D.C. Circuit Affirms Award of Attorneys’ Fees at Laffey Matrix Rates

May 18, 2021

The D.C. Circuit today affirmed an award of attorneys’ fees to Union counsel in responding to the sanctioned conduct of the opposing party.  In the case, which was filed in 2017, SEIU Local 32BJ sought to compel arbitration with Preeminent Protective Services to resolve a dispute relating to the employment of two security officers. The federal district court granted the Union’s motion and ordered the parties to arbitrate, but Preeminent refused. The district court held Preeminent in contempt of court and awarded attorneys’ fees to Union counsel.

On appeal, Preeminent challenged the order compelling arbitration, the contempt order, and the attorneys’ fees award. The D.C. Circuit rejected Preeminent’s arguments on the first two issues as the orders were not timely appealed. On the attorneys’ fees award, the Court affirmed that attorneys’ fees at prevailing market rates are appropriate in contempt proceedings and that the Laffey Matrix compiled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia provides the appropriate rates. The Court cited "ample evidence that the Union’s outside counsel are skilled attorneys who could command market rates."

Murphy Anderson attorneys Arlus Stephens and Michael Anderson represented the Union. The case is SEIU Local 32BJ v. Preeminent Protective Services, Inc., No. 19-7157 (D.C. Cir. May 18, 2021).