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In Center for Biological Diversity, et al. v. U.S. Bureau of Land Management, et al., (2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10555, January 30, 2012), the Court granted Plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees in the amount of $1,003,155.87, despite Defendants claim that the fees were excessive.  Among other things, Defendants argued that the case was overstaffed,  travel time should not be compensated and hourly rates for paralegals and law clerks should not be compensated above the rates allowed in the Equal Access to Justice Act  (“EAJA”, 28 U.S.C. § 2412(d)).  First, the Court disagreed with the US. Bureau of Land Management’s (“BLM”) assertion that eight attorneys working at various times on a complex litigation matter was considered overstaffing.  Second, the Court also disagreed with BLM that enhanced rates for travel time should not be awarded, but capped at EAJA rates.  BLM argued that Plaintiffs cannot show that “specialized skills” were needed for travel time to support enhanced rates.  The Court, however, granted 33.3 hours of travel time at the enhanced rate because the record indicated that Plaintiffs’ attorney was working on the case during the travel time and thus, his “specialized skills” were required.  Finally, BLM argued that the rates claimed for paralegals and law clerks should not be compensated above the EAJA cap.  However, the Court noted that in Richlin Security Service Company v. Chertoff, 553 U.S. 571, 589 (2008), the Supreme Court rejected this very argument, holding that “a prevailing party that satisfies EAJA’s other requirements may recover its paralegal fees from the government at prevailing market rate.”

Key point:

Travel time can be awarded in an attorneys’ fee motion at an enhanced rate if an attorney can show that he or she was working during the travel time.

Written By: Tina Thomas and Michele Tong

For questions relating to this blog post or any other California land use, environmental and/or planning issues contact Thomas Law Group at (916) 287-9292.

The information presented in this article should not be construed to be formal legal advice by Thomas Law Group, nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Readers are encouraged to seek independent counsel for advice regarding their individual legal issues.

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