Attorney Robert J. Gaudet was engaged to help conclude litigation pending in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. In the fee agreement with Gaudet, Plaintiffs, Manuel Almanza, etc., agreed to pay him fees equal to the amount awarded by the Court for his services. After the underlying suit was resolved, Plaintiffs, Customs and Border Protection agents seeking to recover overtime wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Customs Officer Pay Reform Act, submitted their attorneys’ fees petition. The Court then issued its decision. Gaudet, however, believed that the decision contained factual errors and used the wrong prevailing hourly rate for his services ($380 an hour versus the requested $685 an hour). After Almanza refused to move for reconsideration, Gaudet moved to intervene.
Gaudet contended that the Court “used the wrong legal market to determine the prevailing hourly rate for his services.” In his motion, Gaudet claimed that he had a “property interest in this case relating to attorney’s fees to which he is contractually entitled.”
The Court, however, disagreed and denied Gaudet’s motion stating that “[he] lacks an interest which relates to the property or transaction that is the subject of this litigation.” The Court explained that Gaudet’s interest in receiving attorneys’ fees will not be determined by the “direct legal operation and effect of the judgment.” Rather, his fees are based on an agreement with the plaintiffs’ primary counsel and not an agreement with the plaintiffs themselves. And under the fee shifting provision, the Court also explained that plaintiffs may seek fees–not their attorneys. Finally, the Court concluded Gaudet’s interests are adequately represented because Gaudet and the plaintiffs have the same goal, which is to maximize the awarded attorneys’ fees.
Read Judge Kaplan’s full decision here.