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Former Miles & Stockbridge principal contends attorneys’ fees request is reasonable

Donald E. English Jr.

Donald E. English Jr.

Attorneys for Donald E. English Jr. maintain that their client’s request for almost $776,000 in attorneys’ fees is in line with Maryland law and in their latest filing call his former firm’s arguments opposing the motion “frivolous.”

English, who was awarded $231,000 following a jury trial in June, filed a motion seeking the attorneys’ fees from Miles & Stockbridge PC last month, alleging the firm used a “scorched-earth” defense strategy and refused to entertain numerous settlement offers, causing English to rack up such exorbitant fees.

English is requesting his old firm pay the fees for the more than 1,600 hours his two attorneys, Tonya Baña and Kenneth Ravenell, spent on the case. The litigation may have “proceeded like any other garden-variety wage dispute,” the plaintiff’s motion states, but Miles & Stockbridge complicated the case.

In Monday’s filing, English’s attorneys argue that state law does not use a “matrix” to gauge whether an attorney’s hourly rates are reasonable, countering Miles & Stockbridge’s claim that Ravenell’s requested hourly rate of $850 was far higher than the market rate for employment litigation in Baltimore under federal guidelines.

Baña also argues Maryland law allows the use of “block billing” in situations where multiple claims arise from the same core facts, the filing states. She alleges the attorneys representing Miles & Stockbridge use the same practice.

“In short, as Defendant has done throughout this litigation, the Opposition ignores relevant legal authorities and encourages the Court to follow legal authorities that are inconsistent with Maryland law,” Baña wrote in the filing.

In a response filed earlier this month in Baltimore City Circuit Court, Miles & Stockbridge asked a judge to either deny the motion or substantially lower the attorneys’ fees for what it describes as an employment contract case that lasted 11 months, involved two parties, did not have any counterclaims and had less than 125 “substantive” docket entries.

“(What) English seeks is astronomical when compared to awards in similar, and even much more complex and much longer cases,” attorneys for Miles & Stockbridge wrote.

The firm is represented by Ward B. Coe III and Mark S. Saudek, partners at Gallagher, Evelius & Jones LLP in Baltimore.

Baña contends in Monday’s filing that Coe made “the exact same arguments” as English in support of a fee award in a 2010 case in which the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision to award Gallagher, Evelius & Jones’ legal fees.

Miles & Stockbridge does not comment on pending litigation.

“We remain confident in our case and the appeal process,” a firm spokeswoman said Tuesday.

English’s attorneys also submitted an affidavit by William H. Murphy Jr., senior partner at Murphy Falcon & Murphy, supporting Baña and Ravenell’s hourly rates. Both attorneys worked at Murphy’s firm until they opened their own practices.

Murphy contends both attorneys’ hourly rates are reasonable, adding that Ravenell charged more when he worked at Murphy Falcon & Murphy and that if Baña still worked there, the firm would charge more than her requested $400 per-hour rate for her services.

Now a non-equity partner at Jackson Lewis PC in Baltimore, English resigned from Miles & Stockbridge in July 2017 after 13 years with the firm, the last four as equity principal. English claimed after he resigned that Miles & Stockbridge reduced his salary and “clawed back” nearly $60,000 the firm had paid him, according. The firm also refused to pay English for his work on the last three days of the job as well as his salary and benefits through the end of the month and any prorated bonuses, according to his lawsuit.

The jury’s award in June included treble damages. Miles & Stockbridge filed a notice of appeal last month after a judge denied post-trial motions filed by the firm seeking to set aside or reduce the verdict.

The case is Donald E. English, Jr. vs Miles & Stockbridge PC, 24C17004438.

 


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