In Colonial River Wealth Advisors, LLC v. Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., No. 3:22cv717, 2024 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3058 (E.D. Va. Jan. 5, 2024), Judge Young granted the prevailing defendant’s fee petition, awarded $227,357 in attorneys’ fees, and concluded that block billing records provided by the defendant’s counsel “sufficiently permit[ed] the Court to assess the hours expended and the nature of the work completed.” Judge Young rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the block billing practices made it impossible to determine which attorneys’ fees were reasonable. Judge Young acknowledged that, though no per se rule against block billing exists, “in some instances, block billing may inhibit a court from accurately assessing the reasonableness of a fee request,” where lumped fee entries lacked sufficient detail and obscured the amount of time actually spent on the billed-for tasks. When block billing prevents the assessment of the reasonableness of the fees, a reduction of the fee award is appropriate. But in the case of the defendant’s fee petition, Judge Young was able to assess the reasonableness of the fee request, given the level of detail in the defendant’s counsel’s time entry descriptions. Using one example, the court noted that one 8.3 hour entry encompassed 11 discrete tasks, including review of a 309-page deposition transcript, the document production of another party, documents for use in upcoming deposition, and motion to quash various subpoenas. The court found it not unreasonable for the defendant’s counsel to have spent 8.3 hours on those tasks.

On December 5, the Richmond Division of the Federal Bar Association hosted a Lunch and Learn panel for chapter members, area practitioners, and a special guest — the Honorable Robert E. Payne. The panel, titled “Procedural Pitfalls for Civil Practitioners in the Eastern District of Virginia: Insights from Senior Judge Robert E Payne,” was co-moderated by Tim St. George, a former Richmond Division chapter president and law clerk to Judge Payne, and David Anthony. Tim and David, both partners at Troutman Pepper, have special experience handling cases in the E.D. Va. and understand the unique rules, risks, and pitfalls for litigants practicing in this division.

In significant and hard-fought litigation, it is not uncommon for parties to reach a settlement that includes an agreement to jointly move the court to vacate earlier rulings on key motions in the case. For a settling plaintiff that lost the earlier ruling, vacatur can be important to preserve potential claims against other defendants. Likewise, vacatur of an adverse ruling against a defendant allows that defendant to contest the issue in future cases. For the party that prevailed on the motion, there is often little incentive to oppose an agreement to request vacatur if it is part of an otherwise favorable settlement agreement.

On June 12, the Richmond Division of the Federal Bar Association hosted a Lunch and Learn panel for chapter members, area practitioners, and special guests — the Honorable Mark R. Colombell and the Honorable Summer L. Speight, the Richmond Division’s newest magistrate judge sworn in earlier this year. With her appointment, Judge Speight returns to the Richmond Division, having begun her legal career there as a law clerk for the Honorable M. Hannah Lauck. Before receiving her appointment as a magistrate judge, Judge Speight served as a partner with McGuireWoods LLP in Richmond, VA. There, she counseled and represented employers in all aspects of employment-related litigation, traditional labor law, employee benefits, and ERISA litigation.