The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN FACCIOLA, Magistrate Judge
This case was referred to me for resolution of a fee dispute
related to plaintiffs' successful motion for remand. Upon
consideration of plaintiffs' statements of costs and attorneys'
fees and defendant's responses, plaintiffs are hereby awarded
fees and costs in the amount of $10,641.22.
On December 13, 2004, defendant Truck Insurance Exchange
("Truck") removed this case from the District of Columbia
Superior Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Adolph
Coors Co. v. Truck Ins. Exch., No. Civ. A. 04-2150RMU, 2005 WL
486580, at *1 (D.D.C. Feb. 28, 2005). Plaintiffs Adolph Coors
Company and Coors Brewing Company (known collectively as
"Coors"), filed a motion to remand on January 3, 2005. Id. The
district court granted the motion to remand on February 28, 2005
because defendant failed to establish diversity of citizenship.
Id. The district court also directed defendant to pay the costs
and expenses plaintiffs incurred as a result of the removal.
I. Fee Awards Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c)
If a court decides to remand a case, that court "may require
payment of just costs and any actual expenses, including attorney fees, incurred as a result of
the removal." 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) (2000). It should be noted that
the reference to "actual expenses" does not limit the ability of
the court to conduct an inquiry into the reasonableness of the
fees and costs. On the contrary, the court is "duty-bound to
ensure that an award of attorneys' fees pursuant to § 1447(c) is
reasonable." Huffman v. Saul Holdings Ltd. P'ship,
262 F.3d 1128, 1134 (10th Cir. 2001). As the Huffman court explained,
"unreasonably high fees are not "incurred" as a result of
removal; rather, excessive fee requests flow from, and accumulate
by means of, improper billing practices. . . ." Id. at 1135.
Plaintiffs, therefore, are entitled to reasonable attorneys' fees
II. Reasonableness of Attorneys' Fees
Having determined that plaintiffs are entitled to reasonable
attorneys' fees, this court must now turn its attention to the
appropriate measure of those fees. This circuit has generally
employed the following three-part framework to evaluate the
reasonableness of fee awards: "`(1) determination of the number
of hours reasonably expended in litigation; (2) determination of
a reasonable hourly rate or "lodestar"; and (3) the use of
multipliers as merited.'" Covington v. District of Columbia,
57 F.3d 1101, 1107 (D.C. Cir. 1995) (quoting Save Our Cumberland
Mountains, Inc. v. Hodel, 857 F.2d 1516, 1517 (D.C. Cir. 1988)
(en banc) (citation omitted)). "While the [c]ourt is empowered to
exercise its discretion in determining the fee amount, the
plaintiff still bears the burden of establishing all elements of
the requested fee award, including entitlement to an award,
documentation of appropriate hours, and justifications of the
reasonableness of the billing." Smith v. District of Columbia,
No. Civ. A.02-373, 2005 WL 914773, at *2 (D.D.C. Apr. 18, 2005)
(citing Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 896 (1984)).
A. Hours Reasonably Expended
Plaintiffs may satisfy their burden of demonstrating that the
number of hours expended on particular tasks was reasonable "by submitting invoices that are
sufficiently detailed to `permit the District Court to make an
independent determination whether or not the hours claimed are
justified.'" Kaseman v. District of Columbia,
329 F. Supp. 2d 20, 26 (D.D.C. 2004) (quoting Nat'l Ass'n of Concerned Veterans
v. Sec'y of Def., 675 F.2d 1319, 1327 (D.C. Cir. 1982)).
Plaintiffs in this case have submitted a detailed invoice for the
hours expended as a result of the improper removal. Plaintiffs'
Submission with Respect to Costs and Attorneys' Fees ("Pls'.
In Defendant's Response to Plaintiff's Statement of Costs and
Attorney's Fees ("Def's. Resp."), defendant argues that it was
unreasonable for plaintiffs to spend 37.8 hours litigating the
removal. Defendant begins by stating that the issue of diversity
is "neither novel nor complex" and therefore does not justify the
hours claimed by plaintiffs. Def's. Resp. at 4. Defendant then
points out that, in plaintiffs' Statement of Points and
Authorities, plaintiffs cited a Memorandum of Points and
Authorities prepared by defendants for a two-year-old California
case, Steadfast Insurance Co. v. Allianz Insurance Co. Id.
This is significant, defendant claims, because the Steadfast
memorandum "provided [p]laintiffs with a road map as to how to
challenge a suit brought on diversity grounds. . . ." Id. "It
is ironic," defendant concludes, "that after relying on
[d]efendant's work product in Steadfast to defeat [d]efendant
here, [p]laintiffs now seek $13,218.72 in fees and costs for the
same." Id. at 4-5.
While the court agrees with defendant that there is a certain
irony permeating the parties' recent filings, the court must
differ with defendant as to its source. If the issue of diversity
is "neither novel nor complex," as defendant claims, defendant
should certainly have been able to avoid the improper removal of
the case. In addition, it was defendant's failure to read its
own "road map" that gave rise to the expenses they now contest
as "unreasonable." Finally, and perhaps most baffling of all, are defendant's
inconsistent statements regarding the ultimate usefulness of the
Steadfast memorandum. In its response to plaintiffs' initial
statement of costs, defendant states that the memorandum
"addressed the identical issues" as plaintiffs' filing in the
instant case, and "certainly should have saved [plaintiffs]
substantial time in researching and drafting their motion."
Def's. Resp. at 4. However, in Defendant's Response to
Plaintiff's Submission with Respect to Costs and Attorney's Fees
("Def's. Resp. Sub."), defendant states that "[p]laintiffs added
superfluous, and expensive, window-dressing to their motion by
obtaining original briefs filed by Truck in an unrelated case in
the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of California."
Def's. Resp. Sub. at 2. Defendant goes on to state that "[t]his
costly effort in no way advanced resolution of the issue in this
case . . . and merely piled on additional costs beyond that which
was necessary to make the argument." Id. In other words,
defendant seems to claim that plaintiffs' compensation should be
reduced because their reliance on the Steadfast memo should
have saved them considerable time and expense, while in the same
breath argues that any time plaintiffs spent procuring the memo
This court finds no merit in any of the above arguments.
Plaintiffs are entitled to seek any information that they believe
will benefit their case, and argument in the alternative is
standard practice. However, the court does find that the number
of partner hours spent on the matter (11.7), as compared to the
number of associate hours spent on the matter (26.0), is
excessive. After all, a partner should be performing supervisory
work and should not need to expend almost half of the time spent
by an associate on a particular matter. The court will therefore
reduce the ...