Dale & Klein, L.L.P. v. Owsley (In re Owsley)

Case Type:
Case Status:
No. 22-40283 (5th Circuit, Mar 09,2023) Not Published
After the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas did not approve all fees requested in a law firm's fee application, the district court affirmed most of the fee reductions. On further appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision, finding the appellant firm did not demonstrate (1) the use of an incorrect legal standard or improper procedures in calculating the fee award, or (2) erroneous factual findings invalidated the decision.
Procedural context:
The law firm appealed the district court's fee ruling to the Fifth Circuit, which reviewed the decision for an abuse of discretion. The firm argued the district court erroneously upheld the bankruptcy court's reduction of the firm's fees for travel time and its disallowance of (1) fees incurred before the court approved the firm's retention, as the firm did not follow the court's local rules for seeking engagement nunc pro tunc; (2) a portion of the firm's fees on two tasks because counsel's uncivil conduct diminished the value of the firm's services and “unnecessarily and excessively expanded the number of hours [the firm] billed"; (3) "duplicative" fees; (4) fees for services outside the approved scope of the firm's retention; and (5) "vague" or "block-billed" fees. Although no party appeared as an appellee, the Fifth Circuit concluded “this ‘does not preclude our consideration of the merits’ of [the firm’s] appeal.”
After the debtor, Jimie Dianne Owsley, filed a bankruptcy petition, the bankruptcy court granted her permission to hire a law firm, appellant Dale & Klein, L.L.P., to provide services related to her prepetition divorce case. Specifically, the court authorized the firm to provide legal services "limited to issues concerning modification of conservatorship, terms of possession and access, and child support in state court." The firm deposed the debtor's ex-husband, conducted a three-day trial on the debtor's petition to modify the parent-child relationship, negotiated an order to memorialize the court's ruling on the petition, and prepared for a possible appeal from the divorce decree. The appellant filed a fee application under 11 U.S.C. §§ 328(a), 330(a), and 331, requesting $1,607.79 in expenses and $126,128.14. The ex-husband objected to the application. After a hearing, the bankruptcy court granted the expense reimbursement request in full but awarded only $84,164.29 in fees, reducing the fee award on several separate grounds. The law firm appealed the decision to the district court, which affirmed the bankruptcy court's fee award in part and reversed in part, granting the law firm an additional $7,680.50 in fees.
Richman, Haynes, and Graves

ABI Membership is required to access the full summary. Please Sign In using your ABI Member credentials. Not a Member yet? Join ABI now - it is absolutely worth it!

About us in numbers

3511 in the system

3392 Summarized

5 Being Processed