United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
J. PAPPERT, J.
finding that Mary Lou Doherty and Joseph Mirarchi
unreasonably and vexatiously multiplied the proceedings, the
Court granted Allstate's motion for sanctions under 28
U.S.C. § 1927. The Court ordered that Doherty and
Mirarchi pay Allstate's reasonable excess costs, expenses
and attorneys' fees associated with fifty-two specific
docket entries. After reviewing Allstate's fee petition,
the underlying factual support and the circumstances of this
case, the Court imposes sanctions of $35, 000 on Doherty and
$4, 114 on Mirarchi.
Court need not repeat this case's unfortunate and
protracted history. See (Mem. Granting Sanctions in
Part 2-4, ECF No. 203); (Mem. Granting Summ. J. 2-27, ECF No.
175). Doherty filed a meritless lawsuit against Allstate.
See (Mem. Granting § 1927 Sanctions 2-3).
Acting as a litigant and an attorney, Doherty prosecuted her
suit in bad faith. See (id. at 3, 8-9).
Nine months into the case, she enlisted Mirarchi as her
co-counsel. See (id. at 3).
four years and over 200 filings, the Court partially granted
Allstate's motion for sanctions. Though the Court held
that the supervisory rule barred Allstate's request for
sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11,
see (id.), it found that Doherty's and
Mirarchi's “serious and studied disregard for the
orderly process of justice” called for sanctions under
28 U.S.C. § 1927, (id. at 10 (quoting In re
Prosser, 777 F.3d 154, 161 (3d Cir. 2015)). The Court
identified fifty-two filings evincing Doherty's and
Mirarchi's unreasonable and vexatious multiplication of
the proceedings, see (id. at 6-7), and
ordered Doherty and Mirarchi to pay Allstate's reasonable
excess costs, expenses and attorneys' fees associated
with those filings, see (Order ¶ 2, ECF No.
Court directed Allstate to submit a petition itemizing its
excess expenditures linked to the identified filings.
See (id. at ¶ 3). Allstate's
petition stated that it incurred $39, 618 in attorneys'
fees, $6, 707.30 in costs and $23, 631.95 in expert fees
associated with the specified docket entries. See
(Pet. ¶¶ 5, 6, 8, ECF No. 207). As support,
Allstate attached a document listing the hours worked and
attorneys' fees charged for each of the fifty-two
filings. See (id. Ex. C, ECF No. 207-5). It
attached similar documents for the expert fees and other
costs. See (id. Ex. D, ECF No. 207-6);
(id. Ex. E, ECF No. 207-7).
Mirarchi declined to object to Allstate's petition,
Doherty asserted lengthy objections, most of which were
either irrelevant or divorced from the facts or law,
see (Objs. to Pet., ECF No. 208). But Doherty
correctly objected that Allstate's petition failed to:
(1) identify the name, qualifications and hourly rate for
each attorney who billed Allstate; (2) specify the prevailing
market rate for similar legal services; (3) list the tasks
performed for the fifty-two filings; and (4) justify the
requested expert fees and costs. See (id.
¶¶ 5, 6, 8). The Court ordered Allstate to address
those deficiencies and allowed Doherty and Mirarchi to file
supplemental objections. See (Order for Suppl.
Docs., ECF No. 210).
recently submitted its supplemental materials. In one letter,
it identified each attorney who worked on the case and listed
their qualifications and hourly rate. See (Suppl.
Letter, ECF No. 211). Allstate attached a separate letter
attesting that the reasonable hourly rate for similar legal
work in the community ranged from $210 to $335 per hour.
See (id. Ex. B, ECF No. 211-2). In another
letter, Allstate provided an affidavit and invoice sheet
tracking the attorneys' fees and other costs Allstate
incurred over the litigation. See (Second Suppl.
Letter, ECF No. 215). Another document detailed the tasks
performed, hours worked and attorneys' fees charged for
each of the fifty-two filings. See (Attorneys'
Fees Doc., ECF No. 212).
again, Doherty objected, but Mirarchi did not. Contrary to
the record, Doherty claimed that Allstate had not “set
forth the name, qualifications and hourly rate for each
attorney.” (Suppl. Objs. ¶ 1, ECF No. 213). Nor
did she think Allstate had established “the prevailing
market rate for similar legal services.” (Id.
at ¶ 2.) Doherty also criticized Allstate's
submissions for neither including the specific dates that
each attorney worked on each task, see (id.
at ¶ 3), nor providing Third Circuit precedent to
support awarding expert fees under § 1927, see
(id. at ¶ 4). Finally, Doherty argued that
Allstate's documentation regarding its expert fees and
costs was not specific enough to justify an award.
See (id. at ¶ 5).
district court decides sanctions under 28 U.S.C. § 1927
are warranted, it has wide discretion in fixing the amount of
sanctions to impose. See Ford v. Temple
Hosp., 790 F.2d 342, 347 (3d Cir. 1986). In
exercising that discretion, a court may award only those
attorneys' fees and “costs and expenses that result
from the particular misconduct.” In re Prudential
Ins. Co. Am. Sales Practice Litigation Agent Actions,
278 F.3d 175, 188 (3d Cir. 2002). Likewise, the
attorneys' fees must be reasonable, and the costs and
expenses limited to those “that could be taxed under 28
U.S.C. § 1920.” Id. Before imposing a
sanction, a court must “balance the equities between
the parties” and ensure that the sanction serves
“the interests of justice.” Id.
whether the attorneys' fees are reasonable, courts
compare the requested fees with a “lodestar”-that
is, the product of the reasonable hours spent on the
litigation and a reasonable hourly rate. See Ford,
790 F.2d at 349 n.10. Courts “strongly presume”
that the lodestar rate results in a reasonable fee.
Washington v. Phila. Cty. Court of Common Pleas, 89
F.3d 1031, 1035 (3d Cir. 1996). Even so, it is the
petitioner's burden to show that its rates and hours are
reasonable by submitting “evidence supporting the hours
worked and rates claimed.” Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). Once the petitioner
makes this prima ...