Virginia Lawyers Weekly//March 20, 2023
Virginia Lawyers Weekly//March 20, 2023//
Where the court previously dismissed a lawsuit for lack of standing, the plaintiffs’ motion to reconsider was denied because it did not show the court misapplied the facts or the law. The City of Norfolk, moreover, was awarded most of the attorneys’ fees it incurred in defending the suit.
On Oct. 29, 2021, plaintiffs filed a putative class action against the City of Norfolk. On Aug. 9, 2022. the court dismissed plaintiffs’ claims with prejudice for lack of standing. The court also granted defendant’s motion for sanctions and directed the city to provide an affidavit and other supporting documentation to prove the reasonableness of their requested attorneys’ fees.
Defendant filed an affidavit with exhibits in support of its request for $10,067.43 in attorneys’ fees. Plaintiffs them filed a motion for reconsideration, urging the court to reconsider its sanctions against plaintiffs.
Motion to reconsider
Plaintiffs reassert previous arguments in an attempt to convince this court that it misapplied the facts and the law, but the court has not found any clear error of fact or law that needs to be corrected. Plaintiffs fail to present any new facts to establish standing and their prior pleadings do not present sufficient facts to demonstrate that they have any legally cognizable right to object to the demolition of the Granby Street property. Therefore, the court has not made any clear error in determining that plaintiffs lacked standing to bring their claims.
Defendants’ affidavit provides payroll information maintained by the City of Norfolk to support its request for $10,067.43 in attorneys’ fees. Because neither attorney bills time at a standard hourly rate, defendants derived the hourly rates of the annual salaries of attorneys Adam Daniel Melita and Kristopher R. McClellan.
The court finds the proposed hourly rates for each attorney to be reasonable in light of their experience, local prevailing rates and the skill required to handle the legal services provided in this case. Accordingly, the court adopts defendants’ proposed hourly rates: $106.30 per hour for Melita and $52.42 per hour for McClellan.
Defendants submit that Melita spent no fewer than 80.9 hours on this case and incurred $8,599.67 in attorney’s fees. Defendants also submit that McClellan spent no fewer than 28.0 hours in this action and incurred $1,467.76 in attorney’s fees. Plaintiffs argue that defendants expended an unreasonable number of hours in this matter and the court should reduce the number of hours accounted for in several block billing, duplicative and vague entries. Having reviewed the submitted exhibits and time entries, the court finds that the hours defendants’ counsel expended in this matter require a downward adjustment.
The court calculates the lodestar award by multiplying the 78.8 hours expended by Melita times his hourly rate of $106.30 and adding this total to the 25 hours expended by McClellan times his hourly rate of $52.42, totaling $9,686.94 in attorneys’ fees. The court is mindful that the case was not litigated to trial, and the tasks reported in the timekeeping exhibits, mainly legal research and briefing, make it reasonable for defendants to have expended an aggregate of 103.8 hours, subject to the exceptions discussed in more detail above.
This adjusted figure subtracts $380.49 from the requested $10,067.43 in attorneys’ fees for the 5.1 hours (2.1 hours for Melita and 3.0 hours for McClellan) expended in addressing the city’s late pleading. Finally, the court will further reduce the lodestar to account for the practice of block billing, which prevented the court from considering how much time defendants spent on distinct tasks in the above-styled case. Accordingly, the court reduces the overall fee award by 10 percent, and finds that the defendants are entitled to attorneys’ fees in the amount of $8,718.25.
Plaintiffs’ motion to reconsider denied. Defendant’s motion for attorneys’ fees granted in part, denied in part.
Albert L. Roper II Revocable Trust v. City of Norfolk, Case No. 2:21-cv-596, March 3, 2023. EDVA at Norfolk (Jackson). VLW 023-3-108. 10 pp.