Cakebread Cellars, Inc. 401(K) Plan v. Gonzalez et al

Filing 26

Order by Hon. James Donato denying 23 Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs. (jdlc2S, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 9/20/2016)

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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 CAKEBREAD CELLARS, INC. 401(K) PLAN, 8 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 Plaintiff, v. MARIA GONZALEZ, et al., Case No. 15-cv-04522-JD ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS’ FEES AND COSTS Re: Dkt. No. 23 Defendants. 12 13 Plaintiff Cakebread Cellars, Inc. 401(K) Plan filed this interpleader action “to determine 14 entitlement to the proceeds of a 401(K) Plan” as between a husband and wife who have since 15 divorced. Dkt. No. 1. As of November 2008, Martin Martinez’s interest in the 401(K) Plan was 16 valued at $9,382.19. Id. ¶ 10. Before the Court is plaintiff’s motion for attorneys’ fees and 17 expenses. Dkt. No. 23. The motion is premature, and the Court denies it on that basis. 18 The Court previously expressly directed plaintiff Cakebread Cellars Inc. 401(K) Plan “to 19 pursue whatever relief it wishes to have in this interpleader action by making a proper request to 20 the Court by way of a motion.” Dkt. No. 20. The Court advised counsel that “[m]erely including 21 requests in a complaint or a case management conference statement does not suffice.” Id. 22 Yet, somewhat incredibly, plaintiff has not filed a motion to deposit the funds at issue into 23 the Court’s registry, nor has it filed a proper motion for discharge in this interpleader action. 24 Instead, the only substantive motion plaintiff has filed to date is the present one for attorneys’ fees 25 and expenses. Dkt. No. 23. Plaintiff’s own motion shows that an award of fees and costs would 26 be premature and improper in this circumstance. See id. at 3 (“To recoup attorneys’ fees and 27 costs, a court must find (1) a disinterested stakeholder, (2) who has conceded liability, (3) has 28 deposited the funds into court, and (4) has sought discharge from liability.”) (citing cases; 1 emphases added). Although plaintiff states that it “has requested that the funds be deposited with 2 the Court and that it be discharged from liability,” id. at 3, the Court’s docket for this case shows 3 no indication of either request. The Court further notes for the benefit of guidance to plaintiff that any renewed motion for 4 5 fees should be significantly revised. The current motion seeks a fee award of $8,740.00, which 6 would all but swallow up the $9,382.19 at issue.1 That kind of request is plainly inconsistent with 7 the Court’s previous instruction that any motion for fees in this case should be efficiently prepared 8 and succinctly made, because in cases like these, “there is an important policy interest in seeing 9 that the fee award does not deplete the fund at the expense of the party who is ultimately deemed entitled to it.” Dkt. No. 20 (quoting Trustees of Directors Guild of Am.-Producer Pension Benefits 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 Plans v. Tise, 234 F.3d 415, 427 (9th Cir.), opinion amended on denial of reh’g, 255 F.3d 661 (9th 12 Cir. 2000)). Plaintiff’s motion is consequently denied without prejudice to renewal consistent with this 13 14 order. IT IS SO ORDERED. 15 16 Dated: September 20, 2016 17 18 JAMES DONATO United States District Judge 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 1 28 Another issue is that this $9,382.19 amount that plaintiff uses is based on a valuation done in November 2008. Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 10. That is close to 8 years ago. 2

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