Wagner v. Plexos Group, LLC
ORDER: Plaintiff's shall brief and file evidence that will aid the Court in making the lodestar determination of reasonable attorney's fees within thirty (30) days of this Order; and the Parties shall jointly brief, within thirty (30) days of this Order, why the record documents previously filed under seal should be maintained under seal and why the proposed settlement agreement should be filed and maintained under seal. Signed by Chief Judge Shelly D. Dick on 6/7/2021. (LLH)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
JAMES PATRICK WAGNER, ET AL.
PLEXOS GROUP, L.L.C.
Before the Court is the Parties’ Joint Consent Motion for Approval of Confidential
Settlement and Release1.
The Parties jointly seek Court approval of a Settlement Agreement reached in this
FLSA case, which has been filed into the record under seal at Rec. Doc. 59. The FLSA
provides that “any employer who violates the provisions of section 206 or 207 of this title
shall be liable to the employee ... affected in the amount of unpaid wages, or their unpaid
overtime compensation, as the case may be....” 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). FLSA claims may be
compromised after the court reviews and approves a settlement in a private action for
back wages under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Lynn's Food Stores, Inc. v. United States, U.S.
Dep't of Labor, 679 F.2d 1350, 1353 (11th Cir.1982).1 If the settlement reflects “a
reasonable compromise over issues,” the court may approve it. Id. at 1354. Prater v.
Commerce Equities Mgmt. Co., Inc., 2008 WL 5140045, at *2 (S.D.Tex.,2008).
Rec. Doc. 60.
The Court requires additional submittals and briefing from the Parties on 2 matters:
(1) the reasonableness of the attorney fee award requested and (2) the propriety of
sealing the settlement agreement.
Attorney’s Fees Standard
The FLSA provides that “[t]he court in such action shall, in addition to any judgment
awarded to the plaintiff or plaintiffs, allow a reasonable attorney's fee to be paid by the
defendant, and costs of the action.” 29 U.S.C. § 216(b) Fee awards are mandatory for
prevailing plaintiffs in FLSA cases. See Kreager v. Solomon & Flanagan P.A., 775 F.2d
1541 (11th Cir.1985). Having reached a settlement agreement, the Plaintiffs are
prevailing parties. For the purposes of an attorneys' fee award a prevailing party is one
who has “succeeded on any significant claim affording it some of the relief sought.” Tex.
State Teachers Ass'n v. Garland Indp. Sch. Dist., 489 U.S. 782, 791, 109 S.Ct. 1486, 103
L.Ed.2d 866 (1989). This includes a party who benefits from a settlement that may be
“judicially sanctioned.” Roberson v. Giuliani, 346 F.3d 75, 79–80 (2d Cir.2003) (quoting
Buckhannon Bd. & Care Home, Inc. v. W. Va. Dep't of Health & Human Res., 532 U.S.
598, 121 S.Ct. 1835, 149 L.Ed.2d 855 (2001)).
To assess the reasonable attorney fee to be awarded to a prevailing party in FLSA
suits, Courts must use the “lodestar method”. Strong v. Bellsouth Telecomm., Inc., 137
F.3d 844, 850 (5th Cir.1998). The district court must first determine the reasonable
number of hours expended on the litigation and the reasonable hourly rate for the
participating attorney. Id. The lodestar is then computed by multiplying the number of
hours reasonably expended by the reasonable hourly rate. Id. The party seeking
attorneys' fees bears the initial burden of submitting adequate documentation of the hours
reasonably expended and of the attorneys' qualification and skill. See Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433, 103 S.Ct. 1933, 76 L.Ed.2d 40 (1983). After calculating the
lodestar, the court must consider whether to adjust the fee upward or downward. The
most important factor to consider is the results obtained. If the success is limited, the
lodestar should be reduced to reflect that. But the fee award should not be simply
proportionate to the result obtained. Andrews v. United States, 122 F.3d 1367, 1376 (11th
Cir.1997). Prater v. Commerce Equities Mgmt. Co., Inc., 2008 WL 5140045, at *2–3
The Plaintiffs are hereby ORDERED to supplement the record with evidence from
which the Court may make the lodestar analysis.
Motion to Seal the Settlement Agreement
The proposed settlement agreement contains a confidentiality provision.2 The
proposed settlement agreement may remain sealed only if the Parties’ interest in the
confidentiality of the settlement amounts outweighs the public's common-law right of
access to judicial records.
Courts do not typically examine or approve settlement agreements, which are
purely private contracts. However, the FLSA requires judicial oversight and approval of
settlements thus becoming part of the judicial record.3
Although not absolute, “the public has a common law right to inspect and copy
judicial records”.4 “Every court has supervisory power over its own records and files, and
Rec. Doc. 59 (sealed).
Jessup v. Luther, 277 F.3d 926 (7th Cir.2002) (noting that when a settlement is entered into the court's file
under seal it becomes part of the judicial record); Boone v. City of Suffolk, 79 F.Supp.2d 603 (E.D.Va.1999)
(treating FLSA settlement approved by court as judicial record).
SEC v. Van Waeyenberghe, 990 F.2d 845, 848 (5th Cir.1993) (citing Nixon v. Warner Communications,
Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 597, 98 S.Ct. 1306, 55 L.Ed.2d 570 (1978)).
access has been denied where court files might have become a vehicle for improper
purposes.“5 In some cases, such as those involving “trade secrets, the identity of
informants, and the privacy of children,”6 or those in which information could be used for
“scandalous or libelous purposes,”7 the interest in secrecy is compelling. However, “the
district court's discretion to seal the record of judicial proceedings is to be exercised
charily.“8 The presumption that judicial records are open to the public is based on the
nature of democracy and the “citizen's desire to keep a watchful eye on the workings of
public agencies.”9 A judge is “the primary representative of the public interest in the
judicial process and is duty-bound therefore to review any request to seal” and must not
simply “rubber stamp a stipulation to seal the record.”10
The Parties are hereby ORDERED to brief good cause for the sealing of the
Settlement Agreement and for maintaining the Seal over the other Record Documents
previously filed under seal.
Jessup, 277 F.3d at 928,
Hagestad v. Tragesser, 49 F.3d 1430, 1434 (9th Cir.1995).
Van Waeyenberghe, 990 F.2d at 848 (quoting Federal Savings & Loan Ins. Corp. v. Blain, 808 F.2d 395,
399 (5th Cir.1987).
Nixon, 435 U.S. at 598, 98 S.Ct. at 1306.
Citizens First Nat'l Bank of Princeton v. Cincinnati Ins. Co., 178 F.3d 943, 945 (7th Cir.1999); Prater v.
Commerce Equities Mgmt. Co., Inc., 2008 WL 5140045, at *9 (S.D.Tex.,2008).
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Plaintiff’s brief and file evidence that will aid
the Court in making the lodestar determination of reasonable attorney’s fees within thirty
(30) days of this Order; and
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Parties jointly brief, within thirty (30) days of
this Order, why the record documents previously filed under seal should be maintained
under seal and why the proposed settlement agreement should be filed and maintained
Signed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on June 7, 2021.
CHIEF JUDGE SHELLY D. DICK
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
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