United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
FLOYD COFFMAN and JEAN COFFMAN, citizens of the State of Indiana, Plaintiffs,
DUTCH FARMS, INC. and BRIAN GARNER, a citizen of the State of Indiana, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
LOZANO, Judge United States District Court
matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs' Motion to Enter
Award of Attorney's Fees, filed on March 3, 2017 (DE
#21). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is
GRANTED. Plaintiffs are
AWARDED their just costs and actual
expenses, including attorneys' fees, as a result of the
removal in the amount of $26, 560.
February 24, 2017, this Court entered an order remanding this
case back to the Lake Superior Court of Lake County, Indiana.
Additionally, this Court awarded the Plaintiffs their just
costs and actual expenses, including attorneys' fees, as
a result of the removal. This award was based on a finding
that Defendants lacked an objectively reasonable basis for
removing this case.
instant motion, Plaintiffs initially sought $16, 380 in fees
for 36.4 hours of Attorney Robert D. Brown's time at a
rate of $450 per hour. On March 10, 2017, Defendants
expressed their intention to contest the reasonableness of
the requested fees and sought an extension of time to respond
to the request for fees. (DE #22). Both a response and a
reply to the motion for extension of time were filed, and the
extension was granted over Plaintiffs' objection. (DE
##23, 25, 26).
March 15, 2017, Defendants again expressed that they believed
Plaintiffs' request for fees was inflated and that they
intended to propound written discovery on Plaintiffs to
explore the matter. (DE #24). On April 4, 3017, Defendants
asked the court to set an expedited deadline for discovery
related to the fee petition, or in the alternative, to grant
another extension of time. (DE #27). Two days later, the
request for discovery was denied by Magistrate Judge John E.
Martin. (DE #28). Judge Martin noted that the Defendants
failed to cite to any law establishing that they are entitled
to discovery or explain what information they might need to
challenge the reasonableness of the requested fees. The Court
set a deadline of April 17, 2017, for responding to the fee
request and further ordered that Plaintiffs' counsel was
not required to respond to the discovery requests or attend
any deposition concerning the attorney's fees.
filed their response on April 17, 2017, arguing that both the
hourly rate and the number of hours Attorney Brown allegedly
spent as a result of Defendants' removal were excessive.
(DE #29). Plaintiffs filed a reply on April 24, 2017. (DE
#30). In the reply brief, Plaintiffs seek an additional $10,
180 in attorneys' fees as a result of Defendants actions
subsequent to the filing of the motion to enter an award of
attorney's fees. This additional request includes another
15.9 hours of Attorney Brown's time at a rate of $450 per
hour and 11 hours of Attorney Sarah M. Cafiero's time at
a rate of $275 per hour.
2, 2017, Defendants sought leave to file a surreply in
opposition to the fee petition. (DE #31). That motion was
granted. (DE ##32 - 33). Plaintiffs responded to the motion
for leave to file a surreply the same day the order was
granted. (DE #34). Finally, this matter is fully briefed and
ripe for adjudication.
Supreme Court has stated, “[t]he process of removing a
case to federal court and then having it remanded back to
state court delays resolution of the case, imposes additional
costs on both parties, and wastes judicial resources.”
Martin v. Franklin Capital Corp., 546 U.S.
132, 140 (2005). “Absent unusual circumstances, courts
may award attorney's fees under § 1447(c) only where
the removing party lacked an objectively reasonable basis for
seeking removal.” Id. at 141. Under Seventh
Circuit law, “if, at the time the defendant filed his
notice in federal court, clearly established law
demonstrating that he had no basis for removal, then the
district court should award a plaintiff his attorneys'
fees.” Lott v. Pfizer, Inc., 492 F.3d 789, 793
(7th Cir. 2007). This Court has already determined that
attorneys' fees are appropriate in this case.
only issue before this Court is whether the fees requested
are reasonable. Generally, a reasonable attorney's fee is
calculated by multiplying a reasonable hourly rate by the
number of hours reasonably expended. See Baker v.
Trustworthy Land Title Co., No. 1:14cv01617-RZY-DML,
2015 WL 9487885 (S.D. Ind. Dec. 9, 2015). Under the unique
circumstances of this case, the Court finds that both the
rate requested and the amount of time expended as a result of
Defendants' removal are reasonable.
of the Hourly Rate
have asked that Attorney Brown be reimbursed at a rate of
$450 per hour and that Attorney Cafiero be reimbursed at a
rate of $275 per hour. In support of the request, Attorney
Brown submitted his affidavit indicating that he has
practiced since 1986 and is a partner with Kenneth J. Allen
Law Group, LLC. He further asserts that $450 is a reasonable
hourly rate for his work. And, he asserts that Magistrate
Judge Paul Cherry awarded his partner fees at that rate in a
2014 case. The name of the case, Evans v. Dart Trasit
Co., 2:12-CV-186, was not contained in the affidavit,
but it was provided in the reply brief.
counsel bears the burden of proving the hourly rate he has
requested is reasonable. See Pickett v. SheridanHealth Care Center, 664 F.3d 632, 640 (7th Cir.
2011); Small v. Richard Wolf Med. Instruments Corp.,
264 F.3d 702, 707 (7th Cir. 2001). In determining a
reasonable rate, the Court considers “the rate that
lawyers of similar ability and experience in the community
normally charge their paying clients for the type of work in
question.” McNabola v. Chicago Transit Auth.,
10 F.3d 5 501, 519 (7th Cir. ...