United States District Court, S.D. New York
OPINION & ORDER
L. COTT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Bluelink Marketing LLC and Gerald Owens (together,
“Plaintiffs”) brought this action against
defendants Declan Carney and Tagcade LLC (together,
“Defendants”) for breach of contract, fraudulent
conveyance, and breach of fiduciary duty. Presently before
the Court is Defendants' motion for attorneys' fees
following their successful motion to enforce the parties'
settlement agreement. For the reasons set forth below, the
motion is granted and Defendants are awarded $17, 296.88 in
September 15, 2017, the Court granted Defendants' motion
to enforce the settlement agreement that was recited on the
record at a settlement conference held on March 20, 2017.
See generally Bluelink Mktg. LLC v. Carney, No.
16-CV-7151 (JLC), 2017 WL 4083602 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 15, 2017).
The settlement agreement states, in relevant part:
“[T]he parties will work cooperatively and in good
faith to draft a written settlement agreement within the next
60 days. If a motion to enforce is brought concerning that
agreement, whichever party brings that motion and prevails
will be entitled to its reasonable attorneys' fees in
bringing that motion.” Id. at *9. The Court
accordingly ordered Defendants to submit their fees motion
with contemporaneous billing records by September 25, 2017,
which they did. Defendants' Motion for Attorneys'
Fees (Dkt. No. 54).
opposed the fees motion on October 4, 2017. Plaintiffs'
Memorandum of Law (“Pl. Br.”) (Dkt. No. 59).
Plaintiffs argue that Defendants are not entitled to
attorneys' fees because Plaintiffs did not breach the
settlement agreement, and Defendants should have continued
good faith negotiations instead of filing their enforcement
motion. See generally Pl. Br. But those arguments
are irrelevant to the present application. As is clear from
the above-cited language, a breach of the agreement was not a
condition precedent to either an enforcement motion or
attorneys' fees liability. Moreover, while Plaintiffs may
not have breached the agreement, they nonetheless
precipitated the enforcement motion by trying “to add
terms to an already complete agreement.” Bluelink
Mktg. LLC, 2017 WL 4083602, at *7. Plaintiffs'
further argument that, “[b]y failing to either
negotiate further regarding the non-material term of the
Excise Tax . . ., the Defendants did not proceed in good
faith, ” and thus breached the implied covenant of good
faith and fair dealing, fares no better. Pl. Br. at 9. The
agreement's plain terms permitted either party to file an
enforcement motion, and “if Plaintiffs believe that
Defendants have repudiated the indemnification clause or any
other portion of the settlement agreement, ” including
the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing,
“their remedy is to bring a breach of contract
action.” Bluelink Mktg. LLC, 2017 WL 4083602,
at *7. Accordingly, the Court will turn to the standards that
govern fee applications.
party seeking fees bears the burden of demonstrating that its
requested fees are reasonable.” Trs. of the N.Y.C.
Dist. Council of Carpenters Pension Fund v. Golden Dev. &
Constr. Corp., No. 17-CV-1051 (VSB) (JLC), 2017 WL
2876644, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. July 6, 2017) (quoting 1199/SEIU
United Healthcare Workers E. v. S. Bronx Mental Health
Council Inc., No. 13-CV-2608 (JGK), 2014 WL 840965, at
*10 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 4, 2014)). “[T]he lodestar-the
product of a reasonable hourly rate and the reasonable number
of hours required by the case-creates a ‘presumptively
reasonable fee.'” Id. (citing Millea
v. Metro-N. R. Co., 658 F.3d 154, 166 (2d Cir. 2011)).
“The reasonableness of hourly rates are guided by the
market rate ‘prevailing in the community for similar
services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill,
experience and reputation.'” Id.
(alteration omitted) (quoting Trs. of the N.Y.C. Dist.
Council of Carpenters Pension Fund, Welfare Fund, Annuity
Fund v. Installations of Am., Inc., No. 15-CV-8316
(PAE), 2017 WL 384694, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 27, 2017)).
“As evidence that the number of attorney hours are
reasonable, ‘the fee application must be supported by
contemporaneous time records that ‘specify, for each
attorney, the date, the hours expended, and the nature of the
work done.'” Id. (quoting 1199/SEIU
United, 2014 WL 840965, at *10).
a court finds that claimed hours are ‘excessive,
redundant, or otherwise unnecessary, ' it should exclude
those hours from its calculation of the presumptively
reasonable fee.” Guaman v. J & C Top Fashion,
Inc., No. 14-CV-8143 (GBD) (GWG), 2016 WL 791230, at *8
(S.D.N.Y. Feb. 22, 2016) (quoting Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 434 (1983)), adopted
by, 2017 WL 111737 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 11, 2017); N.Y.C.
& Vicinity Dist. Council of Carpenters v. Plaza Constr.
Grp., Inc., No. 16-CV-1115 (GHW), 2016 WL 3951187, at *2
(S.D.N.Y. July 19, 2016).
seek reimbursement for the work of two attorneys, Rania
Sedhom and Ginger Mimier. Declaration of Rania Sedhom
(“Sedhom Dec.”) ¶¶ 3-4 (Dkt. No. 56).
Sedhom is the “Managing Partner of Sedhom Law Group
PLLC . . . with twenty (20) years' experience . . .
represent[ing] a variety of clients in civil litigation,
including ERISA matters.” Sedhom Dec. ¶ 2.
Sedhom's “standard hourly rate is $600 per
hour.” Id. “Mimier is [a] Senior
Associate at Sedhom Law Group, ” who “graduated
from law school in 2003.” Sedhom Dec. ¶ 3.
Mimier's “practice focuses on complex civil
litigation” and “[h]er standard hourly rate is
$375.” Id. Sedhom adds that the firm
customarily charges these rates to paying clients.
Defendants' Memorandum of Law (“Def. Br.”) at
3 (Dkt. No. 55).
Court finds that, while Mimier's rate is reasonable,
Sedhom's rate is somewhat high considering the lack of
background information submitted on this motion, and recent
awards in the Southern District to attorneys with comparable
experience. Certainly, as Sedhom argues, several
courts in this District have concluded that $600 per hour was
a reasonable rate for law firm partners under certain
circumstances. Def. Br. at 4. But Sedhom submitted no
evidence that she has been awarded $600 per hour in the past,
nor any information about the size of Sedhom Law Group, PLLC,
which appears from its website to be a small law
firm.Moreover, this was a straightforward
dispute that did not require any extensive briefing before
the Court and involved no novel legal issues. See,
e.g., Lilly, 2017 WL 3493249, at *5 (finding
that short and relatively straightforward nature of case
justified reduction of claimed $600 hourly rate). The Court
accordingly concludes that Sedhom's hourly rate should be
reduced to $500. This reduction brings Defendants' total
fee request to $16, 031.25, excluding costs and the fees
incurred on this motion.
as to the fees incurred on this motion, the Court notes that
these fees are not included in counsel's contemporaneous
billing records. The Court stated in its last order that
“contemporaneous billing records . . . ‘are a
prerequisite for attorney's fees in this
Circuit.'” Bluelink Mktg. LLC, 2017 WL
4083602, at *9 (quoting N.Y.S. Ass'n for Retarded
Children, Inc. v. Carey, 711 F.2d 1136, 1147 (2d Cir.
1983)). Such records must indicate, for each attorney, the
date on which the work was done, the number of hours expended
and the specific task performed. Scott v. City of New
York, 626 F.3d 130, 133 (2d Cir. 2010). This is “a
strict rule from which attorneys may deviate only in the
rarest of cases.” Id.
the Court will award Defendants their fees for the present
application, as Defendants kept diligent contemporaneous
records for the remainder of their time, and Sedhom submitted
a sworn declaration describing in sufficient detail the work
that she and co-counsel performed on this motion. See,
e.g., Infinity Headwear & Apparel v. Jay Franco
& Sons, No. 15-CV-1259 (JPO) (RLE), 2017 WL 4402541,
at *13 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 2, 2017) (“[I]t is settled that
the time spent on a fee application is itself
compensable.”) (quoting Reiter v. Metro. Transp.
Auth. of State of New York, No. 01-CV-2762 (GWG), 2007
WL 2775144, at *18 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 25, 2007)). Sedhom's
declaration states that “Sedhom Law Group spent 8 hours
of legal time researching, drafting and editing the instant
Memorandum of Law and Declaration, 1.5 hours by Ms. Sedhom
and 6.5 hours by Ms. Mimier, resulting in fees of
$3471.00.” Sedhom Dec. ¶ 7. Sedhom's
declaration details the number of hours expended by each
attorney and the specific tasks performed. Although Sedhom
provides no dates, the work clearly was performed in the ten
days between the Court's order granting Defendants'
enforcement motion and the filing ...