
in total, the billing records do not reflect instances of
redundant services or excessive billing that would justify a
discount of the lodestar amount.
foregoing reasons, it is ORDERED that
Carrington Mortgage Services, LLC, pay to Roxanne Gionest
Haynes her reasonable attorney's fees and expenses in the
amount of $22, 659.20 within thirty days of the date of this
Order, for services rendered by Attorney Joseph L. Goodman
between March 9, 2018, and February 6, 2019, in connection
with the judicial settlement conference and related
Haynes married after this action was initiated and her
married name is not reflected ...