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St. Louis Effort for Aids v. Lindley-Myers

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division

March 28, 2018

ST. LOUIS EFFORT FOR AIDS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CHLORA LINDLEY-MYERS, Director of the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration, Defendant. Timekeeper Total Total: Total: $ 312, 341.30

          ORDER AND OPINION (1) GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES, AND (2) GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFFS' SUPPLEMENTAL MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES

          ORTRIE D. SMITH, SENIOR JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Pending are Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorneys' Fees (Doc. #69), and Plaintiffs' Supplemental Motion for Attorneys' Fees (Doc. #92). For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' motions are granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit, seeking to enjoin certain provisions of Missouri's Health Insurance Marketplace Innovation Act (“HIMIA”) on Supremacy Clause, First Amendment grounds, and Due Process grounds. Doc. #1. The Court preliminarily enjoined the HIMIA provisions on Supremacy Clause/preemption grounds. Doc. #36. Defendant appealed the Court's decision.

         In April 2015, the Eighth Circuit found Plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the HIMIA provisions regulating advice and information organizations could provide were preempted by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), but Plaintiffs were not likely to succeed on their claim that the HIMIA remedial provision was facially vague. St. Louis Effort for AIDS v. Huff, 782 F.3d 1016 (8th Cir. 2015). The matter was affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. Id.

         Once remanded, Plaintiffs sought summary judgment on its claims that certain Missouri statutes were preempted by the ACA, and asked the Court to permanently enjoin implementation of those statutes. Doc. #60. The Court granted Plaintiffs' motion. Doc. #65. Thereafter, Plaintiffs sought recovery of $440, 514.90 in attorneys' fees, $2, 752.17 in expenses, and $1, 048.00 in costs. Doc. #69. On August 19, 2016, the Court denied Plaintiffs' request for attorneys' fees and expenses, but taxed costs of $800 in favor of Plaintiffs. Doc. #77. In denying the request for attorneys' fees, the Court found Plaintiffs' First Amendment claims, which are fee-generating claims, did not arise from the same nucleus of operative facts as the preemption claims, which are not fee-generating claims. Id. Further, the facts associated with Plaintiff's First Amendment claims were not developed or presented to the Court because it decided the matter on Plaintiffs' preemption claims. Id.

         Plaintiffs appealed the Court's August 19, 2016 Order to the Eighth Circuit. Doc. #79. In December 2017, the Eighth Circuit issued its determination that Plaintiffs' First Amendment claims and preemption claims arose from a common nucleus of operative fact, and therefore, Plaintiffs were entitled to recover attorneys' fees. Doc. #86-1. The Eighth Circuit reversed this Court's decision, and remanded the matter.

         Upon remand, the Court directed the parties to file a joint proposed briefing schedule. Doc. #91. Plaintiff filed a supplemental motion seeking $73, 284.67 in attorneys' fees associated with their appeal. Doc. #92. Defendant filed additional opposition to Plaintiffs' initial motion for attorneys' fees (Doc. #69), as well as opposition to Plaintiffs' supplemental motion (Doc. #96). Neither party proposed a briefing schedule, ostensibly agreeing the Court should consider the briefing associated with Plaintiffs' two motions for attorney's fees. The Court, in light of the Eighth Circuit's decision, reconsiders Plaintiffs' initial motion for attorneys' fees (Doc. #69), and considers Plaintiffs' supplemental motion for attorneys' fees (Doc. #92).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Attorneys' Fees

         This Court has discretion to award reasonable attorneys' fees to a prevailing party in a section 1983 case. 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b). “The starting point in determining attorney fees is the lodestar, which is calculated by multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended by the reasonable hourly rates.” Fish v. St. Cloud State Univ., 295 F.3d 849, 851 (8th Cir. 2002) (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)). The requesting party “bears the burden of establishing an accurate and reliable factual basis for an award of attorneys' fees” and submitting “evidence supporting the hours worked and rates claimed.” Philipp v. ANR Freight Sys., Inc., 61 F.3d 669, 675 (8th Cir. 1995) (citation omitted).

         To determine the lodestar amount, courts consider several factors, including but not limited to, time and labor required; novelty and difficulty of legal questions; required skill to handle the case; preclusion of other employment by the attorney; customary fee for similar work in the community; degree of success or results obtained; experience, reputation, and ability of the attorney; and awards in similar cases. See Phillips v. Mo., No. 97-CV-748, 2000 WL 33910092, at *1 (W.D. Mo. Mar. 29, 2000) (citations omitted). Plaintiffs addressed these factors in both motions for attorneys' fees. Defendant objected to the hourly rate charged by Plaintiffs' counsel, the number of hours billed, the number of attorneys who worked on the matter, and excessive time billed for tasks.

         (1) Hourly Rate

         Plaintiffs seek recovery of hourly rates ranging from $223 to $540 for attorneys, and hourly rates of $121 and $122 for paralegals. In support of their request, Plaintiffs submitted declarations from several attorneys who worked on this matter. Jay Angoff served as lead counsel for Plaintiffs. Angoff, who is a partner at Mehri & Skalet, PLLC, located in Washington, D.C., was admitted to practice law in 1978. Among other things, Angoff served as Director of the Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and also served as the Director of the Missouri Department of ...


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