PCT International Incorporated v. Holland Electronics LLC

Filing 430

ORDER, that Defendant's Application for Attorneys' Fees Re: Sanctions Awarded in Conjunction with Defendant's Motion to Quash Plaintiff's Trial Subpoenas (Doc. 356 ) is granted in part and denied in part. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED awarding Holland Electronics, LLC $6,463.50 in attorneys' fees. (See document for details.) Signed by Senior Judge James A Teilborg on 07/21/2015. (ATD)

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1 WO 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA 8 9 PCT International Incorporated, Plaintiff, 10 11 ORDER v. 12 No. CV-12-01797-PHX-JAT Holland Electronics LLC, 13 Defendant. 14 15 Pending before the Court is Defendant Holland Electronics, LLC’s (“Holland”) 16 Application for Attorneys’ Fees Re: Sanctions Awarded in Conjunction with Defendant’s 17 Motion to Quash Plaintiff’s Trial Subpoenas (“Application”). (Doc. 356). The Court now 18 rules on the Application. 19 I. Background 20 On April 13, 2015, Plaintiff PCT International, Inc. (“PCT”) issued and 21 subsequently served subpoenas on various witnesses residing outside of Arizona. (Doc. 22 328 at 12). Holland filed a motion to quash, arguing that the subpoenas were invalid 23 because the witnesses did not reside in Arizona and were located over 100 miles from the 24 Court. (Id. at 24). Additionally, Holland requested that the Court sanction PCT pursuant 25 to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule”) 45(d)(1). (Id. at 3). 26 On April 27, 2015, the Court considered whether it would quash the subpoenas 27 and impose sanctions on PCT. (Tr. 4/27/15 at 3738). At this hearing, PCT argued that it 28 had served the subpoenas because Holland would not reveal whether the “witnesses were 1 unavailable.” (Id.) Additionally, PCT claimed that it did not withdraw the subpoenas, 2 even after it was aware of the unavailability of the witnesses, because Holland did not 3 “provide . . . [PCT] with some authority that . . . [PCT] had an obligation to withdraw 4 them.” (Id. at 39). 5 The Court quashed the subpoenas and imposed sanctions on PCT in accordance 6 with Rule 45. (Id. at 4445). The sanctions were to “take the form of an application for 7 attorney’s fees by . . . [Holland], all in accordance with the local rule.” (Id.) The Court 8 stated that it would: 9 grant reasonable attorney’s fees for that which . . . [Holland has] had to expend to basically seek to get these subpoenas quashed upon notifying . . . [PCT] that the witnesses were neither residing in, employed in or regularly transacting business in the state of Arizona or within 100 miles of the court. 10 11 12 (Id.) 13 Holland seeks $18,992.00 in attorneys’ fees. (Doc. 402 at 3). PCT objects to the 14 fees listed for preparing the fee application and for having multiple attorneys prepare and 15 attend the April 27 hearing. (Doc. 397 at 2). Additionally, PCT argues that Holland is 16 only entitled to the fees incurred after Holland affirmed that the witnesses were 17 unavailable. (Id. at 4 n.1). PCT has not had an opportunity to object to Holland’s request 18 for fees associated with producing Defendant’s Reply in Support of Application for 19 Attorneys’ Fees Re: Sanctions Awarded in Conjunction with Defendant’s Motion to 20 Quash Plaintiff’s Trial Subpoenas (“Reply”). (Doc. 402). 21 II. Legal Standard 22 Attorneys, as officers of the court, have the capacity to issue subpoenas. Fed. R. 23 Civ. P. 45 advisory committee’s note to 1991 amendment. Accordingly, attorneys are 24 liable and responsible for “misuse of this power.” Id. To regulate attorneys’ subpoena 25 power, the Court can award “reasonable attorney’s fees” where a party fails to “avoid 26 imposing undue burden or expense on” a subpoenaed individual. Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(d)(1). 27 28 -2- 1 III. Analysis 2 A. 3 PCT objects to Holland’s request for $4,632.50 for preparing the Application. 4 (Doc. 397 at 23). PCT argues that Holland improperly relies upon Anderson v. Director, 5 Office of Workers Compensation Programs to justify its entitlement to fees for preparing 6 its Application. (Id. at 3) (citing Anderson v. Dir., Office of Workers Comp. Programs, 91 7 F.3d 1322, 1325 (9th Cir. 1996)). PCT claims that this Court has held that Anderson is 8 limited to cases involving fee applications under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. (Id.) (citing R. Prasad 9 Indus. v. Flat Irons Envtl. Sols. Corp., No. CV128261PCTJAT, 2014 WL 4722487, 10 Preparing the Fee Application and the Reply at *8 (D. Ariz. Sept. 23, 2014)). 11 Holland counters that although Prasad did hold that Anderson is specific to fee 12 applications under § 1988, it did not hold that “fees incurred in preparing a fee 13 application are only recoverable in § 1988 actions.” (Doc. 402 at 1). Additionally, 14 Holland claims that this Court, in Cooke v. Town of Colorado City, “cited § 1988 15 precedent as supporting an award of fees incurred to prepare a fee application in a case 16 not involving § 1988.” (Id.) (citing Cooke v. Town of Colo. City, No. 17 CV108105PCTJAT, 2015 WL 1806751, at *6 (D. Ariz. Apr. 21, 2015)). 18 Finally, Holland argues that Prasad did not address Rule 45, “which provides that 19 the Court must ‘impose an appropriate sanction . . . which may include . . . reasonable 20 attorney’s fees.’” (Id.) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(d)(1)). Holland notes that it could not 21 find specific case law supporting the proposition that a party is entitled to fees for 22 preparing a fee application after a Rule 45 violation. (Id.) However, Holland claims that 23 the Court can infer that allowing attorneys’ fees in this situation is appropriate because 24 courts have granted such fees for violations of other Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. 25 (Id. at 12). 26 First, Holland’s reliance on Cooke is misplaced. Although Cooke was not a § 1988 27 case, it involved a claim under the Arizona Fair Housing Act. Cooke, 2015 WL 1806751 28 at *1. “Congress’ purpose in authorizing fee awards [under § 1988] was to encourage -3- 1 compliance with and enforcement of the civil rights laws.” Dennis v. Chang, 611 F.2d 2 1302, 1306 (9th Cir. 1980). This policy is furthered by allowing an award of attorneys’ 3 fees in an Arizona Fair Housing Act case. The same cannot be said for awarding such 4 fees in the present patent case. 5 Second, the Court ordered that it would “grant reasonable attorney’s fees for that 6 which . . . [Holland has] . . . had to expend to basically seek to get these subpoenas 7 quashed.” (Tr. 4/27/15 at 4445). The language in the Court’s Order was restrictive, and 8 designated as compensable only the specific tasks necessary to “get the[] subpoenas 9 quashed.” (Id.) None of Holland’s cited cases indicate that there was such restrictive 10 language used when sanctions were imposed. In fact, Nelson expressly awarded all 11 “reasonable expenses, including attorneys’ fees, associated with the filing of . . . [the 12 motion for attorneys’ fees] and reply.” Nelson v. Millennium Labs., Inc., No. 13 CV121301PHXSLG, 2014 WL 1496623, at *4 (D. Ariz. Apr. 15, 2014). Unlike 14 Nelson, this Court did not expressly award fees for preparing the Application and the 15 Reply. Therefore, such fees will not be awarded. 16 B. 17 PCT claims that it is unreasonable for three attorneys to bill for preparing for and 18 attending the same hearing. (Doc. 397 at 3). The alleged redundancy comprises three 19 entries in Holland’s itemized statement of attorneys’ fees. (Id.) On April 27: (1) Mr. 20 Leach billed 0.40 hours ($262.00) to “[a]ttend hearing on motion to quash subpoenas and 21 request for sanctions; argue motion to quash and motion for sanctions”; (2) Mr. Shaw 22 billed 0.40 hours ($236.00) to “[p]repare for and attend pretrial conference and hearing re 23 motion to quash trial subpoenas”; and (3) Mr. Parseghian billed 0.40 hours ($134.00) to 24 “[p]repare for, travel to, and attend hearing regarding objections to evidence, witnesses, 25 and other outstanding issues.” (Id.) Preparing for and Attending the Hearing 26 The Court should not award fees for work performed that was “unnecessarily 27 duplicative.” See Moreno v. City of Sacramento, 534 F.3d 1106, 1112 (9th Cir. 2008). 28 However, attorneys can “attend hearing[s] without participating” and work “on the same -4- 1 issues” without such work being unnecessarily duplicative. Cooke v. Town of Colo. City, 2 No. CV1008105PCTJAT, 2015 WL 1806751, at *6 (D. Ariz. Apr. 21, 2015). This 3 work may have required all three Snell & Wilmer (“Snell”) attorneys to work together to 4 effectively represent their client. Accordingly, Holland’s counsel did not engage in work 5 that was unnecessarily duplicative in having three attorneys prepare for and attend the 6 hearing. 7 Additionally, the remaining billingwhich was not objected todescribes with 8 sufficient particularity the tasks performed, and does not engage in block billing by 9 grouping unrelated tasks. Moshir v. Automobili Lamborghini Am. LLC, 927 F. Supp. 2d 10 789, 799 (D. Ariz. 2013). This billing was not duplicative and did not involve charging 11 for an unreasonable amount of time given the tasks performed. (Doc. 356 Ex. D). 12 Therefore, the fees accrued by Holland’s counsel are reasonable in terms of the time and 13 labor expended. 14 C. 15 PCT contends that Holland should only recover those attorneys’ fees incurred after 16 April 17, 2015the date on which Holland agreed that the witnesses were unavailable 17 under Rule 32(a)(4)(B). (Doc. 397 at 4 n.1). PCT argues that it “initially had no choice 18 but to serve the subpoenas at issue due to Holland’s insistence on reserving its rights to 19 object to the playing of any deposition testimony at trial because it had not been proven 20 that the witnesses were ‘unavailable.’” (Id.) Both Holland and PCT agree that Holland 21 did not affirmatively agree that the “witnesses were unavailable” until April 17. (Id.; Doc. 22 356 at 2 n.3). Witness Unavailability 23 Rule 32 allows a party to use the deposition of a witness at trial if, among other 24 requirements, “the court finds . . . that a witness is more than 100 miles from the place of 25 hearing or trial.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 32(a)(4)(B). 26 Because there was no agreement between the parties that the witnesses were 27 unavailable for the purpose of Rule 32 until April 17, PCT was justified in its uncertainty 28 regarding whether the witnesses were within the Court’s subpoena power. Rule 32 -5- 1 provides that unavailability is not officially determined until the Court rules on the 2 matter. Fed. R. Civ. P. 32(a)(1)(4). Therefore, until Holland affirmatively agreed that the 3 witnesses were unavailable, it still could have argued that the witnesses were available 4 despite its correspondences with PCT indicating that the witnesses were outside of the 5 Court’s subpoena power. As such, the Court finds that PCT’s position prior to April 17 6 was reasonable, and thus not subject to sanctions. As a result, $1,672.00 should be 7 subtracted from Holland’s fees.1 8 D. 9 Because the Court permitted Holland to recover only those attorneys’ fees 10 incurred in getting the subpoenas quashed, (Tr. 4/27/15 at 4445), Holland is not entitled 11 to the $10,856.50 it requests for preparing its Application and Reply. Additionally, 12 Holland is not entitled to the $1,672.00 of fees it incurred before it affirmatively told PCT 13 that the witnesses would be unavailable. Summary of Fees 14 On the other handbecause the time and labor expended were reasonable, 15 significant knowledge and skill were required, the fee charged was customary, and the 16 Snell attorneys have significant experience, reputation, and abilitythe remaining fees 17 incurred of $6,463.50 are reasonable. Therefore, Holland is entitled to $6,463.50 in 18 attorneys’ fees from PCT. 19 IV. 20 Conclusion Accordingly, 21 / 22 / 23 / 24 / 25 / 26 27 28 1 It is not clear from Holland’s itemized statement of attorneys’ fees at what point on April 17 Holland affirmatively told PCT that the witnesses were unavailable. (Doc. 356 Ex. D). Therefore, given the ambiguity, the Court errs on the side of caution and abstains from awarding fees for work performed on April 17. -6- 1 IT IS ORDERED that Defendant’s Application for Attorneys’ Fees Re: Sanctions 2 Awarded in Conjunction with Defendant’s Motion to Quash Plaintiff’s Trial Subpoenas 3 (Doc. 356) is granted in part and denied in part. 4 5 6 IT IS FURTHER ORDERED awarding Holland Electronics, LLC $6,463.50 in attorneys’ fees. Dated this 21st day of July, 2015. 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 -7-

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