United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
TIMOTHY D. DEGIUSTI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court for decision is Defendants' Motion for
Appeal-Related Attorneys' Fees [Doc. No. 62], filed by
Jeff Haozous, Fort Sill Apache Industries Board of Directors,
and Fort Sill Apache Industries (hereafter,
“Defendants”). The Motion was filed pursuant to
an order of the Tenth Circuit granting a motion for attorney
fees filed in that court, and directing this Court to
determine a reasonable amount to be awarded to Defendants as
prevailing parties in Appeal No. 15-6101. In that appeal, the
Tenth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of this action under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See Team Sys. Int'l, LLC v.
Haozous, 656 Fed. App'x 907 (10th Cir.
2016). By the instant Motion, Defendants seek an
award of $28, 331.00 as a reasonable amount of attorney fees
incurred in the appeal.
Team Systems International, LLC opposes Defendants'
Motion on the general ground that the amount sought for
appeal-related fees is excessive and should be reduced.
Although not expressly stated in its brief, Plaintiff agrees
with Defendants on a number of key points, including the
manner of calculating a fee award under Oklahoma law, which
governs the attorney fee issues.
the Court determines a lodestar amount “by multiplying
the attorney's hourly rate by the number of hours
expended” on the appeal. Spencer v. Okla. Gas &
Elec. Co., 171 P.3d 890, 895 (Okla. 2007); see
Pl.'s Resp. Br. [Doc. No. 75] at 3. Plaintiff does not
challenge the reasonableness of the hourly rates charged by
Defendants' counsel, but instead argues that the
attorneys' time records reflect an excessive number of
hours spent on Defendants' appellate brief and are flawed
in certain respects, including that the time records lack
sufficient detail and contain block billing.
the Court may consider whether to enhance the lodestar amount
based on the consideration of factors enumerated in Burk
v. Oklahoma City, 598 P.2d 659 (Okla. 1979). See
Spencer, 171 P.3d at 895. Here, Plaintiff contends a
reduction should be made based on certain Burk
factors, such as the “‘time and labor required;
novelty and difficulty of the questions; and the amount
involved and the results obtained.” See
Pl.'s Resp. Br. [Doc. No. 75] at 3 (citing Burk,
598 P.2d at 661).
initial matter, Plaintiff renews an objection previously
rejected by the Court. Before filing its response, Plaintiff
moved for a stay of these proceedings until the Tenth Circuit
decides a pending appeal in which Plaintiff challenges this
Court's prior award of attorney fees to Defendants for
their successful defense of the original action. See
supra note 1. The Court denied the motion because it
found no merit in Plaintiff's objection to going forward
during the appeal. See Order 11/1/16 [Doc. No. 73].
Plaintiff now reasserts its position that there may be an
overlap between the work done at the district court and
appellate court levels but a duplication of services cannot
be determined on the present record. As before, the Court finds
that no overlap is apparent, and the Court further finds that
any duplication is immaterial. Where, as here, the same
attorneys represent a party before both the trial and
appellate courts and there is a time lag between the original
and the appellate briefing, some time may reasonably be spent
reviewing and updating prior work. This time would not be
considered duplicative, any more than similar work by new
counsel hired for an appeal (as Plaintiff did here) would be
Court also rejects Plaintiff's contention that Defendants
have failed to provide sufficient support for their
Motion. Plaintiff complains that the time records
submitted by Defendants' attorneys contain block-billing
entries. In making the original fee award, the Court found
that the use of block billing, among other things, warranted
an examination of the attorneys' contemporaneous time
records and itemized statements and, ultimately, a reduction
of the lodestar amount. See Order 3/11/16 [Doc. No.
55] at 7-8; Order 8/19/16 [Doc. No. 60] at 2-3. Acknowledging
this concern, Defendants' attorneys have supplemented
their present billing statements by providing an exhibit that
itemizes tasks in block-billed entries based on additional
information from contemporaneous time records. See
Whitmire Aff., Ex. 2 [Doc. No. 62-5] at 16-17 (ECF page
numbering). Plaintiff also complains that general billing
entries, such as “work on appeal brief, ” fail to
describe specific tasks performed and are insufficient.
See Pl.'s Resp. Br. [Doc. No. 75] at 7. While
more specific descriptions would be helpful, the Court finds
that counsel's billing statements provide sufficient
information to permit a determination of whether the amount
of time spent preparing Defendants' appellate brief was
excessive, as argued by Plaintiff.
ultimate question is whether the amount sought by Defendants
for legal services related to the appeal is reasonable.
Defendants' attorneys billed their clients for a total of
120 hours of legal work. Contrary to Plaintiff's arguments,
not all of this time was spent working on the appellate
brief, and not all of the appellate issues had been fully
briefed in the district court. Due to the litigation
decisions made by Plaintiff, Defendants could not simply
repackage their original arguments on appeal. The Court also is
not persuaded by Plaintiff's argument that 120 hours is
unreasonable because it includes time spent by six attorneys
working on the appeal. This number of attorneys is not
excessive in relation to the issues presented in the merits
appeal and the amount in controversy. Further, while
Plaintiff is correct that the billing records contain
numerous entries for time spent by the attorneys conferring
with one another and working collaboratively on
Defendants' brief, the Court finds no significant
duplication of billing. With minor exceptions, the attorneys
involved in office conferences did not all bill Defendants
for the conference, and a significant amount of collaboration
was accomplished by email.
as with the original fee award, the Court's examination
of the time records submitted by Defendants' counsel
reveals the existence of some unsupported block-billing
entries and some duplication of services by the multiple
attorneys who worked on the appeal. The Court again finds
that a minor adjustment of the lodestar amount is warranted
and that a ten-percent reduction is appropriate to yield a
reasonable fee award for legal services related to the
appeal. The amount of attorney fees to be awarded for the
appeal is calculated as follows: Phillips Murrah, P.C., $25,
667.50, plus Devol & Associates, $2, 663.50, totals $28,
331.00. Applying a 10% reduction to the total, the amount of
the award is $25, 498.00. Therefore, the Court finds that the
sum of $25, 498.00 represents a reasonable fee award to
Defendants for their successful defense of Plaintiffs merits
THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendants' Motion for
Appeal-Related Attorneys' Fees [Doc. No. 62] is GRANTED,
as set forth herein. The Court approves an award of attorney
fees to Defendants Jeff Haozous, Fort Sill Apache Industries
Board of Directors, and Fort Sill Apache Industries in the
amount of $25, 498.00 as the prevailing parties in Appeal No.
15-6101. A separate judgment for appeal-related attorney fees
shall be entered.
 In a second appeal, No. 16-6277,
Plaintiff challenges this Court's Order of August 19,
2016, and a judgment awarding Defendants an attorney fee of
$29, 234.47 as prevailing parties in the original action.
See Order 8/19/16 [Doc. No. ...