Post Number: 1120
|Posted on Sunday, July 20, 2003 - 12:57 am: ||
"Plaintiff, Sherri J. Gradisher ("Gradisher"), sued Defendant, Check Enforcement Unit, Inc. ("CEU"), on behalf of herself and a proposed class alleging that CEU violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692-1692o, and its Michigan counterpart, the Michigan Collection Practices Act, M.C.L. §§ 339.901-.920 and M.C.L. §§ 445.251-.258. The Court has previously ruled that CEU is a debt collector under the FDCPA and violated several provisions of that act. The Court has also entered judgment in favor of Gradisher in the amount of $1,000.00. Now before the Court is Gradisher's motion for an award of costs and attorney fees."
This Michigan District Court opinion is about attorney fees.
The plaintiff's attorney Bragg spent many hours working on getting the class action certified, and then apparently realized that CEU didn't have much of a net worth. DUH!
So then they decertified, and the plaintiff got a $1,000 judgment. This action was filed in 6/2000, so she was involved in legal action for 2.5 years, and I don't even know if they're DONE now.
I don't understand why she only got $1,000 - any legal action is STRESS.
Don't attorneys and judges understand that?
Readers often e-mail me because they don't know what's going on with their case, and sometimes they get no help with discovery.
One attorney sent the plaintiff an obnoxious note with the incomplete interrogatories, demanding that all questions be answered. "Normal" people don't have a clue how to answer many of the questions.
I dismissed my TU suit last year because I didn't know how to answer.
I agree with the attorney fees being reduced because Bragg failed to do a little research before running up this bill:
"Gradisher now seeks an award of costs and attorney fees pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(3). In particular, Gradisher requests an award of fees in the amount of $94,083.00, consisting of $80,538.00 for services performed by attorney O. Randolf Bragg and his firm and $13,545.00 for services performed by attorney Louis R. Lint and his firm. Gradisher also seeks costs in the amount of $10,860.44. Finally, Gradisher requests an award of $5,964.00 in fees and $38.28 in costs incurred in connection with her fee request."
Judge Quist did not object to the hourly rates:
1. Hourly Rate
The requested hourly rates of Gradisher's attorneys and their staff are as follows:
O. Randolph Bragg (attorney) $300.00
Craig Shapiro (law clerk) $ 85.00
Michael Kelly (law clerk) $ 85.00
Louis R. Lint (attorney) $175.00
Linda D. Pearson (legal assistant) $ 50.00
An excerpt on the number of hours billed:
"The Court also finds that the 13.7 hours spent on the motion to strike exhibits was excessive. Bragg spent 2.8 hours and Kelly billed 10.9 hours for completing the motion. The billing statement shows an additional hour billed by Kelly on October 11, 2000 – the same day the brief was filed with the Court. More importantly, the motion and brief combined are only about eight pages long, and the brief cites only three cases. Six hours would have been a reasonable amount of time to prepare the motion and brief. Therefore, the Court will allow all of Bragg's time but will reduce Kelly's time by 8.7 hours. The Court concludes that the 5.5 hours spent on the motion to compel was reasonable and, therefore, will not reduce those hours."
Judge Quist also went into great detail and really looked at the billing statements.
I applaud him for that, sometimes I get the feeling that judges flunked basic math.
Of course there's a difference between a published Opinion and some poor schmuck who's being foreclosed on or in bankruptcy. The latter may not be worthy of the Judge's time and maybe that's why they blanket approve everything the lenders submit.
Judge Quist also found apparent duplicate billing:
"With regard to the deposition transcript, the Court notes that Lint's statement contains two identical entries for $270.90. It appears that the second $270.90 charge is a duplicate entry, and therefore, the second charge will be deducted as set forth below."
And here's another good one, charges PRIOR to the first collection letter being received by the plaintiff:
"The Court will make an additional reduction of 1.6 hours from attorney Lint's hours. In reviewing his fee statement, the Court noted that the first seven entries, totaling 1.6 hours, were for work performed on or before April 24, 1999. Gradisher did not receive the first letter from CEU – the Due Process Notice – until at least June 16, 1999. Therefore, these hours do not relate to this case."
"For the foregoing reasons, the Court will award Gradisher attorney fees in the amount of $69,872.00 and expenses in the amount of $7,808.44."
It pays to check the accounting - whether it's a collector, Capital One, or the attorney fees.
Wonder what it would take to get a judge to scrutinize a foreclosing lender's accounting or a repo proceeding as thoroughly as Judge Quist reviews the attorney fees.
This definitely is a great read if you're interested in attorney fees.