Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Magistrate Judge Torres Explains the Legal Caste System!

This is a great R&R from Judge Torres awarding fees pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1920 to H&K in defending an "objectively unreasonable" copyright suit.

There are so many interesting things in this order I don't know where to begin.

Let's start with the fact that it took 19(!) H&K lawyers in four cities (Miami, Atlanta, DC, and Boston) to handle an objectively unreasonable lawsuit.

Then there's the whole billing rate problem:
To be fair, the record shows that various Florida lawyers were indeed involved and billed extensively on the file, including highly experienced and respected lawyers like Sandy Bohrer and Chris Bellows, who are seeking even higher rates. But that then leads to the question whether their billable rates are necessary to attract competent counsel in this community to represent Coca-Cola. Clearly they are not.
Judge Torres continues by way of analogy:
In other words, one can drive from point A to point B in a Ferrari, a BMW, or a Ford Fusion. Which car one chooses is ordinarily a matter of personal style coupled with financial freedom. The successful personal injury or criminal defense lawyer may choose the Ferrari. The average corporate defense lawyer will wisely choose the BMW. But a successful attorney fee applicant can only choose the Ford Fusion. It is quite reliable, consistent, and effective for the task at hand, and will not break the bank. And because of that only the cost of a Ford Fusion is compensable under an attorneys’ fee statute based on the American Rule that governs federal litigation.
A few questions:

1)  Why is the successful PI and criminal defense lawyer lumped together, both driving a Ferrari?

2)  What is "wise" about the average corporate defense lawyer's choice of a BMW, and don't some (many) also drive fancy sports cars or even Ferraris?

3)  This is not good publicity for Ford Fusions.

The Judge is not done:
That is why premium-rate lawyers who work at large high-powered law firms like H&K exist. They are lawyers who graduated from the best law schools like Georgetown, at the top of their classes at schools like Columbia or the University of Miami, who clerked for distinguished federal judges, who work night and day, 365 days a year, in the interest of that corporate client that demands perfection 100 percent of the time. These lawyers are (in very rare cases) the Ferraris and (in most cases) the BMWs of their profession who would never market themselves as merely “competent” or “average” or “reasonably priced.” These lawyers market premium legal service, which carries with it premium hourly rates.
Hmm, that's an awful lot of assumptions in one paragraph.

Georgetown, heh?

Hey, I know a Magistrate Judge who graduated from there!

BTW, I'm sure Coke's shareholders are happy they hired a firm who put 19 lawyers from around the country (plus another firm out of LA) on a case that had absolutely no merit whatsoever.

Oh well, $425 an hour's not bad for the ham-and-schleppers stuck driving around the South Florida legal community in their crappy Ford Fusions.

Beats the Ford Pinto, I guess.


Anonymous said...

hoya saxa, bish.

Anonymous said...

And this coming from a professional law clerk.

Anonymous said...

A ginormous flaming turdball ruling

Anonymous said...

Comment 3 must be from an H&K attorney who had his/her reasonable hours billed cut in half.

Anonymous said...

I don't care what anyone says. Sandy Bohrer, Chris Bellows, and Scott Ponce are all worth their weight in gold! It's just too bad that they're all so fit and trim!

Anonymous said...

Why didn't the defendant move for summary judgment early and avoid incurring those excessive and duplicative fees?

Anonymous said...

Read the order - they did move for summ judge (and they won)

Godwhacker said...

Hey, they forgot to put "Godwhacker" at the top.

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