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4th Circuit on Laffey-based fee (again)

The 4th Circuit is no fan of the Laffey matrix, a scale used to award attorney’s fees in the metropolitan Washington D.C. area.

But the court said in a new federal workers’ comp case that the matrix could be a starting point for awarding fees to a D.C. lawyer who won LHWCA benefits for nuclear pipe fitter at the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company.

The lawyer, Joshua T. Gillelan II, part of the D.C.-based Longshore Claimants National Law Center, sought his standard rate of $420 per hour. The agency knocked him down to $250 an hour, based on a 10-year-old administrative case that approved $200/hour.

Using the 10-year-old case was an abuse of discretion, wrote 4th Circuit Judge Allyson K. Duncan in Newport News Shipbuilding v. Holiday.

In determining local rates for lawyers, the appellate panel said the agency could look to the Laffey matrix. But its fee award should be tempered by consideration of whether it was really necessary for the party to go outside the local talent pool to hire a higher-priced lawyer.

By Deborah Elkins

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