APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA (D.C. Bankruptcy No. 69-357).
Seitz, Chief Judge, Rosenn and Garth, Circuit Judges.
This is an appeal by an unsecured creditor (appellant) from an order of the district court affirming the Bankruptcy Judge's award of fees in the amount of $50,000 to counsel for the Receiver and Trustee of the bankrupt, Meade Land and Development Company, Inc. ("Meade").
The appellant attacked the Bankruptcy Judge's award on the following grounds:
1. The Bankruptcy Judge erroneously granted credit for hours of legal service which were not supported by adequate time records.
2. The Bankruptcy Judge erroneously granted credit for hours of service which were not legal services.*fn1
The district court reviewed these attacks on the Bankruptcy Judge's award under the clearly erroneous standard. On appeal, appellant argues that the district court applied the wrong review standard. It then renews its attack on the Bankruptcy Judge's award.
We must first determine whether the district court applied the correct standard in reviewing the challenged aspects of the Bankruptcy Judge's fee determination. The district court treated the Referee's conclusions as findings of fact and applied the "clearly erroneous" rule prescribed by Bankruptcy Rule 810. Given the nature of appellant's contentions we think it was error to apply the clearly erroneous standard to test the correctness of the Bankruptcy Judge's conclusions. We say this because appellant was raising legal issues, viz., whether detailed time records were required before credit could be given for certain services claimed to have been rendered and whether certain services were legal services. We thus approach this case as we would any case raising purely legal issues.
Appellant first claims that the Bankruptcy Judge erred in basing his award of fees in part on a total hourly listing of time spent. Of the more than 208 hours claimed by counsel to have been spent in advising the Receiver, only 108.5 hours were listed in specific terms of services rendered. Appended to this specific breakdown was the statement:
"The schedules of services performed by counsel does [sic] not reflect all conferences held with interested parties, legal research, telephone calls, correspondence, conferences with the Court and visits to the site in Warrington Township; the time ...