UNITED STATES BANKRUPTCY COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
DEBTOR CASE NO. 92-20592
This matter is before the Court on the Trustee's Objection to Fee Application filed herein on September 15, 1992. The Application of Attorney for Debtor for Compensation was filed on August 24, 1992. The attorney for the debtor seeks an order directing the Chapter 13 trustee to pay him the sum of $1,812.50. The trustee's Objection appears to be based on the contention that the fee request is excessive. The trustee asks the Court to take into consideration a "norm" of "typical" fees of $500.00 to $750.00 for Chapter 13 cases.
The issue of the standard for determining attorney fees has been decided in the Sixth Circuit in In re Boddy, 950 F.2d 334 (1991). In that case the court was considering an appeal of an award of compensation in a Chapter 13 case where the bankruptcy court had agreed with the Chapter 13 trustee that a maximum attorney's fee of $650.00 was considered "normal and customary". The Sixth Circuit expressly adopted the "lodestar method" of fee calculation in bankruptcy cases which finds the "lodestar amount" by multiplying the attorney's reasonable hourly rate by the number of hours reasonably expended. The court stated that "...the establishment of a fixed fee for certain `normal and customary= services is directly contrary to the plain `actual, necessary services rendered= language of 11 U.S.C. '330." At page 337.
The court also found that once a bankruptcy court had applied the lodestar method it could exercise its discretion to consider typical compensation for a Chapter 13 case, as well as "...the novelty and difficulty of the issues, the special skills of counsel, the results obtained, and whether the fee awarded is commensurate with fees for similar professional services in non-bankruptcy cases in the local area." At page 338.
In the case at bar, the debtor's attorney has billed for 15.3 hours at a rate of $125.00 per hour. The trustee has called into question at least 3.8 hours of this total as excessive or unnecessary. Upon review, the Court agrees with the trustee's assessment and will reduce the number of hours billed to 11.5. Review also reveals that this case has been a relatively typical Chapter 13 case with no novel or difficult issues and requiring no special skills of counsel to bring it to its conclusion. The debtor's Chapter 13 plan was confirmed within four months of the filing of her petition. This Court therefore further finds that a more reasonable rate for the practice of this unremarkable Chapter 13 case is $100.00 per hour, and will by separate order award the debtor's attorney a fee of $1,150.00.
By the Court -
William Bubenzer, Esq.
Michael Litzinger, Esq.