United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
For Charles Edwin Shelley, Plaintiff: Alexandra Marie Benevento, LEAD ATTORNEY, Strom Law Firm, Columbia, SC; James Todd Rutherford, LEAD ATTORNEY, Rutherford Law Firm, Columbia, SC; Robert V Phillips, LEAD ATTORNEY, McGowan Hood and Felder, Rock Hill, SC.
For J. Christopher Mills, Guardian ad Litem Defendant: J Christopher Mills, LEAD ATTORNEY, J Christopher Mills Law Office, Columbia, SC.
OPINION AND ORDER
CAMERON MCGOWAN CURRIE, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
This matter is before the court on Plaintiff's motion for attorney's fees and costs. ECF No. 133. Defendant is in default. For the reasons set forth below, the court awards $8, 568.00 in attorney's fees and $2, 000.00 in costs, together with post-judgment interest as provided for in the Rules of this court.
On December 21, 2011, Plaintiff brought suit in this court against various Defendants, alleging constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and certain state law causes of action. On July 22, 2013, all Defendants except Defendant Oddie Tribble (Tribble) were dismissed either with or without prejudice. See Opinion and Order, ECF No. 93.
Defendant Tribble is -- and was at the time this lawsuit commenced -- an inmate incarcerated in the United States Bureau of Prisons (BOP). Tribble was personally served with the summons and complaint, amended complaint, and second amended complaint. Tribble has not, at any time, appeared in this matter. Defendant Tribble is therefore in default.
On January 7, 2014, this court appointed J. Christopher Mills, Esquire, as guardian ad litem for Defendant Tribble for the limited purpose of determining Tribble's position regarding his domicile and whether or not he (Tribble) intended to participate in this lawsuit in any manner.
After receiving information from attorney Mills that Tribble intended to return to South Carolina after his release from the BOP and that he (Tribble) did not intend to participate in the lawsuit in any way, the court, based upon Plaintiff's waiver of jury trial, set the matter for non-jury trial on both liability and damages.
On September 9, 2014, the matter was heard before the court. Despite having been given a variety of opportunities to participate in the lawsuit, Defendant Tribble failed to either appear or to indicate that he wished to delay determination of the case until his release from federal prison. After admitting exhibits into evidence and hearing witnesses, the court found in favor of Plaintiff and awarded $100, 000 compensatory damages and $200, 000 punitive damages against Defendant Tribble in his individual capacity.
Plaintiff's counsel filed a motion for attorney's fees, seeking $17, 875.00 in fees and $2, 916.24 in costs.
Title 42 U.S.C. § 1988 provides that " the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party, other than the United States, a reasonable attorney's fee as part of the costs . . . ." " The proper calculation of an attorney's fee award involves a three-step process." McAfee v. Boczar, 738 F.3d 81, 88 (4th Cir. 2013), as amended (Jan. 23, 2014). First, the " court must 'determine a lodestar figure by multiplying the number of reasonable hours expended times a reasonable rate.'" Id. (quoting Robinson v. Equifax Info. Servs. LLC, 560 F.3d 235, 243-44 (4th Cir. 2009)). A court should " exclude from this initial fee calculation hours that were not 'reasonably expended'" on the litigation. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 434, 103 S.Ct. 1933, 76 L.Ed.2d 40 (1983).
There is a strong presumption of the reasonableness of the lodestar amount. Perdue v. Kenny A., 559 U.S. 542, 552, 130 S.Ct. 1662, 176 L.Ed.2d 494 (2010). However, after calculating the lodestar, a district court may adjust the amount of attorney's fees based on " the relative ...