Lafever v. Acosta, Inc.

Filing 194

ORDER by Magistrate Judge Bernard Zimmerman granting 174 Motion for Attorney Fees (bzsec, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 11/8/2011)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 MARIA LAFEVER 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Plaintiff(s), v. ACOSTA, INC., a Delaware Closed Corporation, also d/b/a ACOSTA TRUEDEMAND, LLC; and also d/b/a ACOSTA MILITARY SALES, LLC; and DOES 1 through 20, inclusive, Defendant(s). ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) No. C10-01782 BZ ORDER GRANTING ATTORNEYS’ FEES AND COSTS 19 20 In this action, Plaintiff Maria Lafever (“Plaintiff”) 21 sued her former employer, Defendant Acosta, Inc. 22 (“Defendant”) for violating several disability discrimination 23 provisions of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act 24 (“FEHA”) and for wrongfully terminating her. 25 settled the Friday before trial, and as part of the 26 settlement, Defendant agreed that Plaintiff’s attorneys’ fees 27 would be determined by a motion for attorneys’ fees. 28 Plaintiff now moves the court for an award of $973,680 in 1 The case 1 attorneys’ fees. 2 to work performed by attorney William Adams and his 3 paralegal, Julie Lundgren, and $142,320.00 is attributable to 4 work performed by attorney Kirk Boyd.1 5 Of this amount, $831,360.00 is attributable “An award of attorneys’ fees incurred in a suit based on 6 state substantive law is generally governed by state law.” 7 Champion Produce, Inc. v. Ruby Robinson Co., 342 F.3d 1016, 8 1024 (9th Cir. 2003). 9 to award reasonable attorneys’ fees to “the prevailing party, 10 . . . except where the action is filed by a public agency or 11 a public official, acting in an official capacity.” 12 Gov. Code § 12965(b). 13 the FEHA is appropriate, California courts look to federal 14 decisions addressing such awards under Title VII. 15 City of L.A., 47 Cal. 4th 970, 985 (2010). 16 Under the FEHA, courts have discretion Cal. To determine whether a fee award under Chavez v. For the purposes of attorneys’ fees, Plaintiff prevailed 17 in this action, and pursuant to the parties’ settlement 18 agreement, Plaintiff is entitled to attorneys’ fees. 19 parties’ dispute is over the amount. 20 The To determine reasonable attorneys’ fees, the court must 21 first calculate the lodestar by taking the number of hours 22 reasonably expended by the litigation and multiplying it by a 23 reasonable hourly rate. 24 1115, 1119 (9th Cir. 2000) (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 25 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)). Fischer v. SJB-P.D. Inc., 214 F.3d A reasonable rate is typically based 26 1 27 28 Plaintiff originally sought an additional 50 hours for work performed by Mr. Boyd’s summer law clerks. Plaintiff has since eliminated those hours from her request. (See Supplemental Declaration of Kirk Boyd, Docket No. 188, ¶ 6.) 2 1 upon the prevailing market rate in the community for “similar 2 work performed by attorneys of comparable skill, experience, 3 and reputation.” 4 1210 (9th Cir. 1986); 5 1545-46 (9th Cir. 1992); see also Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 6 886, 896 n.11 (1984) (“[T]he burden is on the fee applicant 7 to produce satisfactory evidence . . . that the requested 8 rates are in line with those prevailing in the community.”). 9 To support a fee request, the prevailing party may submit Chalmers v. City of L.A., 796 F.2d 1205, Davis v. City of S.F., 976 F.2d 1536, 10 expert witness testimony regarding attorneys’ fees and 11 declarations containing “verifiable information regarding 12 rates allowed by courts.” 13 Bonta, 97 Cal. App. 4th 740, 782-83 (2002). 14 Reasonable Hourly Rate Children’s Hosp. & Med. Ctr. v. 15 Defendant objects that the hourly rates of all of 16 Plaintiff’s counsel exceed the average rates of California 17 litigators with similar experience. 18 attorneys’ reasonable hourly rate, California courts consider 19 “the hourly prevailing rate for private attorneys in the 20 community conducting noncontingent litigation of the same 21 type.” 22 “assessing a reasonable hourly rate, the trial court is 23 allowed to consider the attorney’s skill as reflected in the 24 quality of the work, as well as the attorney’s reputation and 25 status.” 26 4th Supp. 1, 13 (2006) (citing Ketchum, 24 Cal.4th at 1139 27 (2001). To ascertain an Ketchum v. Moses, 24 Cal. 4th 1122, 1133 (2001). In MBNA America Bank, N.A. v. Gorman, 147 Cal. App. 28 3 1 2 William Adams Plaintiff requests $700.00 as a reasonable hourly rate 3 for Mr. Adams. 4 warrants reduction because Plaintiff has failed to 5 demonstrate it is in line with prevailing rates for general 6 commercial or employment litigation in a case such as this, 7 one that involves only moderate complexity. 8 9 I find that Mr. Adams’ requested hourly rate In support of her fee request, Plaintiff submits the declaration of William M. Hensley, an attorney and 10 contributor to a website devoted to summarizing state and 11 federal decisions in California dealing with attorneys’ fees 12 and hourly rates. 13 for Mr. Adams is reasonable because even though it is on the 14 “higher end” of hourly rates charged by attorneys in San 15 Francisco law firms, it is commensurate with Mr. Adams’ “high 16 experience level.” 17 (“Henlsey Decl.”) ¶ 17.) 18 exclusively on Mr. Adams’ years in practice to justify his 19 hourly rate. 20 hourly rates found to be reasonable by various courts in this 21 district, along with those attorneys’ years of experience, he 22 does not indicate those attorneys’ skills or reputation and 23 therefore fails to directly compare Mr. Adams to counsel of 24 similar skill, experience and reputation for whom a $700 25 hourly rate is reasonable. 26 demonstrates that he has 36 years of experience litigating 27 employment cases. 28 $700 as “reasonable” for an attorney of his experience, he Mr. Hensley opines that a $700 hourly rate (Declaration of William M. Hensley Mr. Hensley relies almost While Mr. Henlsey provides a list of attorneys’ Mr. Adams’ declaration Although he describes his hourly rate of 4 1 fails to provide evidence that he has ever been awarded that 2 rate or that any client has actually paid that rate. 3 Camarillo v. City of Maywood, Case No. 07-3469, 2011 U.S. 4 Dist. LEXIS 93695, at *7, 2011 WL 3665028 (C.D. Cal. Aug. 22, 5 2011) (“The actual rate that an attorney can command in the 6 market and customarily charges is itself highly relevant 7 proof of the prevailing community rate.”); see also, Velez v. 8 Roche, Case No. 02-337, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 29848, at *25 9 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 22, 2004). See And while Mr. Hensley’s 10 declaration provides a great deal of information on the range 11 of hourly rates charged by attorneys with varying years of 12 experience, those hourly rates provide no information on the 13 background or experience levels of the attorneys, and tend 14 only to demonstrate that an attorney’s number of years in 15 practice does not necessarily correlate with the appropriate 16 hourly rate for that attorney. 17 with thirty-three years of experience billed at $775 per 18 hour, while attorney with twenty-six years was $905.00 per 19 hour).) 20 for attorneys with similar levels of experience as Mr. Adams, 21 I find that a $600.00 hourly rate is reasonable.2 (Hensley Decl. ¶ 20 (attorney After reviewing recent fee awards in this district See, e.g., 22 2 23 24 25 26 27 28 Moreover, when considering the appropriateness of counsel’s requested hourly rate, a court may take into account: (1) the novelty and complexity of the issues; (2) the special skill and experience of counsel; (3) the quality of representation; and (4) the results obtained. Campbell v. Nat’l Passenger R.R. Corp., 718 F. Supp. 2d 1093, 1098 (N.D. Cal. 2010); Cabrales v. County of Los Angeles, 864 F.2d 1454, 1464 (9th Cir. 1988), vacated on other grounds. I am also permitted to rely on my own knowledge of customary rates and my experience concerning reasonable and proper fees. Ingram v. Oroudjian, 647 F.3d 925, 928 (9th Cir. 2011). In considering each of these factors, I find that this matter did not involve 5 1 Hamed v. Macy’s W. Stores, Case No. 10-2790, 2011 U.S. Dist. 2 LEXIS 125838, 2011 WL 5183856 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 31, 2011) 3 (awarding attorney with thirty-five years experience with 4 “extensive trial experience” and an “excellent reputation” 5 $565 per hour in contested FEHA action); White v. Coblentz, 6 Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP Long Term Disability Ins. Plan, Case 7 No. 10-1855, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 125657 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 31, 8 2011) (awarding attorney with thirty-one years of litigation 9 experience $600 per hour in contested ERISA action); Muniz v. 10 UPS, Case No. 09-1987, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 94364, 2011 WL 11 3740808 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 23, 2011) (awarding attorney with 12 forty years experience $445 per hour in contested FEHA 13 action); Mitchel v. City of Santa Rosa, Case No. 09-5004, 14 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 80596, 2010 WL 2740069, at *2 (N.D. 15 Cal. July 12, 2010) (awarding $420.75 per hour for Bay Area 16 law firm partner with thirty-six years of experience in 17 defense-side employment law litigation); 18 Passenger R.R. Corp., 718 F.Supp.2d 1093 (N.D. Cal. 2010) 19 (finding support for “a market rate from $380 to $775 per 20 hour for experienced employment and civil rights attorneys in 21 the Northern District [of California]” for the years 22 2006-2009); Freitag v. Cal. Dep’t of Corr., Case No. 00-2278, 23 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 119220 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 8, 2008) 24 (awarding $525 and $575 per hour for experienced civil rights Campbell v. Nat’l 25 26 27 28 novel or particularly complex issues and that Mr. Adams’ performance throughout this litigation, discussed below, does not merit the rate requested, particularly in light of my knowledge of the prevailing rates in the community for similarly experienced litigators. For this same reason, I find no reason to apply a multiplier. 6 1 attorneys).3 2 Julie Lundgren I find that the rate of $175 per hour is reasonable for 3 4 Ms. Lundgren’s paralegal time.4 5 graduate of Boston University and is a certified paralegal 6 with over 25-years of experience. 7 provide any detail about the types of cases Ms. Lundgren 8 typically handles and what law firms she previously worked 9 for, the going rate for paralegal work in this district is Ms. Lundgren is a 1982 While Plaintiff fails to See, e.g., Mitchel, 2010 U.S. 10 approximately $150 per hour. 11 Dist. LEXIS 80596, 2010 WL 2740069, at *2 (awarding $136.00 12 per hour for paralegal at Bay Area law firm who had ten years 13 of experience and a degree in paralegal studies); Campbell, 14 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20778, 2010 WL 625362, at *6-7 15 (awarding $160 per hour for paralegal services in 2006-2009); 16 Faigman v. AT&T Mobility LLC, Case No. 06-4622, 2011 U.S. 17 Dist. LEXIS 15825, 2011 WL 672648 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 15, 2011) 18 (awarding $150 for paralegal services); Muniz, 2011 U.S. 19 Dist. LEXIS 94364, at *29 (awarding $130 per hour for 20 certified paralegal). 21 experience than the paralegals in the cases cited, and in 22 this case, she performed some work more akin to a junior 23 level associate. Ms. Lundgren has significantly more I therefore find that a $175 hourly rate 24 3 25 This rate also accounts for the fact that Mr. Adams’ office is located in Pleasanton, where the overhead is lower than in San Francisco. 26 4 27 28 There are inconsistencies in Plaintiff’s motion regarding what rate Plaintiff seeks for Ms. Lundgren’s time. (Compare Declaration of William Adams (“Adams Decl.) ¶ 10, seeking $250 per hour, with ¶ 13, seeking $150 per hour.) 7 1 for her work is reasonable. 2 Kirk Boyd 3 Plaintiff requests $600.00 as a reasonable hourly rate 4 for Mr. Boyd. 5 submits Mr. Boyd’a declaration which sets forth his 6 educational and professional background. 7 states that he is aware that other attorneys with his same 8 degree of education, training and skill have hourly rates of 9 $700 or higher. In support of this fee award, Plaintiff Mr. Boyd also (Declaration of Kirk Boyd (“Boyd Decl.”) ¶ 10 11.) 11 with any evidence of prior fee awards regarding his hourly 12 rate and fails to state that any client has paid him $600 per 13 hour. 14 Grover, a partner with the law firm of Keller Grover LLP, 15 located in San Francisco, who states that he spends 16 approximately 95% of his time representing plaintiffs in 17 employment matters and that he has a similar background to 18 Mr. Boyd (e.g., both graduated law school within three years 19 of each other and were trained a large law firms before 20 forming their own firms). 21 states that his present billing rate is $650 per hour and 22 that he was recently awarded fees based on that rate. 23 Like Mr. Adams, Mr. Boyd fails to provide the court Instead, Mr. Boyd submitted a declaration by Eric Mr. Grover’s declaration further Mr. Boyd was brought into this case for the specific 24 purpose of assisting Mr. Adams with the trial. 25 billing entries begin on June 24, 2011, three days before the 26 pre-trial conference. 27 reasonable that Mr. Adams brought in another attorney to 28 assist him with the anticipated trial in this case, Mr. Boyd’s As noted during the hearing, I find it 8 1 particularly given the fact that Defendant had at least two 2 (and possibly three) attorneys assisting it with its defense. 3 While it may not have been necessary for Mr. Adams to bring 4 in an attorney with Mr. Boyd’s 25 years of experience, the 5 Ninth Circuit has cautioned district courts not to second- 6 guess staffing decisions. 7 F.3d 1106, 1115 (9th Cir. Cal. 2008). 8 think that Mr. Boyd’s requested rate is reasonable. 9 reviewed prior fee awards pertaining to Mr. Boyd in this 10 district, and in light of these fee awards and Mr. Boyd’s 11 background, experience and the level of complexity of this 12 case, I find that a $575 hourly rate is reasonable. 13 HP Pavilion Mgmt., Case No. 04-00082, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14 21125, 2006 WL 927332 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 10, 2006) (awarding Mr. 15 Boyd $350 per hour for work performed between 2004-2006); 16 Hamed, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 125838 (awarding experienced 17 litigation attorney with 35 years of practice $565 per hour 18 in contested FEHA action). 19 Reasonable Number of Hours 20 Moreno v. City of Sacramento, 534 Nevertheless, I do not I have Bobol v. The court has discretion to determine the number of Chalmers, 796 F.2d 21 hours reasonably expended on this case. 22 at 1211; Hensley, 461 U.S. at 437 (noting that a district 23 court has discretion in determining the amount of a fee 24 award, which is “appropriate in view of the district court’s 25 superior understanding of the litigation and the desirability 26 of avoiding frequent appellate review of what essentially are 27 factual matters”). 28 hours “where documentation of the hours is inadequate; if the The court may, in its discretion, reduce 9 1 case was overstaffed and hours are duplicated; [or] if the 2 hours expended are deemed excessive or otherwise 3 unnecessary.” 4 attorney fees, the prevailing party may only be compensated 5 for those hours of work that were “reasonably expended.” 6 L.H. v. Schwarzenegger, 645 F. Supp. 2d 888, 896 (E.D. Cal. 7 2009) (quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433-34)). 8 applicant bears the burden of “documenting the appropriate 9 hours expended” in the litigation and therefore must “submit Chalmers, 796 F.2d at 1210. 10 evidence supporting the hours worked.” 11 When awarding See The fee 433, 437. 12 Hensley, 461 U.S. at Moreover, in cases where a voluminous fee application is 13 filed, in exercising its billing judgment the district court 14 “is not required to set forth an hour-by-hour analysis of the 15 fee request.” 16 Cir. 1992) (citing Jacobs v. Mancuso, 825 F.2d 559, 562 (1st 17 Cir. 1987)). 18 the district court has the authority to make across-the-board 19 percentage cuts either in the number of hours claimed or in 20 the final lodestar figure ‘as a practical means of trimming 21 the fat from a fee application.’” 22 York State Ass’n for Retarded Children v. Carey, 711 F.2d 23 1136, 1146 (2d Cir. 1983)). 24 counsels’ records, I find that an across-the-board percentage 25 reduction in hours is necessary. 26 Gates v. Deukmejian, 987 F.2d 1392, 1399 (9th “[W]hen faced with a massive fee application Id. at 1399 (quoting New Having analyzed Plaintiff’s To begin, it is worth reiterating that this was a fairly 27 routine, single-plaintiff case under FEHA that did not 28 proceed through trial. The legal disputes were not novel; 10 1 nor were the policy implications of the lawsuit. 2 stated at the hearing, given the circumstances, it is 3 somewhat troubling that the Plaintiff’s fees in this case 4 have somehow reached the near million dollar mark. 5 v. Macy's W. Stores, Case No. 10-2790, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6 125838 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 31, 2011) (awarding $463,401 in 7 attorneys fees in a contested FEHA action that proceeded 8 through trial).5 9 was little discovery motion practice, and only one round of 10 Thus, as I Cf Hamed This is particularly true given that there summary judgment briefing.6 After reviewing the time records submitted by Mr. Adams, 11 12 I find that an across the board reduction in the requested 13 hours is warranted in light of 1) the general level of 14 disorganization and inefficiency I witnessed throughout the 15 course of the litigation on the part of Mr. Adams; and 2) the 16 5 17 18 19 20 21 22 The only remotely similar employment case involving a million dollar fee to which Plaintiff could point is Wysinger v. Automobile Club of Southern California, 157 Cal. App. 4th 413 (2007). Wysinger affirmed a trial court award of $978,791.00 in attorneys’ fees after the plaintiff had obtained a jury verdict of $1.284 million, which the trial court characterized as an excellent result, and for which it awarded a 1.1 multiplier. Apart from being factually distinguishable on many grounds, the issue in Wysinger was whether the trial court erred in not reducing the fee award because the plaintiff had not prevailed on every claim. The Court of Appeal affirmed without any discussion about the reasonableness of the award, which does not otherwise appear to have been challenged. 23 6 24 25 26 27 28 Plaintiff makes much of the fact that Defendant failed to submit a separate statement of facts to accompany its motion for summary judgment, arguing that this failure somehow resulted in the necessity of revising and resubmitting a new opposition brief. I find this argument unpersuasive, particularly in light of the fact that, as pointed out by Defendant during the hearing, its moving papers were substantively unaltered when it re-filed its motion to incorporate a separate statement, thereby not necessitating any substantive edits to Plaintiff’s opposition. 11 1 excessiveness of some of Mr. Adams’ billing entries. With 2 respect to the first issue of inefficiency, Mr. Adams often 3 engaged in untimely filings and filed “corrected” versions of 4 various motions to account for this untimeliness. 5 e.g., Docket Nos. 67, 164.) 6 record that Mr. Adams was not diligent in responding to 7 defense counsel’s telephone calls or telephone calls from the 8 court, and that Plaintiff’s counsel failed to comply with 9 various court orders, which further supports my overall (See, There is also evidence in the 10 impression of Mr. Adams’ disorganization. 11 (See Docket Nos. 146, 147, 157.) Defendant also complains of the general level of 12 13 excessive time Plaintiff’s counsel recorded for various 14 tasks, such as the nearly 200 hours that Plaintiff’s counsel 15 spent opposing Defendant’s summary judgment motion (in 16 addition to the 37 hours Plaintiff’s counsel spent filing a 17 “corrected” opposition), and the nearly 343 hours spent on 18 legal and factual research.7 19 authority or evidence to suggest that these hours are 20 excessive (for example, the Ninth Circuit has suggested that, 21 to demonstrate the excessiveness of hours requested, an 22 opposing party could present evidence of how long its 23 attorneys spent doing the same task, Democratic Party of 24 Wash. v. Reed, 388 F.3d 1281, 1287 (9th Cir. 2004)), I While Defendant offers no 25 26 27 28 7 The fact that Mr. Adams, who professes to be an experienced FEHA attorney, spent this much time on legal research in a case such as this, which did not involve any novel or particularly complex issues, somewhat belies his assertions that he should be paid an hourly rate of $700. 12 1 nevertheless find that Mr. Adams’ time should be reduced 2 based on the general level of inefficiency that I witnessed 3 throughout the course of the litigation of this case– some of 4 which is demonstrated in the billing records themselves. 5 Stonebrae, L.P. v. Toll Bros., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39832, 6 2011 WL 1334444 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 7, 2011) (applying a 5% 7 reduction in hours billed due to inefficiency); see also 8 Ferland v. Conrad Credit Corp., 244 F.3d 1145, 1149 (9th Cir. 9 2001) (across-the-board percentage reduction acceptable when 10 accompanied by “clear and concise explanation”). 11 example, as I pointed out during the hearing, on February 25, 12 2011, Mr. Adams charged 2 hours preparing for a telephonic 13 discovery conference with the Court that lasted for a total 14 of 8 minutes, and did not involve any novel or complex legal 15 issues. 16 “noticing” that no separate statement of facts was filed with 17 Defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and “researching” my 18 standing orders on the need for a separate statement. 19 For On March 3, 2011, Mr. Adams billed 2 hours for More troubling, despite representing to the court that 20 he is an experienced litigator with many matters and clients, 21 Mr. Adams routinely billed numbers of hours to this single 22 case which strain credibility. 23 2011, Mr. Adams billed 14.5 hours; on June 27, 2011, Mr. 24 Adams billed 20.3 hours; on July 1, 2011, Mr. Adams billed 25 15.8 hours; and on July 5, 2011, Mr. Adams billed exactly 24 26 hours to this case, only to turn around on July 6, 2011 and 27 bill another 21.4 hours. 28 days in which Mr. Adams billed an alarming number of hours to For example, on June 16, These are just some examples of the 13 1 this case alone, which is especially troubling given that in 2 June and July, he had brought Mr. Boyd in to assist with the 3 matter, and that one of the reasons the Court was given when 4 it was difficult to reach him, or he was late in meeting a 5 deadline, was that he was a sole practitioner who had to deal 6 with other matters. 7 provide no satisfactory explanation for such entries. 8 9 10 11 During the hearing, Mr. Adams could For these reasons, I find that Mr. Adams’ time must be reduced, and I exercise my discretion to reduce Mr. Adams’ hours by 40%, for a total of 659.30 hours. With respect to Mr. Boyd, I also find that his hours are 12 subject to reduction. 13 organized in such a way that it is impossible to evaluate 14 them to exclude “hours that are excessive, redundant, or 15 otherwise unnecessary[.]” 16 Boyd engages in the practice of “block billing.” 17 billing” refers to “the time-keeping method by which each 18 lawyer and legal assistant enters the total daily time spent 19 working on a case, rather than itemizing the time expended on 20 specific tasks.” 21 F.3d 1109, 1129 n.2 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Welch, 480 F.3d 22 at 945 n.2). 23 billing records to determine whether there is excessive or 24 unnecessary billing — as with block billing — legitimate 25 grounds exist to reduce or eliminate claimed hours. 26 Welch v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 480 F.3d 942, 948 (9th Cir. 27 2009). 28 how much time was spent on particular activities.” Mr. Boyd’s billing records are Hensley, 461 U.S. at 437. Mr. “Block Mendez v. County of San Bernardino, 540 Where courts are unable to properly analyze See This is so because it is “more difficult to determine 14 Id. In 1 circumstances like these, either line by line or 2 across-the-board percentage cuts are within the discretion of 3 the district court to reduce a fee award. 4 948-49 (reducing total billable hours by 20% across-the-board 5 for billing in 15 minute intervals which the court found too 6 imprecise to accurately reflect time expended and citing the 7 California State Bar’s Fee Report, which concluded that block 8 billing may increase time by 10% to 30%); Lahiri v. Universal 9 Music & Video Distrib. Corp., 606 F.3d 1216, 1222-23 (9th Welch, 480 F.3d at 10 Cir. 2010) (finding permissible district court’s 11 identification of attorneys and paralegals who were primarily 12 responsible for block billing, and reducing 80% of their 13 billable hours by 30%); see also, Cal. Alliance of Child & 14 Family Servs. v. Wagner, Case No. 09-4398, 2011 U.S. Dist. 15 LEXIS 76730, 2011 WL 2837423 (N.D. Cal. July 15, 2011) 16 (reducing hours listed in block billed entries by 20%). 17 Block billing is pervasive throughout Mr. Boyd’s time 18 records, and as a result, it is impossible to decipher how 19 much time was spent on individual tasks and whether the time 20 spent was reasonable.8 21 case because Mr. Boyd was brought into this case in order to This is of special concern in this 22 8 23 24 25 26 27 28 For example, in Mr. Boyd’s time records, on 6/27/11, there is an entry for 11.40 hours for “Preparation of trial binder; preparation for and attend the pretrial conference with Judge; preparation of voir dire.” (Docket No. 171 p. 10.) This entry is troubling for a variety of reasons. First, Mr. Boyd fails to itemized how much of the 11.40 hours was designated to each task, which makes it impossible for the court to determine whether Mr. Boyd spent 5 hours or 30 minutes “preparing” a trial binder, which may be a clerical task. Second, the voir dire questions had already been prepared, and were distributed at the conference, which makes the reasonableness of this entry suspect. 15 1 assist with trial, and as pointed out during the hearing, his 2 time entries– particularly for June 2011– seem duplicative in 3 light of work already performed by Mr. Adams. 4 on June 25, 2011, Mr. Boyd bills time to “legal research 5 regarding disability discrimination.” 6 vague, but it is also generic and presumably covers legal 7 research already done by Mr. Adams.9 8 2011, Mr. Boyd bills time to “legal research re reasonable 9 accommodation for jury instructions.” For example, This entry is not only Likewise, on June 27, Yet the pretrial 10 conference in this case occurred on June 27, and it is my 11 practice to require the parties to submit proposed jury 12 instructions prior to the conference, which means that Mr. 13 Adams would have already researched the jury instructions 14 submitted by Plaintiff.10 15 exercise discretion to reduce the hours listed in Mr. Boyd’s 16 billed entries by 20%. 17 Miller ex rel. NLRB v. Hotel & Rest. Emples. & Bartenders 18 Union, Local 2, 107 F.R.D. 231, 245 (N.D. Cal. 1985) 19 (applying a 40% reduction to vague billing entries). 20 twenty percent reduction will account for any duplicative Given this duplication of effort, I Welch, 480 F.3d at 948; see also, This 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 9 When questioned about the possibility that some of the legal research was duplicative, Mr. Boyd responded that in an effort to be efficient, he had some law student clerks perform some of the research, and they found some relevant case law which neither he nor Mr. Adams had. While Mr. Boyd made much of his decision not to bill for the law students, see fn.1 supra, it is troubling that thousands of dollars were billed for legal research by the highly experienced Messrs. Adams and Boyd, which was better done by law students. 10 Additional time for researching jury instructions is also billed on June 28, July 1, July 2, July 5, July 6, July 8, and July 11. 16 1 entries, such as research conducted by both Mr. Adams and Mr. 2 Boyd during the two month trial preparation period, and work 3 performed by Mr. Boyd “reviewing” case pleadings and other 4 documents in order to get up to speed on the case. 5 Defenbaugh v. JBC & Assocs., Case No. 03-651, 2004 U.S. Dist. 6 LEXIS 16256, 2004 WL 1874978, at *27 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 10, 7 2004) (reducing hours for time spent bringing attorney up-to- 8 date on case developments as duplicative). 9 Thus, while the majority of hours billed by Mr. Boyd 10 appear reasonable, the aforementioned issues make it 11 unreasonable for the court to award the full amount 12 requested. 13 across-the-board reduction of twenty percent to the hours 14 billed by Mr. Boyd and across-the-board reduction of forty 15 percent to the hours billed by Mr. Adams. 16 award is $548,243.00 (659.28 hours x $600 per hour for worked 17 performed by Mr. Adams; 248.8 hours x $175 per hour for 18 worked performed by Ms. Lundgren; 189.80 hours x $575 per 19 hour for work performed by Mr. Boyd), which represents 20 attorneys’ fees for the reasonable hours expended pursuing 21 this litigation. 22 Costs Accordingly, the court applies an The resulting 23 Plaintiff seeks costs in the amount of $18,815.16. 24 These costs include messenger and service costs, filing fees, 25 court reporter costs and transcript fees, witness fees, 26 document retrieval fees, copy charges, and costs associated 27 with the depositions of two witnesses whose depositions were 28 taken by attorney Henry Josefsberg. (Adams Decl., ¶4, Ex. A.) 17 1 Plaintiff provided itemized billing statements which include 2 all of the aforementioned costs. (Id.) 3 reasonable and award them to Plaintiff. 4 I find these costs Plaintiff also seeks $17,948.09 in costs for work 5 performed by Alvarado Smith for consulting and expert witness 6 services “to prepare declarations and perform other work in 7 support of the motion for an award of attorneys fees and 8 costs.” 9 majority of this sum is attributable to the declaration (Pl.’s Reply Brief p. 5.) It appears that the 10 submitted by William H. Hensley in support of Plaintiff’s 11 request for fees. 12 by Mr. Hensley to be of little use. 13 declaration does not cite to or rely upon the fee awards 14 referenced in this order and does not include any examples of 15 prior fee awards involving the attorneys in this case (such 16 as Mr. Boyd’ prior fee award). 17 great deal on a declaration submitted by another expert in a 18 different cases, incorporating it by reference. 19 Alvarado Smith’s fee is attributable to hours billed by an 20 unknown person identified as “MDA” who charged $450 per hour 21 to draft largely boilerplate objections to Defendant’s expert 22 witness declaration.11 23 unreasonable to award Plaintiff the $17,948.09 in additional 24 costs sought in her reply submissions. The court found the declaration prepared Mr. Hensley’s Mr. Hensley also relies a The rest of Given these deficiencies, I find it 25 11 26 27 28 The parties also submitted a number of objections to each side’s respective expert witness declarations. These objections are overruled in their entirety, as most go to the weight of the evidence, not to admissibility. In any event, the court found the declarations of limited use and therefore assigned little value to the statements made therein. 18 1 For the reasons stated above, IT IS ORDERED that 2 Plaintiff is awarded $567,058.16 in fees and costs as 3 follows: 4 ATTORNEY/PARALEGAL HOURLY RATE HOURS FEE AWARD 5 William Adams $600 659.28 $395,568.00 6 Julie Lundgren $175 248.80 $43,540.00 7 Kirk Boyd $575 189.80 $109,135.00 8 Total Fees $548,243.00 COSTS $18,815.16 TOTAL AWARD $567,058.16 9 10 11 Dated: November 8, 2011 12 13 Bernard Zimmerman United States Magistrate Judge 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 19

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