March 28, 2018
from Beaufort County Carmen T. Mullen, Circuit Court Judge
OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS
Ashley Twombley, of Twenge & Twombley, LLC, of Beaufort,
T. Duff and David Nelson Lyon, both of Duff & Childs,
LLC, of Columbia, for Respondent.
Randy Horton won this action seeking the production of
documents under the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA), the circuit court awarded him attorneys' fees at
a rate of $100 per hour. On appeal, we address solely the
question of whether the court abused its discretion in
selecting that hourly rate. We reverse.
Facts and Procedural History
is an elected member of the Board of Trustees for the Jasper
County School District. In his capacity as a Board member,
Horton requested the Board produce itemized credit card
statements for District-issued credit cards, a list of bonus
checks given by the District, and information regarding the
funding sources for those expenses. For reasons the District
did not explain-and which we cannot fathom- the District
refused to turn over the information. Horton then made a
number of written requests to the District to produce the
information pursuant to the FOIA. Thirteen months later,
having received no documents from the District and no
explanation for the District's refusal to produce the
documents, Horton filed this action requesting the circuit
court order the District to produce the documents and award
him reasonable attorneys' fees. The District answered and
denied Horton was entitled to the records he requested.
filed a motion for summary judgment. Between the filing of
the motion and the initial hearing on the motion, the
District produced to Horton some of the requested documents.
At the initial hearing, the circuit court directed the
parties to file additional briefs, and scheduled a full
hearing. During the second hearing, the court instructed the
District to produce the remaining documents and asked
Horton's counsel to submit an affidavit of attorneys'
fees and costs.
counsel-the late Jennifer I. Campbell-filed an affidavit in
which she detailed the amount of time she and her
co-counsel-J. Ashley Twombley-spent working on the case, as
well as the hourly rates requested for each attorney. In
particular, counsel stated, "As of the date of this
Affidavit, I have spent 95.60 hours working on the case; J.
Ashley Twombley has spent 39.7 hours . . . ." Campbell
listed her hourly rate at $250 and Twombley's rate at
$295. The affidavit contained evidence to support those
hourly rates. The attorneys' fee request based on the
hours and rates Campbell supplied was $35, 611.50.
In addition, Campbell stated the firm had incurred $1,
096.56 in litigation costs. The District did not
respond, and did not present any evidence to contradict
circuit court issued an order granting Horton's motion
for summary judgment, formalizing its previous instruction
that the District produce "the entirety of requested
documents." In the same order, the court found Horton
was entitled to attorneys' fees and costs, stating,
Jennifer I. Campbell's affidavit regarding legal fees and
costs . . . portrays commensurate time, nature, extent and
difficulty expended by both Jennifer I. Campbell and J.
Ashley Twombley in procuring the FOIA requested documents and
litigation related thereto. Legal fees claimed relate to
counsel's preparation of pleadings, briefing the court
regarding jurisdiction over this issue, standing and the
merits of the case. Document review was conducted over the
course of several months. Once production was complete,
individual documents totaled over two thousand pages over the
course of seven different submissions. Counsel has a combined
twenty-five years of experience in litigation. Ultimately, my
ruling produces beneficial results for their client.
court then awarded attorneys' fees at a rate of $100 an
hour for a total of 135.3 hours, which equals $13, 530. The
circuit court gave no explanation for why it chose $100 per
hour as opposed to the hourly rates Campbell presented in her
affidavit. As to costs, the court found Horton ...