997 F.Supp. 796 (S.D.Tex. 1998), C. A. G-96-569, Uherek v. Houston Lighting and Power Co.

Docket Nº:C. A. G-96-569
Citation:997 F.Supp. 796
Party Name:Uherek v. Houston Lighting and Power Co.
Case Date:April 24, 1998
Court:United States District Courts, 5th Circuit, Southern District of Texas

Page 796

997 F.Supp. 796 (S.D.Tex. 1998)

Diane UHEREK

v.

HOUSTON LIGHTING & POWER COMPANY.

Civil Action No. G-96-569.

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Galveston Division.

April 24, 1998

Page 797

Scott Adam Sanes, Sanes & Matthews, Houston, TX, R. Keith Vaughan, Carabin and Shaw, San Antonio, TX, for Diane Uherek.

Maria Wyckoff Boyce, Baker & Botts, Houston, TX, for Houston Lighting & Power Co.

ORDER GRANTING ATTORNEYS' FEES AND COSTS

KENT, District Judge.

Plaintiff filed this action seeking to enforce her constitutional rights pursuant to Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 20003e et seq. On March 2, 1998, the Court granted Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Ordered the parties to submit appropriate documentation regarding attorneys' fees and costs. Now before the Court is Defendant's Petition for Attorneys' Fees and Costs of April 1, 1998, wherein Defendant seeks an award of $17,105.40. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Petition for Attorneys' Fees is GRANTED IN PART. Consequently, Plaintiff Diane Uherek is ORDERED to pay $500,00 in attorneys' fees and costs to Defendant, in the time and manner herein prescribed.

I. ATTORNEYS' FEES AND COSTS

The facts underlying this case have already been addressed in detail by this Court. See Uherek v. Houston Light & Power Co., No. CV G-96-569, 1998 WL 97798 (S.D.Tex. Mar.2, 1998). It is therefore unnecessary to repeat them here. As the prevailing party in this case, Defendant seeks $17,105.40 in attorneys' fees and costs. In any action or proceeding to enforce a provision of Title VII, the Court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party a reasonable attorney's fee as part of the costs. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k). Such fees are allowed when the plaintiff's underlying claims are frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless. See Christiansburg Garment Co. v. E.E.O.C., 434 U.S. 412, 422, 98 S.Ct. 694, 701, 54 L.Ed.2d 648 (1978). As is evident from the Court's previous Order Granting Summary Judgment in this case, Plaintiff's claims utterly lack merit, and therefore, the imposition of fees and costs is appropriate. Although Plaintiff's paucious three-page Response disputes the propriety of awarding fees in this case, it contains nothing that convinces the Court otherwise. The determination of what is a "reasonable attorney's fee" is left to the discretion of the trial court. See Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433, 103 S.Ct. 1933, 1939, 76 L.Ed.2d 40 (1983).

Page 798

1

II. ANALYSIS

A starting point for determining a reasonable fee is to consider the number of hours reasonably expended on the case multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate. See id. This "lodestar" method serves as the "initial estimate of a reasonable attorney's fee," Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 888, 104 S.Ct. 1541, 1544, 79 L.Ed.2d 891 (1984), and while its application is strongly presumed to represent a reasonable fee, see Pennsylvania v. Delaware Valley Citizens' Council for Clean Air, 478 U.S. 546, 565, 106 S.Ct. 3088, 3098, 92 L.Ed.2d 439 (1986), the inquiry does not end with it. The statutory command is that the fee awarded be "reasonable." See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k).

In Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717-719 (5th Cir. 1974), the Fifth Circuit listed twelve factors which the Court must consider when determining what amount is warranted. These factors are: (1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions presented; (3) the skill required to perform the legal service properly; (4) the preclusion of other employment by the attorney due to acceptance of the case; (5) the customary fee; (6) whether the fee is fixed or...

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