United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
TIMOTHY J. SAVAGE, JUDGE.
having been entered in his favor in this action brought under
the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), Ronn Homer
has moved for an award of attorney's fees and costs. The
defendant, The Law Offices of Frederic I. Weinberg &
Associates, P.C., does not contest Homer's entitlement to
attorney's fees, but objects to the amount requested,
arguing that it is unreasonable and excessive.
Fees Under the FDCPA
successful plaintiff in an FDCPA action may recover from the
debt collector, as part of damages, a reasonable
attorney's fee and costs. 15 U.S.C. § 1692k(a)(3).
An award of attorney's fees is not discretionary under
the Act. It is mandated. Graziano v. Harrison, 950
F.2d 107, 113 (3d Cir. 1991). Thus, we must determine a
reasonable attorney's fee to award Homer.
the amount of a reasonable attorney's fee requires a
two-part analysis. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S.
424, 433 (1983); Maldonado v. Houstoun, 256 F.3d
181, 184 (3d Cir. 2001). First, we assess reasonableness of
the time spent. Maldonado, 256 F.3d at 184. Second,
we determine the reasonableness of the hourly rate charged.
Id. Once these two numbers are established, they are
multiplied to yield the lodestar, which is presumed to be a
reasonable fee. Rode v. Dellarciprete, 892 F.2d
1177, 1183 (3d Cir. 1990). After the lodestar is established,
the burden shifts to the opposing party to demonstrate that
the fee is unreasonable. Id.
request cannot be reduced based on factors not raised by the
opposing party. Id. (quoting Bell v. United
Princeton Props., 884 F.2d 713, 720 (3d Cir. 1989)).
Objections must be specific. See United States v. Eleven
Vehicles, Their Equipment & Accessories, 200 F.3d
203, 211-12 (3d Cir. 2000). Nevertheless, once the adverse
party specifically objects to a fee request, we have
considerable discretion to “adjust the fee award in
light of those objections.” Rode, 892 F.2d at
1183 (citations omitted).
contends that Homer's attorney's hourly rate is
excessive, and “not in accordance with prevailing
rates.” It argues that, absent proof that
Homer's attorney actually charged an hourly rate of $675,
the prevailing market rate is what rate defense counsel
charged to defend this case. Weinberg maintains that the
highest fee amount awarded in FDCPA litigation is $400 an
hour. Weinberg also objects to certain tasks as
administrative and duplicative, not attorney
initially moved for an award of $27, 691. He later amended
the amount, excluding 1.9 hours billed by a paralegal and
adding 8.4 hours expended by his attorneys on the reply
brief. Homer's calculations, including the
reductions and additions in time, break down as
39.4 hours x $675 hourly rate
11.1 hours x $240 hourly rate
$ 2, 664
3.6 hours x $195 hourly rate
Fees and Costs
argues that the relevant market rate is the one charged by
attorneys to defend FDCPA cases. It points out that its
attorney charges less than half what Homer's attorney
seeks. It also contends that Homer's attorney, Cary
Flitter, does not charge his FDCPA clients $675 an
rate is not what defense counsel charges. It is what the
market rate is in the legal community. In determining a
reasonable hourly rate, we compare the attorney's rates
to the market rates in the community for similar services by
lawyers of “reasonably comparable skill, experience,
and reputation.” Loughner v. Univ. of
Pittsburgh, 260 F.3d 173, 180 (3d Cir. 2001) (quoting
Rode, 892 F.2d at 1183). Weinberg objects only to
Flitter's rate, not his associate's and
paralegal's hourly rates.
maintains that, given the type of work performed and
counsel's experience in the field, Flitter's hourly
rate of $675 is reasonable. To establish the prevailing
market rates in Philadelphia, he provides declarations from
David A. Searles, contributing author to Pennsylvania
Consumer Law and an experienced litigator, and Thomas G.
Wilkinson, Jr., lead editor of the Pennsylvania Ethics
Handbook and chair of his firm's Professional
Responsibility Committee. Both declarants opine that
Flitter's hourly rate is reasonable and consistent with
those charged by other firms specializing in consumer credit
also relies on the 2017 CLS fee schedule fixing an hourly
rate of $620- 650 for attorneys with more than twenty-five
years of experience. Flitter, who has practiced for
thirty-six years, charges a higher rate than the top of the
CLS range. Homer argues that Flitter's considerable
expertise and professional background support the extra
fee schedule is often used as a guide to determine an
appropriate hourly rate. See, e.g., Pelzer v.
City of Philadelphia, 771 F.Supp.2d 465, 470 (E.D. Pa.
2011). The Third Circuit has used it. Maldonado, 256
F.3d at 187-88. But, it is not binding. The CLS schedule is
based only on years of practice. It does not consider the
attorney's experience in the relevant field, the level of
participation in a case, and reputation in the field.
is an experienced consumer litigation attorney. During his
thirty-six years of practice, he has litigated numerous
consumer-related cases, lectured at various law schools on
consumer law issues, presented on consumer law topics, and
contributed to the leading legal treatise in Pennsylvania on
consumer law issues. In assessing the reasonableness of his
hourly rate, Wilkinson and Searles considered his expertise
and success as a consumer protection attorney.
argues that Flitter's rate is not in line with the $300
hourly rate fixed by other district courts in FDCPA cases. It
cites to cases that are both factually distinguishable and
outside the relevant market. The reasonable hourly rate is
calculated according to the prevailing market rate in the
relevant community. Loughner, 260 F.3d at 180.
Generally, the relevant community is the forum of the
litigation. Interfaith Cmty. Org. v. Honeywell ...