Legislation - Recovery of Paralegal Fees

Table of Authorities (updated May 2007)

CALIFORNIA CASES

Beach Colony II. v. California Coastal Com. (1985) 166 Cal.App.3d 106. Fourth Appellate District awards paralegal fees under Code Civ. Proc. ‘ 1021.5.

Citizens Against Rent Control v. City of Berkeley (1986) 181 Cal.App.3d 213. First Appellate District awards paralegal fees under Code Civ. Proc. ‘ 1021.5.

County of San Luis Obispo v. Abalone Alliance (1986) 178 Cal.App.3d 848. The Second Appellate District awards paralegal fees under Code Civ. Proc. ‘ 1021.5.

Guinn v. Dotson (1994) 23 Cal.App.4th 262. Fourth Appellate District affirmed the lower court’s dismissal but remanded the matter of determining reasonable paralegal fees and confirmed an award of the same under CCP ‘ 411.35. Appellate court held that an award of attorney fees that did not compensate for paralegal service time would not fully compensate the attorney. They further examined the legislative intent of attorney fee statutes and found considerable case history to support the concept that the generic term Attorney fees was intended to encompass paralegal fees, where the prevailing practice is to separately bill a client for paralegal service time.

Margolin v. Regional Planning Com. (1982) 134 Cal.App.3d 999. Second Appellate District awards paralegal fees under Code Civ. Proc. ‘ 1021.5. The court affirmed the award of $300,000 in attorneys fees composed of charges for time by attorneys, law clerks and professional assistant [paralegal].

River Valley Preservation Project v. Metropolitan Transit Development Bd. (1995) 37 Cal.App.4th 154. Paralegal fees incurred in preparation of official record were properly awarded under Pub. Resources Code ‘ 21167.6.

Salton Bay Marina. Inc. v. Imperial Irrigation Dist. (1985) 172 Cal.App.3d 914. Fourth Appellate District awards paralegal fees under Code Civ. Proc. ‘ 1036. The court held that attorney fee awards under ‘ 1036 should include necessary support services for attorneys, e.g. … paralegal services.

Sundance v. Municipal Court (1987) 192 Cal.App.3d 268. The Second District Court of Appeal awards paralegal fees under Section Code Civ. Proc. ‘ 1021.5. The court noted that the award of attorney fees for paralegal fees has become common place in California and is appropriate under section 1021.5 …


NATIONAL CASES

Missouri v. Jenkins, 491 U.S. 274, 109 S.Ct. 2463, 105 L.Ed.2d 229 (1989): subsequent negative appellate history at 731 F.Supp. 1437.The U.S. Supreme Court held that in setting a reasonable attorney’s fee under 28 U.S.C 1988, a legal fee may include a charge for legal assistant services at market rates rather than actual cost to the attorneys.

American Petroleum Institute v. United States, 52 F.3d 1113 (Fed. Cir. 1996). Award of paralegal fees was found to be reasonable and appropriate as a component of attorneys fees, however, the court reduced both attorney time and paralegal time where it was found unreasonable. In certain cases, a charge for services by a partner would be inappropriate if the work could have been performed by a paralegal or associate attorney.

Brandt v. Schal Associates, Inc., 960 F.2d 640 (7th Cir. 1992).

Buchanan v. U.S., 755 F.Supp. 319 (D.Or. 1990), aff’d 765 F.Supp. 642 (D.Or. 1991): criticized by 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11021. The U.S. District Court held that recoverable attorneys fees included amounts paid for time spend by two legal assistants and allowed $65 per hour for legal assistant time.

Chambless v. Masters, Mates & Pilots Pension Plan, 885 F.2d 1053 (2nd Cir. 1989), cert. den. 496 U.S. 905. The U.S. District Court held that recoverable attorneys fees included amounts paid for time spend by two legal assistants and allowed $65 per hour for legal assistant time.

Computer Statistics, Inc. v. Blair 418 F.Supp. 1339 (S.D.Tex. 1976). Paralegal fees are reasonably included in an award for attorney’s fees and costs.

Consolo v. George, 58 F.3d 791 (1st Cir. 1995). The portion of this appeal relating to paralegal fees hinged not on whether such fees were recoverable as an element of attorney fees but, rather, evaluating the work performed by the paralegal, its reasonableness and its productivity. The court award paralegal fees as a component of the lodestar calculations, but did not include fees for redundant tasks also performed by the attorneys or for tasks which were purely clerical in nature.

In re Continental Illinois Securities Litigation, 985 F.2d 867 (7th Cir. 1993). The Court of Appeal rejected lower court’s computation of paralegal fee award based on the paralegal’s wage plus a percentage of overhead. The matter was remanded for recomputation by the lower court. At 985 F.2d 867, the court again remanded the lower court’s recomputation of paralegal fees noting that, although it had increased the fee award, it still did not fully understand the concept of computing paralegal fees to be included in award.

In re Grenoble Apartments. II, 145 Bankr. 43 (Bankr.D.S.D. 1992), vacated and remanded 152 B.R. 608 (D.S.D. 1993). The court awarded fees for services of certified legal assistants at prevailing market rates on the basis that the proceeding was of a complex nature and required the special expertise of a legal assistant.

Gullet v. Stanley Structures, 722 P.2d 619, 222 Mont. 365 (1986). Montana case allowing for recovery of paralegal fees.

Harman v. Lyphomed, Inc., 787 F.Supp. 772 (N.D. Ill. 1992). The court used lodestar method to compute legal assistant fees.

Harris v. Railroad Retirement Board, 948 F.2d 123 (2nd Cir. 1991). Paralegal fees of $50.00 per hour were awarded under 28 U.S.C. 2414.

Little Rock School District. et al. v. Pulaski County Special School District #l, 959 F.2d 716 (8th Cir. 1992). The court set paralegal fees at $25 per hour.

Maltzer v. Provident Life & Accident Ins. Co., 843 F.Supp. 692 (M.D. Fla. 1993). Paralegal fees were included in the award of attorney fees.

Metro Data Systems, Inc. v. Duranao Systems, Inc., 597 F.Supp 244 (D.Ariz. 1984). The court refused to authorize compensation for lawyers performing services that could have been performed by a legal assistant.

Miller v. Alamo, 983 F.2d 856 (8th Cir. 1993): criticized in later proceeding at 992 F.2d 766 Work performed included going to the library to locate cases cited by opposing counsel and preparing material for the attorney. The court stated that "work done by paralegals is compensable if it is work that would have been done by an attorney.

New Mexico Citizens for Clean Air v. Espanola Mer., 72 F.3d 830 (lOth Cir. 1996). Appeals court remanded matter for review of attorney fee award with specific guideline as to review of whether certain charges were properly compensable at attorney rates [rather than those of a paralegal].

Nichus v. Liberio, 973 F.2d 526 (7th Cir. 1992). The court held that while hours claimed for paralegals and law clerks are compensable, two of the individuals for whom paralegal time was claimed were not paralegals/law clerks by training or licensure. A third individual was classified as a paralegal, which could be billed at the "market rate" of $30 per hour.

Occidental Chemical Corporation v. The Power Authority of the State of New York, 786 F.Supp. 316 (W.D. NY 1992), aff’d at 990 F.2d 726 (2nd Cir. 1993).

Price v. Cole, 574 N.E.2d 403 (Mass.App.Ct. 1991). The court held that $60 for paralegal and law clerks were reasonable.

Ross v. Buckeye Cellulose Corp., 764 F.Supp. 1543 (M.D.Ga. 1991), affirmed in part and remanded in part at 980 F.2d 648 (1993). Paralegal fees were a reasonable component of attorney fee award.

In re Sounds Distributing Corporation, 122 Bankr. 952 (W.D. PA 1991). The court allowed recovery of paralegal fees, but trimmed the market rate.

Stewart v. Sullivan, 810 F.Supp. 1102 (D.Hawaii 1993): criticized by Mannino v. West,12 Vet.App. 242 (1999) Paralegal fees were awarded at $65 per hour. The court excluded 2.5 hours because the paralegal was performing a ministerial tasks such as photocopying and hand deliveries.

U.S. Football League v. National Football League, 887 F.2d 408 (2nd Cir. 1989): criticized by United Healthcare Corp. v. American Trade Ins. Co. 88 F.3d
563 (8th Cir. Minn. 1996)

Wasson v. Secretary of Secretary of Dept. of Health and Human Services, 24 Cl.Ct. 482 (1991). Special Master allowed paralegal fees at $50 per hour, reduced from a requested fee of $125 per hour.


COURT DENIAL OF PARALEGAL FEE RECOVERY

Edgewater Townhouse Homeowner=s Association v. Holtzman, 845 P.2d 1224, 256 Mont. 182 (Montana, 1993). The court declined to award fees for paralegals and law clerk on the basis that paralegals were not attorneys. The case was appealed.

In re Speeds Billiards & Games. Inc., Debtor, 149 Bankr. 434 (E.D. Tex. 1993). On a request for fees, counsel did not indicate what constituted staff time, whether it was paralegal time or secretarial. Thus, the court held that any doubt must be resolved in favor of a finding that such a request constitutes normal attorney overhead which must be absorbed in counsel’s hourly rate.

McCullough v. City of Oakland (1996) 46 Cal.App.4th 1. Paralegal fees were denied because attorneys had failed to submit any declaration or documentation for the time spent, leaving the court with no choice but to exclude these fees from the award.