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Los Alamos National Bank NA v. Fidelity Bank

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

October 1, 2019

LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL BANK, N.A., Plaintiff,
v.
FIDELITY BANK, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL BANK N.A.&#3');">39;S MOTION FOR REASONABLE FEES AND EXPENSES

          JERRY H. RITTER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Los Alamos National Bank, N.A.&#3');">39;s Motion for Award of Attorneys&#3');">39; Fees and Costs [Doc. 26] filed on June 1');">1');">1');">17, 201');">1');">1');">19. Having reviewed the parties&#3');">39; submissions and controlling law, the Court will award Los Alamos National Bank, N.A. (LANB) $7, 494.50 in attorneys&#3');">39; fees and costs.

         BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of alleged breaches of a Mortgage Loan Servicing Rights Purchase Agreement (Agreement) by which Los Alamos National Bank (LANB) sold Fidelity Bank (Fidelity) the servicing rights to approximately 4, 500 mortgage loans on real property in northern New Mexico. [Doc. 3');">30-1');">1');">1');">1].

         On February 6, 201');">1');">1');">19, LANB served its First Set of Interrogatories and Requests for Production on Fidelity. [Doc. 46]. On March 26, 201');">1');">1');">19, the Court held an informal discovery conference to address the parties&#3');">39; discovery disputes, including disputes concerning Fidelity&#3');">39;s discovery responses. [Doc. 51');">1');">1');">1]. The parties were not able to resolve their disputes regarding Fidelity&#3');">39;s discovery responses informally and on April 1');">1');">1');">19, 201');">1');">1');">19, LANB filed its Motion to Compel Interrogatory Answers [Doc. 62]. On June 3');">3, 201');">1');">1');">19, the Court granted the Motion to Compel and on June 1');">1');">1');">17, 201');">1');">1');">19, LANB filed the instant Motion, seeking to recover $1');">1');">1');">19, 568 in attorneys&#3');">39; fees associated with bringing its Motion to Compel. [Doc. 77; Doc. 86, pp. 2');">p. 2');">p. 2');">p. 2');">p. 2');">p. 2');">p. 2');">p. 2-3');">3].

         LEGAL STANDARD

         The Law Regarding Attorneys&#3');">39; Fees

         “The rules should deter the abuse implicit in carrying or forcing a discovery dispute to court when no genuine dispute exists.” Centennial Archaeology, Inc. v. AECOM, Inc., 3');">3d 673');">3');">688 F.3');">3d 673');">3, 680 (1');">1');">1');">10th Cir. 201');">1');">1');">12) (quoting 1');">1');">1');">1970 committee notes to Rule 3');">37(a)(4)). As a consequence, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 3');">37 contains provisions that “allow, and often require” the Court to award attorney fees for discovery misconduct. Id. at 678. Rule 3');">37(a)(5)(A) provides:

“[i]f the motion is granted-or if the disclosure or requested discovery is provided after the motion was filed-the court must, after giving an opportunity to be heard, require the party or deponent whose conduct necessitated the motion, the party or attorney advising that conduct, or both to pay the movant&#3');">39;s reasonable expenses incurred in making the motion, including attorney&#3');">39;s fees. But the court must not order this payment if ... (ii) the opposing party&#3');">39;s nondisclosure, response or objection was substantially justified; or (iii) other circumstances make an award of expenses unjust.”

Fed. R. Civ. P. 3');">37(a)(5)(A) (emphasis added). In other words, “[t]he great operative principle of Rule 3');">37(a)(5) is that the loser pays, ” In re Lamey, 201');">1');">1');">15 WL 6666244 at *4 (D.N.M. 201');">1');">1');">15) (quoting Wright, Miller & Marcus, Federal Practice and Procedure (3');">3d ed. 201');">1');">1');">10), § 2288, n.1');">1');">1');">17), unless the failure to respond was substantially justified or an award or expenses would otherwise be unjust. Id. at *5.

         In the event that the Court determines that fees must be awarded, the burden shifts to the applicant to “prove and establish the reasonableness of each dollar, each hour, above zero.” Jane L. v. Bangerter, 61');">1');">1');">1 F.3');">3d 1');">1');">1');">1505, 1');">1');">1');">151');">1');">1');">10 (1');">1');">1');">10th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1995) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see Mares v. Credit Bureau of Raton, 1');">1');">1');">1 F.2d 1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">197');">801');">1');">1');">1 F.2d 1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">197, 1');">1');">1');">1201');">1');">1');">1 (1');">1');">1');">10th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1986) (“The fee applicant bears the burden of establishing entitlement to an award and documenting the appropriate hours expended and hourly rates.”). The Court will then reach a “lodestar figure, ” which is the product of reasonable hours expended times a reasonable hourly rate. See Id. at 1');">1');">1');">1201');">1');">1');">1.

         “The setting of a reasonable hourly rate is within the district court&#3');">39;s discretion.... [and] [h]ourly rates must reflect the prevailing market rates in the relevant community.” Jane L., 61');">1');">1');">1 F.3');">3d at 1');">1');">1');">151');">1');">1');">10 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The party requesting fees must provide the Court with sufficient information to evaluate prevailing market rates. See Lippoldt v. Cole, 3');">3d 1');">1');">1');">1204');">468 F.3');">3d 1');">1');">1');">1204, 1');">1');">1');">1225 (1');">1');">1');">10th Cir. 2006). The requesting party must also demonstrate that the rates are similar to rates for similar services by “lawyers of reasonably comparable skill, experience, and reputation” in the relevant community and for similar work. Blum v. Stenson, 86');">465 U.S. 886, 895 n.1');">1');">1');">11');">1');">1');">1 (1');">1');">1');">1984); see Case v. Unified Sch. Dist. No. 23');">33');">3, 1');">1');">1');">157 F.3');">3d 1');">1');">1');">1243');">3');">1');">1');">1');">157 F.3');">3d 1');">1');">1');">1243');">3, 1');">1');">1');">1255-56 (1');">1');">1');">10th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1998). Where there is insufficient evidence concerning the prevailing market rates for attorney&#3');">39;s fees may it, “in its discretion, use other relevant factors, including its own knowledge, to establish the rate.” Case, 1');">1');">1');">157 F.3');">3d at 1');">1');">1');">1257.

         An applicant lawyer must keep “meticulous time records that reveal all hours for which compensation is requested and how those hours were allotted to specific tasks.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); Case, 1');">1');">1');">157 F.3');">3d at 1');">1');">1');">1252 (“Counsel for the party claiming the fees has the burden of proving hours to the district court by submitting meticulous, contemporaneous time records that reveal, for each lawyer for whom fees are sought, all hours for which compensation is requested and how those hours were allotted to specific tasks.”). This concept is particularly apt “where a party is seeking to have his opponent pay for his own lawyer&#3');">39;s work.” Robinson v. City of Edmond, 1');">1');">1');">160 F.3');">3d 1');">1');">1');">1275, 1');">1');">1');">1284 (1');">1');">1');">10th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1998). As such, a lawyer&#3');">39;s billing statement should “include the specific amounts of time allocated to each individual task.” Id. “Where the documentation of hours is inadequate, the district court may reduce the award accordingly.” Jane L., 61');">1');">1');">1 F.3');">3d at 1');">1');">1');">151');">1');">1');"> ...


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