Virginia-Pilot Media Companies, LLC v. DOJ, No. 14-577, 2016 WL 4265742 (E.D. Va. Aug. 10, 2016) (Jackson, J.)
Re: Request for records concerning training incident where two FBI special agents were killed
Disposition: Granting in part and denying in part plaintiff's motion for attorney fees; awarding plaintiff $100,000 in attorney fees and costs
- Attorney Fees, Calculations: "[W]ith the exception of hours reduced for fees incurred during administrative proceedings and excessive hours billed for preparation of the fee petition, the Court otherwise finds that Plaintiffs’ hours expended during litigation of this matter were fair and reasonable." The court previously found that plaintiffs were entitled to an award of attorney fees. "[T]he Court [generally] accepts the reasonableness of the attorneys' rates." "Plaintiffs' attorneys are competent with extensive legal experience, including experience with FOIA litigation." "Plaintiffs detail the backgrounds, experience, and qualifications of the attorneys involved . . . in declarations from lead counsel and a local attorney not involved in this matter." The court finds that "[p]laintiffs do not provide any support for the rate of [one] attorney[,]" "[h]owever, as the Court finds a reduction in the overall fees for preparation of the fee petition appropriate, the Court will reduce a percentage of the fees below rather than reducing these attorneys' rates." Additionally, "[a]side from their paralegal, Plaintiffs do not provide sufficient support for the rates of other non-attorney support personnel." Therefore, "the Court will reduce the rate charged for the law librarian and summer associate." Also, "[t]he Court finds a reduction is warranted for hours billed during the administrative phase prior to litigation commencing." "FOIA provides for attorneys' fees incurred during litigation, not during the initial administrative phase of a FOIA request." "The Court also finds a reduction is warranted for the fees incurred in preparing the fee petition." "Plaintiffs should be familiar with their own billing statements and the work done in this case." "The extensive hours Plaintiffs billed for reviewing billing records, researching attorneys’ fees issues, and conferences discussing attorneys’ fees issues are not reasonable." "After tedious review of Plaintiffs’ billing statements, the Court finds that no further reductions are appropriate." "Although Plaintiffs' litigation efforts did not result in the release of additional documents, Plaintiffs were entitled to seek enforcement of FOIA through non-frivolous litigation." "Defendant's preemptive release of documents in response to Plaintiffs filing their Complaint did not preclude Plaintiffs from further litigation." "[F]urther litigation was also necessary to obtain a ruling from the Court that Plaintiffs were the prevailing parties and entitled to attorneys' fees." Also, "[p]laintiffs are entitled to fees for consultations with outside resources and reviewing released documents." Last, "[p]laintiffs prevailed on the only claim in their Complaint." "Therefore, there were no unsuccessful claims and a reduction on this point is not necessary."