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Lawyer bill trimmed for post-trial work

Culling quotes from a trial transcript for a post-trial memorandum shouldn’t take a lot of time, a Richmond federal judge said when he trimmed a fee request from the winning lawyers in a contract case.

The judge was willing to reopen the case after awarding Greenberg Traurig LLP $388,471 in fees and $15,000 in litigation expenses. He drew the line, however, at the bill for a 20-page post-trial memorandum.

Asking for legal fees of nearly $2,000 per page for a filing largely pulled from the transcript of the one-day trial is excessive by almost any measure, said Judge Henry E. Hudson. Three lawyers spent nearly 87 hours on the memo, including 25 hours of legal research and 12 hours of case law review.

“While the task of harvesting evidence from the trial transcripts was undoubtedly somewhat time consuming, neither the evidence nor legal issues were complex or atypically challenging,” Hudson said. But the lawyers for Evergreen Sports LLC asked for $39,290 in fees and $8,021 in expenses to cover the memo and “assorted post-trial activities.”

The legal issues in the suit, which arose from the sale of a warehouse full of seasonal and sports-themed merchandise, involved the burden of proof and damages for breach of warranty under Delaware law, valuation of distressed goods and mitigation of damages. Over 200 pages of the 266-page trial transcript covered testimony by two witnesses plaintiff produced at trial.

“Aside from a few documents, and the fruits of cross examination,” defendants offered no substantive evidence at trial, the judge said.

According to Hudson, experienced trial lawyers would reasonably need no more than 40 hours to prepare the post-trial memo – 10 hours to read and analyze the testimony of their own witnesses, 10 hours to research pertinent legal issues and 20 hours to draft, edit and revise the memo. Under Hudson’s reckoning, two hours of attorney time per page should be enough.

He ordered defendant SC Christmas Inc. to pay supplemental attorney’s fees of $28,405, including $18,760 for the memo, and extra expenses of $15,361. Hudson gave the parties time to request an additional hearing, saying he would enter his order in 10 days, if no hearing is requested.

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