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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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  1. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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