Judge Posner has written a scathing opinoin in Budget Rent-a-Car Systems, Inc. v. Consolidated Equity LLC., No. 05-3579 (7th Cir. November 4, 2005). The opinion denies appellate fees to Budget that the court had granted. Why? Because Budget wanted $4600 in fees for a 4-page jurisdictional memo citing 5 cases, the only thing Budget filed in the case. The memo supposedly took 3.3 hours of parter time and 10.4 hours of associates' time.
The "exorbitant" request for fees and costs, Posner says, amounts to an abuse of process.
The fee request had been granted originally, because Consolidated's appeal was so obviously frivolous. How can it take 14 hours of anyone's time to point out the obvious?
13.7 hours for 4 pages and 5 cases? I've done a bunch of appeals both as appellant and appellee. The rule that seems to work out for me in every but the most unusual case is an hour per page in a brief, excluding the formal stuff numbered with Roman numerals. That's a brief. Motions and memos generally take a lot less.
So grant Budget, liberally, 4 hours of associates' time and a half hour of partner time to review the piece. At the rates mentioned in the opinion, that's about $1,500. Still pretty steep for a four-page memo, it seems to me, but less than a third of what Budget's lawyers requested.
I wonder if Budget is going to ask its lawyers to write off the fees. I wonder if the lawyers are going to offer to write them off. I wonder if Budget is going to do a review of the fees it has paid these lawyers in the past. I wonder if this is going to find its way to Illinois' attorney disciplinary authority.
I forgot to mention that the lawyers wanted another $4,300 for the time spent preparing the fee request. As part of the costs, they tried to get Consolidated to pay the $165 fee to have a lawyer admitted to practice in the 7th.
Shocks my conscience. And I'm a lawyer.