UNITED STATES BANKRUPTCY COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
MARTHA WILKINSON CASE NO. 02-51683
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This matter is before the court upon the Application for Fee for Attorney for Debtor and Debtor in Possession filed on December 2, 2002 by Louis X. Amato, one of the attorneys for the debtor and debtor in possession in this proceeding. Timely objections to the application were filed by the United States Trustee. The matter was heard before the court on December 30, 2002 in conjunction with a hearing to consider confirmation of the plan of reorganization filed by the debtor in this Chapter 11 proceeding. At that time, the plan was confirmed pursuant to the provisions of 11 USC §1129(a) and the court found that all of the voting members of the only impaired class had voted in favor of the plan. At that hearing, the applicant withdrew the request for costs in the amount of $1,500 for a sum posted by his firm for a representative's bond for the estate of the debtor's late husband. That sum had been posted in cash as an advance on behalf of his client in order to facilitate immediate entry of letters of administration. Mr. Amato indicated that his firm had been reimbursed for this sum.
The objections lodged by the United States Trustee involve time spent and travel expenses incurred in resisting the transfer of this Chapter 11 proceeding to the Eastern District of Kentucky and an objection to the charging of the full hourly rate for travel time in conjunction with counsel's trips from his office in Florida to Kentucky to appear before this court and generally practice the case.
This case was originally filed as a Chapter 11 proceeding in the Middle District of Florida and, pursuant to appropriate motion made before this court to transfer the proceeding to this district, was transferred to this district and has been practiced here. The reason for the transfer was that the affairs of the debtor were so closely related to pending cases in this jurisdiction that it would facilitate the administration and disposition of this case and the other pending and related cases to have all administered in this district. After some initial skirmishing, the debtor relented in any resistence to transferring the case and proceeded to promptly undertake the practice of her case in this district. Debtor's counsel were instrumental in compromising disputes with counsel in related cases and clearly benefitted this estate and those related estates significantly by those actions which, in conjunction with the other estates, settled claims involving many millions of dollars and resulted in the savings of considerable attorneys' fees to all involved. Based upon that compromise, the debtor has successfully proposed a plan of reorganization without dissent from her creditors. In considering applications for attorney's fees in this matter, these very successful results from the efforts of debtor's counsel in this case should be given significant weight.
With respect to the objection to the time expended by the applicant in resisting the initial motion to transfer debtor's case to this district, it is clear that there was substantial authority supporting debtor's original choice of venue in the Middle District of Florida and that that district would have been an appropriate venue for debtor's case absent the consideration of the related matters already pending in this district. The court finds that the choice of venue in Florida was not inappropriate and, based upon the location of assets and claimed exemptions, represented a choice by the debtor for venue that served her interests at that time. While the resistence by the debtor to the motion to transfer venue to this district did not benefit this estate, the actions of the debtor and counsel for the debtor in participating in settling difficult and complicated issues before this court and the very successful results obtained by counsel for the debtor militate in favor of allowing these fees in the overall practice of this case. Therefore, those fees will be allowed as requested.
With respect to the objection to billing travel time at full hourly fee, there is unreported precedent in this district for such an objection. In re East Kentucky Lumber Co., Inc., Case No. 93-60392. That case, however, did not involve travel time that was substantially used for review of records and consultation with the client as is the case here. The use of travel time for constructive professional services as here warrants the payment, in full, for the time involved. Therefore, the court will allow payment of the travel time in full in this matter.
For the foregoing reasons, it is hereby
ORDERED that the application for fee for attorney for debtor and debtor in possession filed herein on December 2, 2002 be SUSTAINED in the amount of $40,459 for services and $3,841.38 for expenses. The debtor is ordered to pay these sums to the applicant.
By the Court:
Louis X. Amato, Esq.
James R. Odell, Esq.
Unsecured Creditors Committee