United States District Court, District of Columbia
ROSEMARY M. COLLYER United States District Judge
motion for appellate attorney's fees comes at the end of
long and complex litigation under the Voting Rights Act. As
Texas appealed the decision of a three-judge court in the
United States District Court for the District of Columbia
that certain of its 2011 redistricting plans could not be
approved, the Supreme Court decided that the provision of the
Voting Rights Act requiring Texas to obtain such approval was
unconstitutional. Nonetheless, to the State's
consternation, this Court granted attorney's fees as
“prevailing parties” to Intervenor-Defendants who
had challenged the new Texas district maps.
Defendant-Intervenors now seek attorney's fees for their
successful defense of the first fee award on appeal. The
Court will grant in part and deny in part their motion.
the 2010 Census, the State of Texas enacted redistricting
plans for the Texas House of Representatives, the Texas
Senate, and the United States House of Representatives to
reflect its growing population and new congressional seats.
At that time, Texas was covered by Section 5 of the Voting
Rights Act of 1965, 52 U.S.C. § 10304(a), which required
covered jurisdictions seeking to change any voting procedure
to obtain either administrative preclearance from the
Attorney General or judicial preclearance from a three-judge
court in the United States District Court for the District of
Columbia. 52 U.S.C. § 10304(a). The purpose of
preclearance was to ensure that a proposed change
“neither has the purpose nor will have the effect of
denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or
color, ” 52 U.S.C. § 10304(a), or language
minority, id. § 10303.
State of Texas sought a declaratory judgment that its
proposed redistricting plans had neither the purpose nor the
effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account
of race, color or language minority. The Federal Government
opposed preclearance of the redistricting maps for the U.S.
House of Representatives and for the Texas State House of
Representatives but not the redistricting map for the Texas
State Senate. Seven parties were granted Defendant-Intervenor
status, each of whom challenged aspects of all three maps as
individual voters, elected State senators or representatives,
or civil rights advocacy groups.
two-week bench trial, the three-judge court determined that
Texas had acted with discriminatory purpose or effect and
denied preclearance to all three redistricting plans, in
whole or in part. See Texas v. United States, 887
F.Supp.2d 133, 138-39 (D.D.C. 2012). Texas immediately filed
a petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court,
which was opposed by the Federal Government and
Defendant-Intervenors. Before the Supreme Court addressed the
three-judge court opinion in Texas v. United States,
the Court invalidated Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act,
which required Texas, among other political bodies, to submit
to preclearance. See Shelby County v. Holder, 133
S.Ct. 2612 (2013). The Supreme Court then vacated and
remanded the decision in Texas v. United States to
the three-judge district court panel to decide whether the
case was moot. Texas moved to dismiss all claims as moot in
light of Shelby County. The three-judge court agreed
that the case was mooted both by Shelby County and
by the State's adoption of superseding redistricting
plans, and so it was dismissed. See Mem. and Order
three-judge court then dissolved. See Order [Dkt.
263]. The case was returned to the undersigned, who had
served on the three-judge court and to whom the case was
originally assigned by random draw.
of the Defendant-Intervenors (hereinafter
“Intervenors”) thereupon sought reimbursement for
costs and legal fees incurred in the litigation before the
District Court. See Davis Mot. [Dkt. 256], Gonzales
Mot. [Dkt. 257], NAACP Mot. [Dkt. 258]. The Davis Intervenors
are Texas State senators and representatives from voting
districts in the Fort Worth area. The Gonzales Intervenors
are a group of Hispanic and Black Texas voters. The Texas
State Conference of NAACP Branches is a civil rights advocacy
group concerned with minority voting rights in Texas.
opposed in an Advisory, arguing that Intervenors were not
prevailing parties for purposes of attorney's fees.
See Advisory [Dkt. 259]. On June 18, 2014, this
Court granted Intervenors' motion for attorney's
fees, after finding that they were prevailing parties and
that the Texas Advisory had waived most of the state's
rights to argue otherwise about fee entitlement or amount.
The D.C. Circuit affirmed. See Texas v. United
States, 49 F.Supp.3d 27 (D.D.C. 2014),
aff'd, 798 F.3d 1108 (D.C. Cir. 2015). When
Texas appealed the D.C. Circuit decision on fees, the Supreme
Court denied certiorari. Texas v. Davis,
136 S.Ct. 981 (2016). Intervenors subsequently filed the
instant motion for attorney's fees in the Circuit to
recover fees and costs incurred in defending the fee award
before both the Circuit and the Supreme Court. The D.C.
Circuit remanded the motion because “[t]he motions and
accompanying responses raise fact questions about the
appropriate rates and hours for appellate work done by
intervenors' counsel” that are best determined by
the district court. D.C. Cir. Order 3/17/2015 [Dkt. 273]. The
matter returned to the undersigned Judge.
party has established that it is entitled to attorney's
fees, a court must determine whether the fees sought are
reasonable. In doing so, courts traditionally apply a
three-part analysis: “(1) determination of the number
of hours reasonably exp[e]nded in litigation; (2)
determination of a reasonable hourly rate or
‘lodestar'; and (3) the use of multipliers as
merited.” Save Our Cumberland Mountains, Inc. v.
Hodel, 857 F.2d 1516, 1517 (D.C. Cir. 1988) (citing
Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886 (1984)). To determine
a reasonable hourly rate, courts consider three elements:
“(1) the attorney's billing practices, (2) the
attorney's skill, experience, and reputation and (3) the
prevailing market rates in the relevant community.”
Reed v. District of Columbia, 843 F.3d 517, 521
(D.C. Cir. 2016) (internal quotation marks and citation
seeking fee awards must offer evidence, in addition to the
attorney's own affidavit, to demonstrate that the fees
requested “are in line with those prevailing in the
community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably
comparable skill, experience, and reputation.”
Covington v. District of Columbia, 57 F.3d 1101,
1108 (D.C. Cir. 1995) (quoting Blum, 465 U.S. at 896
n. 11). Fee applications must “produce data concerning
the prevailing market rates in the relevant community for
attorneys of reasonably comparable skill, experience, and
determining the reasonable number of hours expended by
attorneys, there must be a “good faith effort to
exclude from a fee request hours that are excessive,
redundant, or otherwise unnecessary.” Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 434 (1983).