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Circuit Court upholds attorney-fee reduction

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals wasn't swayed by an attorney's arguments that the amount of attorney's fees he was entitled to shouldn't have been reduced by nearly $90,000.

In James and Christy Gastineau v. David M. Wright and Wright & Lerch, No. 09-1003, the Gastineaus' attorney Robert Duff appealed the District Court's corrected order on the Gastineaus' motions for attorney's fees. Duff was the third attorney to work on their Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case, in which he negotiated a final settlement of $45,000. He wanted $140,000 in fees, but the District Court reduced it to $52,000 after evaluating Duff's experience and performance.

Duff claimed the judge erred in determining a reasonable fee by reducing his billable hour rate from $250 to $150 based on his lack of experience and claimed the reduction in the number of hours billed constituted an impermissible double penalty.

The Circuit judges agreed with the District Court's ruling, finding the deduction was warranted. Duff joined the case three years after the action began and was the third attorney to work on the case, so he came on after substantial discovery work and motions practice was completed. He was also inexperienced with FDCPA actions, so the District Court found it was inappropriate to bill for learning this area of law. An attorney also testified Duff's rates were high for that area of law.

"This is clearly the case of an experienced district judge that considered the various factors in setting a reasonable attorney's fee and provided a sufficient explanation," wrote Judge Michael Kanne.

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  4. JLAP and other courtiers ... Those running court systems, have most substance abuse issues. Probably self medicating to cover conscience issues arising out of acts furthering govt corruption

  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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