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Doe v. Marshall

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

August 5, 2019

JOHN DOE 1, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
STEVEN T. MARSHALL, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          W. KEITH WATKINS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the court is Plaintiffs' motion for an award of attorney's fees and costs. (Doc. # 166.) For the reasons below, the court will award $362, 200.41 in attorney's fees and $6, 075.98 in costs.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case involved a number of constitutional challenges to the Alabama Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Act (ASORCNA). It started in August 2015 as a putative class action with eight plaintiffs (Does 1-8). (Doc. # 1.) The court denied a motion for a preliminary injunction (Docs. # 17, 32) and granted permission to amend the complaint (Doc. # 38). The November 2015 First Amended Complaint added Doe 9 as a Plaintiff and dropped the claims by Does 2, 4, 5, 6, and 8. (Doc. # 39.) Plaintiffs withdrew their motion for class certification. (Doc. # 40.)

         Defendants moved to dismiss the First Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim (Doc. # 43), and in March 2016, the court granted that motion in part (Doc. # 51). In August 2016, Plaintiffs filed a Second Amended Complaint and added Doe 10 as a Plaintiff. (Doc. # 81.) Defendants moved to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim. (Doc. # 87.) While that motion was pending, ASORCNA was substantially amended, see Ala. Act No. 2017-414, and Plaintiffs sought leave to file a Third Amended Complaint. (Doc. # 119.) In March 2018, the court partially granted the motion to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint. (Doc. # 125.) At the same time, it denied the motion for leave to file the Third Amended Complaint. (Doc. # 125.) Plaintiffs later sought leave to “supplement” the claims in their Second Amended Complaint and to add more Plaintiffs. (Docs. # 132, 134.) That motion was largely denied. (Doc. # 137.)

         Plaintiffs raised a number of unsuccessful claims in their various complaints. The court dismissed substantive due process challenges to the 2, 000-foot residency exclusion zone (Doc. # 51, at 39; see Doc. # 1, at 37; Doc. # 39, at 32) and the 2, 000-foot employment exclusion zone (Doc. # 51, at 43; see Doc. # 1, at 38; Doc. # 39, at 33). It dismissed claims by Does 1 and 9 that the minor-cohabitation rule violates their right to family association. (Doc. # 51, at 40; see Doc. # 1, at 37; Doc. # 39, at 32.) It dismissed vagueness challenges to reporting requirements (Doc. # 125, at 29-33; see Doc. # 81, at 48) and to the 2, 000-foot residency exclusion zone (Doc. # 125, at 28; see Doc. # 81, at 48). It dismissed a claim that ASORCNA violates the “irrebuttable presumption” doctrine. (Doc. # 125, at 24; see Doc. # 81, at 45.) It dismissed individual-capacity claims. (Doc. # 125, at 50; see Doc. # 81, at 51.) And it denied leave to add “stigma plus” claims. (Doc. # 137, at 10-12; see Doc. # 134-1, at 25, 32.)

         Thus, when the parties moved for summary judgment in the summer of 2018 (Docs. # 139, 147, 154), there were only four remaining claims (see Doc. # 138). Count One was a substantive due process claim by Does 3 and 7 against the minor-cohabitation rule. Count Two was a void-for-vagueness challenge to the residency and employment exclusion zones. Count Four was an as-applied compelled speech challenge to the branded-identification requirement. And Count Five was a First Amendment overbreadth challenge to the internet-use reporting requirements.

         In February 2019, the court granted summary judgment for Defendants on Counts One and Two. At the same time, it granted summary judgment for Plaintiffs on Counts Four and Five, declaring:

The branded-identification requirement in Alabama Code § 15-20A-18 is unconstitutional under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution to the extent that it has been applied by the State of Alabama; and
The internet-use reporting requirements in Alabama Code §§ 15-20A-7(a)(9), 15-20A-7(a)(18), and 15-20A-10(e)(1) are facially overbroad in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

(Doc. # 165, at 1-2.) See generally Doe 1 v. Marshall, 367 F.Supp.3d 1310 (M.D. Ala. 2019). No. party filed a timely appeal.

         Plaintiffs now move for an award of attorney's fees and costs under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. (Doc. # 166.) Throughout this case, Plaintiffs have been represented by one attorney: Joseph McGuire. Mr. McGuire claims an hourly rate of $295 or $425, and he seeks compensation for 1, 515.8 hours. Thus, Mr. McGuire seeks a fee of either $447, 161 or $644, 215. (Doc. # 175, at 33; Doc. # 179, at 4, 7.) In addition, Plaintiffs claim $17, 041.02 on their Bill of Costs. (Doc. # 176.) Defendants respond that Mr. McGuire's hourly rate should be $225, that 339.9 of his hours are not compensable, and that the court should reduce the fee award by at least two-thirds. They also argue that only $2, 077.80 in costs are taxable. (Doc. # 178, at 4, 8, 14-15.)

         II. ANALYSIS

         Though most of their claims were dismissed, Plaintiffs prevailed on their First Amendment challenges to ASORCNA's internet-use reporting requirements and its branded-identification requirement. See Farrar v. Hobby, 506 U.S. 103, 109 (1992) (defining “prevailing party”). The court will therefore award Plaintiffs “a reasonable attorney's fee” and “costs.” 42 U.S.C. § 1988; Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d). The question is what constitutes a “reasonable” fee and what “costs” can be taxed.

         A. Reasonable Attorney's Fee

         “The most useful starting point for determining the amount of a reasonable fee is the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.” Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). Once this “lodestar” amount is calculated, other considerations may lead the court to lower the fee award. See Id. at 434.

         1. Reasonab ...


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