United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
OWEN BOWDRE, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on “Plaintiff's Motion
for Attorney's Fees and Expenses” (Doc. 57) and
“Plaintiff's Supplement to Motion for
Attorney's Fees and Expenses” (doc. 67). Defendant
filed oppositions to these motions (docs. 59 & 68), and
the Plaintiff replied (doc. 60) to the first response. For
the reasons stated in this Memorandum Opinion, the court WILL
GRANT in part and WILL DENY in part the motions.
Whitford's original motion for fees and expenses seeks
reimbursement for attorneys fees of $176, 375.00 and $8,
595.05 in costs for a proposed award of $184, 970.05. Her
reply requests an additional $940 for preparing that
document. The supplement requests an additional $4, 610.00 in
fees to respond to the opposition brief and an additional
$175.64 in expenses. Her original motion attached as Exhibit
“A” the Declaration of her own attorney Jon
Goldfarb, detailing his legal experience and that of his
associates, including their hourly billing rates and those of
those of the staff; presenting other facts, such as the
contingency fee contract with Ms. Whitford and the history of
his firm's representation of her; and opining that the
time spent preparing for and litigating his case was
reasonable and that the lodestar total is reasonable. Exhibit
“B” is the itemized pre-bill listing work by
attorney, hours, and rates; and also listing expenses.
Exhibit “C” is a 2016 affidavit of Heather
Leonard, who represented the Defendant in this case and who
practices in Birmingham in the Northern District of Alabama
and in the area of employment and civil rights litigation.
This affidavit was prepared to support the fee petition of
Wiggins Childs attorneys in another case, but counsel for the
Plaintiffs filed and relied on it not only in that case but
also the instant one. Ms. Leonard opined that the 2016
prevailing market rate in Alabama for skilled plaintiff's
attorneys ranged from $275 to $550 per hour for
non-contingent, litigation related work, and $85 to $150 for
skilled paralegals. She specifically opined that the rates
charged by the Plaintiffs' attorneys and paralegals in
the other case,  which are the same as those charged in the
instant case, were reasonable and consistent with the market
rate in Alabama. Other attachments to the motion in this case
are court opinions and orders that Ms. Whitford claims
support the reasonableness of the requested award.
Whitford motion originally sought reimbursement for attorneys
fees of $176, 375.00. When Sub-Line objected to this request,
the Plaintiff sought an additional $940 to reply to the
original motion and $4, 610.00 in fees for preparing the
response to the motion to alter judgment, so the total fee
award the Plaintiff now requests is $181, 925.00.
“starting point” in the objective determination
of the value of lawyers' services is to calculate a
“lodestar” figure, that is, “to multiply
hours reasonably expended by a reasonable hourly rate.”
Norman v. Hous. Author. of Montgomery, 836 F.2d
1292, 1299 (11th Cir. 1988) (citing Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)). The Supreme Court
has “established a ‘strong presumption' that
the lodestar represents the ‘reasonable fee' . . .
.” Burlington v. Dague, 505 U.S. 557, 562
(1992) (citing Pennsylvania v. Del. Valley Citizens'
Council for Clean Air, 478 U.S. 546, 565 (1986)).
determining the lodestar figure, the court may take into
account the factors set forth in Johnson v. Ga. Highway
Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717 (5th Cir. 1974). The
twelve Johnson factors clude:
(1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and
difficulty of the questions; (3) the skill required to
perform the legal services properly; (4) the preclusion of
other employment by the attorney due to acceptance of the
case; (5) the customary fee in the community; (6) whether the
fee is fixed or contingent; (7) time limitations imposed by
the client or circumstances; (8) the amount involved and the
results obtained; (9) the experience, reputation, and ability
of the attorneys; (1) the “undesirability” of the
case; (11) the nature and length of the professional
relationship with the client; and (12) awards in similar
Johnson, 488 F.2d at 717-19.
first determination is whether the requested hourly rates are
reasonable. “A reasonable hourly rate is the prevailing
market rate in the relevant legal community for similar
services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skills,
experience, and reputation.” Norman, 836 F.2d
at1299 (citing Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895-96
(1984)). The burden of producing satisfactory evidence that
the rates proffered coincide with prevailing market rates
rests upon the petitioner. Id. The relevant legal
community in this case is the Northern District of Alabama.
See Knight v. Alabama, 824 F.Supp. 1022, 1027 n. 1
(N.D. Ala. 1993) (“The relevant legal community is the
area in which the court sits, which in this case is the
Northern District of Alabama.”).
Whitford asks the court to approve the following hourly rates
as reasonable: Jon Goldfarb-$450; Daniel Arciniegas-$250;
Lachlan “Will” Smith-$250; and Brooke Henderson
(paralegal)-$100. Jon Goldfarb has 25 years of experience in
civil rights and employment law litigation. Daniel Arciniegas
graduated from law school in 2006 and has eight years of
employment discrimination and civil rights litigation
experience. Will Smith graduated from law school in 2009 and
has at least seven years of civil rights and employment law
litigation experience. The court has had the opportunity to
observe these attorneys in numerous cases, and the court
notes that their experiences and abilities well justify the
support the reasonableness of her attorneys' fees, Ms.
Whitford has offered the affidavit of Attorney Goldfarb (doc.
57-1) and an affidavit of Attorney Heather Leonard (doc.
57-3). Ms. Leonard, who was defense counsel for this case,
prepared the affidavit for a separate discrimination case
tried before this court in 2016, Henderson v. Mid-South
Elec., Inc., Case No. 4:13-CV-1166. In her affidavit for
the Henderson case, Ms. Leonard testified that the
same rates listed above were reasonable for the same
attorneys and paralegal. Ms. Leonard stated that Brooke
Henderson's rate is reasonable for paralegal work and
within the typical Alabama range of $85-$100 an hour. This
court determined in Henderson that the same rates
charged by the same attorneys and paralegal are reasonable in
the Northern District of Alabama. See id., doc. 68
(Sept. 27, 2016).
does not specifically object to the reasonableness of the fee
rates listed, except to assert that the fee petition based
merely on Jon Goldfarb's affidavit failed to provide
sufficient evidence that the rates charged were reasonable.
However, this argument ignores the affidavit of Heather
Leonard, which does sufficiently address the reasonableness
of the hourly rates of the same individuals.
with the ruling in Henderson regarding hourly rates
and the court's familiarity with the fine reputation and
skills of the lawyers, and keeping in mind the information
presented via affidavit and the relevant
Johnson factors, the court FINDS that the attorney
and paralegal hourly rates are reasonable and within the
prevailing market rate in the Northern District of Alabama
for similar services by lawyers and paralegals of reasonably
comparable skills, experience, and reputation.
Hours Reasonably Expended
next step in computing the lodestar figure is to establish
the number of hours reasonably expended. See Norman,
836 F.2d at 1301. The Supreme Court requires a petitioner to
exercise “billing judgment” in the hours
submitted; “[h]ours that are not properly billed to
one's client are not properly billed to
one's adversary pursuant to statutory
authority.” Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434 (quoting
Copeland v. Marshall, 641 F.2d 880, 891 (1980)
(en banc) (emphasis in original)). If the petitioner
submits “hours that are excessive, redundant, or
otherwise unnecessary, ” the court should reduce the
number of hours accordingly. Id. “[O]bjections
and proof from fee opponents' concerning hours that
should be excluded must be specific and ‘reasonably
precise.'” ACLU of Ga. v. Barnes, 168 F.3d
423, 428 (11th Cir. 2000) (quoting Norman, 836 F.2d
at 1301). “Finally, in determining reasonable hours the
district court must deduct time spent on discrete and
unsuccessful claims.” Norman, 835 F.2d at 1301
(citing Hensley, 461 U.S. at 435. The decision about
what hours are reasonably necessary “must be left to
the discretion of the court.” Norman, 836 F.2d
at 1301 & 1304.
instant case, Ms. Whitford requests reimbursement for 489.10
hours and attaches what she characterizes as “detailed
documentation” of those hours. As to the original
motion, Sub-Line asserts that the number of hours expended
was not reasonable for the following reasons: (1) Ms.
Whitford did not prevail on all claims and recovered only a
fraction of the damages sought, so the outcome was not
successful or was only partially successful within the
meaning of the federal statute allowing for prevailing
parties to recover a reasonable attorney's fee, 42 U.S.C.
§ 1988; (2) Ms. Whitford is precluded from obtaining
attorney's fees on the state law claims; (3) Ms. Whitford
failed to clearly identify which billing items were related
to which claims, so the court should simply reduce all hours
by 1/3; and (4) Jon Goldfarb's affidavit does not provide
sufficient evidence of the reasonableness of the time
incurred, because he is counsel for Ms. Whitford, and because
many of the time entries are inadequately explained or
documented. As to the supplemental motion, Sub-Line simply
adopts its previous arguments without providing any specific
information about the supplemental fee entries.
only claims on which Ms. Whitford is entitled to recover
attorney fees are her successful federal claims, and the
court agrees that she was only partially successful on her
federal claims. The jury returned a verdict in her favor on
two claims in Count I (Title VII sexual harassment claim and
Title VII hostile work environment claim), and her claim in
Count II (Title VII retaliation claim). However, as Sub-Line
points out, Ms. Whitford did not succeed on the remaining
federal claim: ...