Friedman v. SThree Plc. et al
RULING. For the reasons set forth in the attached Ruling, the Court GRANTS, in part, SThree Defendants' 178 Application for Attorney's Fees. Signed by Judge Sarah A. L. Merriam on 9/15/2017. (Kaczmarek, S.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
STHREE PLC., et al.
Civil No. 3:14CV00378(AWT)
September 15, 2017
RULING RE: APPLICATION FOR FEES [Doc. #178]
Pending before the Court is an application for attorneys’
fees by defendants SThree PLC., SThree Inc., Huxley Associates
Ltd., Huxley Associates Inc., Huxley Associates B.V., and Ivanka
Radujko (the “SThree defendants”). [Doc. #178]. For the reasons
set forth herein, the Court GRANTS, in part, SThree’s
Application for Attorney’s Fees [Doc. #178], and awards
$1,565.00 in attorneys’ fees for work performed in connection
with the SThree defendants’ motions to seal.
An award of attorney’s fees pursuant to Rule 37 is
calculated “according to the lodestar formula, in which the
number of hours spent by the attorneys is multiplied by the
hourly rate normally charged for similar work by attorneys of
like skill in the area.” Bowne of New York City, Inc. v. AmBase
Corp., 161 F.R.D. 258, 266 (S.D.N.Y. 1995) (quotation marks and
citations omitted); see also Congregation Rabbinical Coll. of
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Tartikov, Inc. v. Vill. of Pomona, 188 F. Supp. 3d 333, 337
(S.D.N.Y. 2016) (determining that the lodestar is the
presumptively reasonable fee in determining the amount of
attorneys’ fees and costs warranted in connection with a motion
“The most useful starting point for determining the amount
of a reasonable fee is the number of hours reasonably expended
on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.”
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). The resulting
amount “is only presumptively reasonable; it is still within the
court’s discretion to adjust the amount upward or downward based
on the case-specific factors.” Tyco Healthcare Grp. LP v.
Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc., No. 3:10CV60(JBA), 2012 WL 4092515,
at *1 (D. Conn. Sept. 17, 2012) (quotation marks and citation
omitted). “Hence, the process is really a four-step one, as the
court must: (1) determine the reasonable hourly rate; (2)
determine the number of hours reasonably expended; (3) multiply
the two to calculate the presumptively reasonable fee; and (4)
make any appropriate adjustments to arrive at the final fee
award.” Adorno v. Port Auth. of New York & New Jersey, 685 F.
Supp. 2d 507, 511 (S.D.N.Y. 2010).
“The presumptively reasonable fee boils down to what a
reasonable, paying client would be willing to pay, given that
such a party wishes to spend the minimum necessary to litigate
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the case effectively.” Simmons v. N.Y. City Transit Auth., 575
F.3d 170, 174 (2d Cir. 2009) (quotation marks and citation
omitted). Factors that the Court may consider in determining a
reasonable fee are:
(1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty and
difficulty of the questions; (3) the level of skill
required to perform the legal service properly; (4) the
preclusion of employment by the attorney due to
acceptance of the case; (5) the attorney’s customary
hourly rate; (6) whether the fee is fixed or contingent;
(7) the time limitations imposed by the client or the
circumstances; (8) the amount involved in the case and
the results obtained; (9) the experience, reputation,
and ability of the attorneys; (10) the “undesirability”
of the case; (11) the nature and length of the
professional relationship with the client; and (12)
awards in similar cases.
Beastie Boys v. Monster Energy Co., 112 F. Supp. 3d 31, 48
(S.D.N.Y. 2015) (citations omitted).
“The district court retains discretion to determine what
constitutes a reasonable fee.” Millea v. Metro-N. R.R. Co., 658
F.3d 154, 166 (2d Cir. 2011) (quotation marks and citation
omitted). “However, this discretion is not unfettered,” and “the
district court must abide by the procedural requirements for
calculating those fees articulated by [the Second Circuit] and
the Supreme Court.” Id. “Attorney’s fees must be reasonable in
terms of the circumstances of the particular case[.]” Alderman
v. Pan Am World Airways, 169 F.3d 99, 102 (2d Cir. 1999)
(citation omitted). In determining a reasonable fee, the Court
is mindful that “attorney’s fees are to be awarded with an eye
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to moderation, seeking to avoid either the reality or the
appearance of awarding windfall fees.” Tsombanidis v. City of W.
Haven, 208 F. Supp. 2d 263, 270 (D. Conn. 2002) (quotation marks
and citation omitted), aff’d sub nom. Tsombanidis v. W. Haven
Fire Dep’t, 352 F.3d 565 (2d Cir. 2003); see also New York State
Assoc. for Retarded Children v. Carey, 711 F.2d 1136, 1139 (2d
On September 15, 2016, Judge Alvin W. Thompson issued an
Order requiring plaintiff to “reimburse the SThree Defendants
for their fees incurred in connection with both of their Motions
to Seal (Doc. Nos. 150, 153).” Doc. #165. Judge Thompson ordered
the SThree defendants to “file an application for attorneys’
fees in connection with the two motions to seal within the next
21 days.” Id. On October 6, 2016, the SThree defendants filed an
application for attorneys’ fees, seeking an award of $3,312 in
fees for 9.6 hours of work performed by two attorneys in
connection with the aforementioned motions to seal. See Doc.
#178. On October 20, 2016, plaintiff filed a Partial Opposition
and Request to Modify SThree Defendants’ Motion Application for
Attorneys’ Fees. See Doc. #194. Plaintiff argues, inter alia,
that the claimed fees are excessive, and that “only $801 of the
submitted fees relates to a violation of the [Protective]
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Order.” Id. at 2.1 The SThree defendants filed a reply, arguing
that plaintiff failed to challenge the billing rates or the
amount of time spent in connection with the motions to seal;
therefore, they argue, their fee application should be granted
in its entirety. See Doc. #201 at 1.
Other than a passing mention, plaintiff’s opposition does
not explicitly challenge the reasonableness of the SThree
defendants’ attorneys’ hourly rates or work they expended in
connection with the subject motions. Nonetheless, as set forth
below, the Court has carefully reviewed the fee application and
has concluded that $3,312 is not a reasonable fee to award for
the work incurred in connection with the SThree defendants’
motions to seal. See Jaeger v. Cellco P’ship, No.
3:11CV1948(SRU), 2015 WL 1867661, at *3 (D. Conn. Apr. 23, 2015)
(reviewing and reducing a fee request even where plaintiff does
not challenge “the reasonableness of the total fees requested or
the reasonableness of the attorneys’ hourly rates”).
First, the Court addresses the SThree defendants’ hourly
rates. Two attorneys performed work on the Motions to Seal:
Aneca E. Lasley, a partner at Squire Patton Boggs in Columbus,
The Court will not revisit Judge Thompson’s finding that the
SThree defendants are entitled to fees incurred in connection
with both motions to seal.
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Ohio, and Christopher F. Hass, a senior associate at the same
firm. See Doc. #178-1 at 1-2. The Court has already determined
that rates charged by Attorney Lasley and Attorney Haas in
connection with this matter are higher than those awarded for
comparable attorneys in this District, and reduced those
accordingly to $375 and $275, respectively. See Doc. #311. This
fee application provides no additional information that alters
the Court’s analysis. Accordingly, the Court again reduces
Attorney Lasley’s hourly rate from $495 to $375, and reduces
Attorney Haas’ hourly rate from $315 to $275.
Having determined the reasonableness of the rates
requested, the Court turns next to the reasonableness of the
hours billed in connection with the filing of the motions to
seal. “[T]he fee applicant bears the burden of establishing
entitlement to an award and documenting the appropriate hours
expended and hourly rates.” Hensley, 461 U.S. at 437. A fee
application must be “accompanied by contemporaneous time records
indicating, for each attorney, the date, the hours expended, and
the nature of the work done.” Marion S. Mishkin Law Office v.
Lopalo, 767 F.3d 144, 148 (2d Cir. 2014) (quotation marks and
citation omitted). “The district court ... should exclude from
[its] fee calculation hours that were not reasonably expended.”
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434 (quotation marks and citation omitted).
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Here, the SThree defendants seek attorneys’ fees for 9.6
hours spent in connection with the filing of the two motions to
seal. Attorney Haas has billed eight hours for this work, and
Attorney Lasley has billed 1.6 hours. For the reasons set forth
below, the Court is not persuaded that the whole of this time
was reasonably expended.
First, the Court finds that counsel spent an excessive
amount of time on several tasks in connection with this
uncomplicated issue. See Congregation Rabbinical Coll., 188 F.
Supp. 3d at 341 (“The limited nature of the issue leads the
Court to find the number of claimed hours excessive.”
(collecting cases)). Most notably, Attorney Haas billed a total
of 5.1 hours drafting, reviewing, revising, and filing the
SThree defendants’ reply brief in connection with its Motion to
Seal. See Doc. #178-1 at 7-8. The reply brief is ten paragraphs
of written argument. See Doc. #161. There are no citations to
case law or to statutes. See id. The two exhibits to the reply
brief consist entirely of print-outs of emails. See Doc. #161-1;
Doc. #161-2. The Court therefore reduces the amount of time on
this task by 3.1 hours to two hours, total.
Further, Attorney Haas billed .3 hours for communications
with the Clerk’s Office “regarding Plaintiff’s filing of
designated materials.” Doc. #178-1 at 7. It appears that this
task was more administrative than legal, in that Attorney Haas
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was receiving guidance on how to go about removing the items
that were filed by plaintiff on the public docket. See Doc.
#161-1 at 3 (email from Attorney Haas to Attorney Alan Kaufman,
reporting the information he received from the Clerks’ Office).
“Filing, delivery, service of papers and other similar
administrative tasks are not usually considered recoverable
expenditures of time for attorneys’ fees.” Broome v. Biondi, 17
F. Supp. 2d 230, 236 (S.D.N.Y. 1997) (citation omitted).
Accordingly, the Court will compensate this time at a paralegal
rate of $150 per hour. See Cohen v. W. Haven Bd. of Police
Comm’rs, 638 F.2d 496, 505 (2d Cir. 1980) (“[A] different rate
of compensation may well be set for different types of
Attorney Lasley’s billing records suffer from another
problem: the description and time spent on the motions to seal
in two instances are coupled with time spent on other, unrelated
matters. See Doc. #178-1 at 7 (billing .6 hours to “[r]eview and
revise draft reply brief on the motion to seal/sanctions; confer
with C. Haas regarding same, deposition of M. Kavanaugh and
Plaintiff’s production of documents”); Doc. #178-1 at 11
(billing .2 hours to “confer with C. Haas regarding plaintiff’s
discovery dispute filings, counsel’s violation of Protective
Order, and responses to same”). The discovery dispute referenced
in Attorney Lasley’s billing records involved more substantive
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issues, while the motions to seal in response to plaintiff’s
violation of the Protective Order were straightforward and
procedural. This bundling makes it difficult, if not impossible,
to determine how much time was allotted to work on the motions
to seal. Further, “a trial court should ordinarily greet a claim
that several lawyers were required to perform a single set of
tasks with healthy skepticism.” Blumenschine v. Prof’l Media
Grp., LLC, No. 3:02CV2244(HBF), 2007 WL 988192, at *17 (D. Conn.
Mar. 30, 2007) (quotation marks and citation omitted). The Court
therefore reduces these two entries by .4 hours, to .4 hours,
Finally, Attorney Haas billed 1.3 hours on September 2,
2016, for drafting the motion to seal and “related
communications” with Attorney Lasley. Doc. #178-1 at 7. Attorney
Lasley, in turn, billed .6 hours for this same conversation and
for reviewing plaintiff’s filing. See id. at 11. These entries
appear duplicative. The Court therefore reduces Attorney Haas’
time on this entry to one hour, and reduces Attorney Lasley’s
time on her corresponding entry to .3 hours. The above
deductions result in an overall reduction of 4.1 hours to the
total time billed.
The remainder of the time billed in connection with the two
motions to seal appear reasonable to the Court. The Court has
reduced Attorney Haas’ time by 3.4 hours; the Court has reduced
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Attorney Lasley’s time by 0.7 hours. After multiplying the
reasonable rates with the hours reasonably expended, the Court
finds that the SThree defendants are entitled to $1,565.00 in
attorneys’ fees for work performed in connection with the
SThrees defendants’ motions to seal.
Accordingly, for the reasons set forth above, the Court
GRANTS, in part, SThree’s Application for Attorney’s Fees [Doc.
#178] and awards the SThree defendants $1,565.00 in attorneys’
fees for work performed in connection with defendant SThrees’
motions to seal. Attorney Alan W. Kaufman is held jointly and
severally liable for the above award. See Doc. #311.
This is not a Recommended Ruling. This is an order
regarding case management which is reviewable pursuant to the
“clearly erroneous” statutory standard of review. See 28 U.S.C.
§636(b)(1)(A); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a); and D. Conn. L. Civ. R.
72.2. As such, it is an order of the Court unless reversed or
modified by the District Judge upon motion timely made.
SO ORDERED at New Haven, Connecticut, this 15th day of
HON. SARAH A. L. MERRIAM
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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