"Ultimately, the computation of a fee award is necessarily an exercise of judgment, because 'there is no precise rule or formula for making these determinations.'" Villano v. City of Boynton Beach, 254 F.3d 1302, 1305 (11th Cir. 2001) (quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at 436). Additionally, the Court is "an expert on the question [of attorney's fees] and may consider its own knowledge and experience concerning reasonable and proper fees and may form an independent judgment either with or without the aid of witnesses as to value." Norman, 836 F.2d at 1303 (internal quotation marks omitted). "Courts are not authorized to be generous with the money of others, and it is as much the duty of courts to see that excessive fees and expenses are not awarded as it is to see that an adequate amount is awarded." ACLU of Ga. v. Barnes, 168 F.3d 423, 428 (11th Cir. 1999).
1. Reasonable Hourly Rate
"A reasonable hourly rate is the prevailing market rate in the relevant legal community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skills, experience, and reputation." Norman, 836 F.2d at 1299. The applicant bears the burden of producing satisfactory evidence that the requested rate is in line with the prevailing market rates. Id. The trial court, itself, is an expert on the question of the reasonableness of fees and may consider its own knowledge and experience. Id. at 1303.
The DCS Defendants request the following hourly rates: $415 for Michael D. Crosbie, Esq., a partner at Shutts and Bowen, LLP; $400 for Jennifer Sommerville, Esq., of counsel at Shutts and Bowen; and $210 for Nicole Ballante, Esq., an associate at the firm. (Doc. 233 ¶8). Mr. *5 Crosbie is a former Middle District law clerk with over twenty years of experience in the central Florida legal market. (Id. ¶7). He declares that he is familiar with hourly rates charged by attorneys in the area and that his firm's rate is consistent with those rates. (Id. ¶6).
Plaintiffs' expert, Nicholas A. Shannin, Esq., agrees that Mr. Crosbie's $415 per hour is a reasonable fee, although he does not comment on the other rates. (Doc. 250-1 ¶A). A review of decisions from this division shows that the prevailing market rate is not inconsistent with the proposed attorney's fees. See, e.g., Ranize v. Town of Lady Lake, Fla., No. 5:11-cv-646, 2015 WL 1037047, at *5 (M.D. Fla. Mar. 10, 2015) (awarding counsel a rate of $375 per hour in the Ocala market); Am. Home Assurance Co. v. Weaver Aggregate Transp. Inc., 89 F. Supp. 1294, 1304 (M.D. Fla. 2015) (approving of $171-229 rate for an associate in the Ocala market). In addition, the Court has previously found Mr. Crosbie's $415 rate reasonable. (Docs. 115, 146).
Although Plaintiffs do not specifically address the hourly rates for the two other attorneys on the case, they do not present any objections to their rates either. Considering the seriousness of allegations made in Plaintiff's complaint, the complexity of the legal issues, and the volume of the factual allegations (along with Plaintiff's lack of opposition to the rates), the Court finds that the rates sought here are not unreasonable.
2. Reasonableness of Hours Expended
The next step in the lodestar analysis is to determine what hours were reasonably expended in the litigation. The attorney-fee applicant bears the initial burden of submitting evidence sufficient to allow the court to confirm that the requested fees are not excessive. Barnes, 168 F.3d at 428. Then, "'objections and proof from fee opponents' concerning hours that should be excluded must be specific and 'reasonably precise.'" Id. Attorneys "must exercise their own billing judgment to exclude any hours that are excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary." Galdames *6 v. N&D Inv. Corp., 432 F. App'x 801, 806 (11th Cir. 2011). If applicants do not exercise billing judgment, courts are obligated to do it for them. Courts may cut specific hours, or may engage in "an across-the-board cut," as long as the court adequately explains its reasons for doing so. Id.