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Friday, May 1, 2015

Pliego v. Hayes, 2015 WL 1893426 (W.D.Ky.)[Turkey] [Costs and expenses]

In Pliego v. Hayes, 2015 WL 1893426 (W.D.Ky.) the court granted Petitioner’s request for an Order directing that the parties' minor child be returned to Turkey. The petitioner filed a motion for attorneys fees requesting attorney's fees of $150,182.85. This include: attorney Rebecca McKelvey's 157 hours, billed at $285 and $295 ($47,082.50); attorney Brenton Lankford's 170.5 hours, billed at $250 and $260, ($47,692); Pliego's state court counsel Stephanie Ritchie's 22.10 hours, billed at $200 ($4,420); two paralegals, 182.61 hours billed at $140 ($30,955); for a total of  $130,150.00. Additionally, the petitioner requested his expenses to attend trial ($1,089.88 for petitioner's airline ticket; $850.89 for his mother's airline ticket; $882.37 for hotel; $162.36 for rental car, taxi, and parking; and $317.03 for meals); expenses for the return of the child ($1,509.52 for Petitioner's airline ticket plus fees for change to ticket; $1,775.12 for airline ticket for the child; $1,906.51 for hotel; $971.79 for rental car; $63.26 for taxi; $248.00 for parking; and $187.04 for meals); trial expenses ($383.25 for deposition transcripts; $2,500 for expert witness fee; and $532.64 for translation/interpreter fees) as well as $500 for supervision fee for visitation with the child; a $481.00 service of process fee; and $5,671.75 for the attorney affidavit of Rebecca McKelvey.

In her response to the motion, the respondent argued that she was currently in Turkey seeking custody of her son, and her visa did not allow her to work. She added

that, "[e]ven prior to traveling to Turkey, [the Respondent's] finances were severely

constrained. She worked part-time at a library, making $10.25 dollars per hour. She

resided with her mother, and relied on financial help of her family to support herself and

her son. She had no medical insurance, instead relying on Medicaid for herself and her

son....".When the Respondent lived abroad with the Petitioner, she was a stay-at-

home mother and the Petitioner was the family's sole provider. The Respondent stated

that, "[o]ther than a single $1,000 payment, [the Respondent] has received no child

support or financial assistance from [the Petitioner] since April 2014. This is despite the

fact that [the Petitioner] earns the equivalent of over $159,000 USD a year, in salary

alone, along with numerous savings accounts and substantial investments.... The Respondent argued that she did not have the assets or income to pay the Petitioner's attorney's fees. She owned no real property. She did not own an automobile. She had no investments and no savings. A judgment awarding legal fees to the Petitioner could never be satisfied by her, and it would prevent her from supporting her child for years to come." She also argued that the fees were excessive, and also that certain fees should not be included, such as costs for Petitioner's state court counsel, visitation expenses, meals, and airline change fees due to the child's illness.

The district court observed that where the attorney's documentation is inadequate, or the claimed hours are duplicative or excessive, the court may reduce the award accordingly. Wasniewski v. Grzelak-Johannsen, 549 F.Supp.2d 965, 972 (N.D . Ohio 2008)." ICARA gives courts the discretion to reduce or even eliminate a respondent's obligation to pay a prevailing petitioner's attorney's fees and costs where such an award "would be clearly inappropriate." 42 U.S.C.§ 11607(b)(3).

The Court observed that some charges-including meals and hotels, and state court counsel-seemed excessive but it did not question the accuracy of the documented time spent. However, it found that the Respondent was incapable of paying the amount of fees requested and that it would be "clearly inappropriate" to enter a judgment against her for the full sum. Based on a review of the information and  supporting documents, the Court reduced the overall legal fees by 50%. Therefore,  Petitioner was awarded $75,091.425 for reasonable attorney's fees and costs.

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