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Jewett v. IDT Corp.

May 17, 2007

D. MICHAEL JEWETT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
IDT CORPORATION, ET AL. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lifland, District Judge

OPINION RE: MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION

I. Background

On July 17, 2006, this Court held Plaintiff's counsel William P. Perniciaro, Esq. in civil contempt for submitting interrogatories in violation of the Court's December 27, 2005 Order. As a sanction, the Court ordered Perniciaro to pay Defendants' attorneys' fees incurred opposing those interrogatories. On July 26, 2006, Defendants submitted an application for fees. Perniciaro did not object to Defendants' application. On August 25, 2006, on the basis of that application, the Court ordered that Defendants were entitled to $29,443.00 in attorneys' fees.

Perniciaro thereafter moved for reconsideration of the August 25, 2006 Order, arguing, in part, that Plaintiffs failed to apply for attorneys' fees using the lodestar method. On January 17, 2007, the Court ruled that the lodestar method was indeed applicable, and accepted Defendants' counsel's offer to resubmit their fee application using the lodestar method. The Court asked Defendants to "include hourly rates in effect at the time of billing to IDT, and the amounts actually billed to IDT, even if discounted," in their updated application, so that "the Court will have before it all the information which it will need to resolve this fee application." Defendants have done so, and Perniciaro has submitted his objections. The Court will now decide the matter using the lodestar method.

II. Discussion

A. The Lodestar Method

An award of attorneys' fees and costs to the prevailing party in a civil contempt action is determined according to the "lodestar method." Apple Corps[ Ltd., MPL v. Int'l Collectors Soc'y], 25 F. Supp. 2d [480, ]484-85[ (D.N.J. 1998)]. The lodestar calculation involves determining the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate, Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433, 76 L.Ed. 2d 40, 103 S.Ct. 1933 (1983), and is presumed to yield a "reasonable fee."

The party seeking attorneys' fees has the burden of establishing the reasonableness of the fees sought and submitting evidence to support the rates and hours claimed. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433.

Once the party seeking fees provides such evidence, the burden shifts to its adversary to contest, with sufficient specificity, the reasonableness of the hourly rate or the reasonableness of the hours expended. Apple Corps., 25 F. Supp. 2d at 485 . . . . If the party opposing the fee application meets its burden, the Court has wide discretion to adjust the attorneys' fee for inadequate documentation, duplication of effort, unreasonableness of hours expended, or lack of relation to the results obtained. Id.

Microsoft Corp. v. United Computer Res. of N.J., Inc., 216 F. Supp. 2d 383, 387 (D.N.J. 2002). The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit "give[s] a great deal of deference to a district court's decision to set fees." Gunter v. Ridgewood Energy Corp., 233 F.3d 190, 195 (3d Cir. 2000).

1. The Number of Hours Reasonably Expended on the Litigation

Defendants' July 26, 2006 fee application contains billing records detailing the hours their two law firms, Grotta, Glassman & Hoffman, P.C. ("GGH"), and Robinson & Livelli, spent opposing Perniciaro's interrogatories. (See Joint Decl. of Leslie A. Lajewski and Donald A. Robinson in Supp't of IDT Defs.' App. for Fees ("Joint Decl."), Exs. A, B.) The billing records show that Robinson & Livelli spent 19.7 hours opposing the interrogatories, and GGH spent 104.3 hours.*fn1 (See Joint Decl., Exs. A, B.)

The Court has reviewed the billing records, Perniciaro's detailed objections, and Defendants' response. For the following reasons, the Court rejects Perniciaro's objections and will include the full 124 hours requested in the lodestar.

Perniciaro's objections can be broadly characterized as alleging that the vast majority of the claimed hours were "not reasonably expended [because] they [were] excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary." See ...


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