X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Appellant firm Walker & Patterson, represented debtors Bobby and Janice Cahill in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceeding. Walker & Patterson appeals the district court’s order affirming the bankruptcy court’s award of reduced attorneys’ fees in that proceeding. “Applying the criteria for”reasonable compensation’ enumerated in 11 U.S.C. 330(a)(3) (2000) and the factors set forth in Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express Inc., 488 F.2d 714 (5th Cir. 1974), the bankruptcy court awarded Walker & Patterson $1737 in attorneys’ fees plus $12.33 in expenses based on the following findings: 1. the time spent by Walker & Patterson greatly exceeded that spent by other counsel in a typical Chapter 13 case, and in some cases Walker & Patterson’s attorneys duplicated each other’s efforts; 2. the rates that Walker & Patterson charged exceeded the reasonable and customary hourly rate for Chapter 13 practitioners in the area; 3. Walker & Patterson performed unnecessary work pertaining to the payment of a secured claim to keep a boat used solely for recreational purposes; 4. Walker & Patterson did not adequately prepare the case for the first confirmation hearing and did not perform its services in a particularly timely manner; 5. the proposed fee amount substantially exceeded the customary compensation for comparably skilled non-bankruptcy practitioners, and no adequate basis for a premium was shown; 6. the case was less novel, less complicated, and less undesirable than most; 7. the fee was not contingent; 8. neither the case nor the client imposed exceptional time constraints; 9. the attorney-client relationship was not a factor in this case; and 10. the typical attorneys’ fee award in similar cases totaled $1737. The bankruptcy court determined that, given the totality of these findings, $1737 was a reasonable fee for a”typical’ Chapter 13 proceeding such as this one. The bankruptcy court made this determination relying on the lodestar calculation in General Order 2004-5,”Order Regarding Chapter 13 Debtors’ Counsel’s Fees,’ U.S. Bankr. Ct. Rules S.D. Tex., 427-36 (as entered Apr. 14, 2004) (West 2005), a per curiam order setting forth standards to guide bankruptcy courts in awarding Chapter 13 attorneys’ fees in”typical’ cases.” HOLDING:Affirmed. The bankruptcy court did not abuse its discretion by using the precalculated lodestar amount to determine Walker & Patterson’s fee award because it properly applied the 330 and Johnson factors to the specific facts of the case, setting forth a reasoned analysis and providing reasons why the lodestar amount did not need to be adjusted. Moreover, the bankruptcy court did not give the General Order lodestar calculation a disproportionate amount of weight in its analysis as Walker & Patterson suggests: Its findings that Walker & Patterson’s attorneys spent an unreasonable amount of time on the case, duplicated each other’s efforts, performed unnecessary work, were unprepared for the confirmation hearing, and were handling a case that presented no novel or complex issues support its conclusion that this case did not warrant an upward adjustment of the lodestar amount under 330 or Johnson. After reviewing the billing records in this case, the bankruptcy court found evidence that the attorneys had worked on overlapping pieces of the case and spent excess time bringing each other up to speed on tasks begun by the other. Additionally, the bankruptcy court found some indication that the billing records may not have been contemporaneous and correct. After reviewing the record, nothing leaves the court with a firm and definite conviction that the bankruptcy court made a mistake in making these factual findings. “According to the bankruptcy court, Walker & Patterson moved to postpone the first confirmation hearing because it was unprepared, and throughout the case it provided services that were”minimally timely to avoid dismissal of the case for delay prejudicial to creditors.’ Given the bankruptcy court’s superior position to make this determination and because nothing in the record leads us to believe that this finding was clearly erroneous, we will not reverse it.” OPINION:Per curiam; King, C.J., Davis and Stewart, JJ.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 1 article* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.