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Sundance Image Technology, Inc. v. Cone Editions Press

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


December 5, 2006

SUNDANCE IMAGE TECHNOLOGY, INC., A CALIFORNIA CORPORATION; PLAINTIFF,
v.
CONE EDITIONS PRESS, LTD., A VERMONT CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Anthony J. Battaglia U.S. Magistrate Judge United States District Court

Order Setting Award of Reasonable Attorneys' Fees [Doc. No. 436] and related cross-claims

Per the Court's Order dated October 16, 2006, Defendants' submitted a memorandum and supporting fee declaration and Plaintiffs' submitted an Opposition thereto. Based upon the moving papers and for the reasons set forth herein, the Court hereby sets the award of reasonable attorneys' fees for Defendants Motion to Compel at $7,017.50.

Discussion

Defendants' seek $16,198.00 for a total of 58.7 hours of time incurred in bringing the Motion to Compel Supplementation of 28 separate requests propounded upon the two Plaintiffs and preparation of the supporting fee declaration requested by the Court. The 58.7 hours consists of 35.4 hours by Mr. Sklar at a rate of $325 per hour; 1.6 hours by Mr. Price at a rate of $275 per hour; 18.3 hours by Mr. Luu at a rate of $225 per hour; and 3.4 hours by a law clerk at a rate of $40 per hour.

Defendants' argue that their respective usual hourly rates should be applied in calculating the fee award, as opposed to the blended $175 per hour rate actually billed to the client, because the attorneys' respective hourly rates are well within the range charged by attorneys in the Los Angeles area with similar expertise. Alternatively, Dependants' argue that the Court should apply an average hourly rate of $281 per hour, which represents the average billing rate charged by attorneys in the Los Ageles area according to an economic survey conducted in 2005. Defendants further request that the Court order the fee award be paid forthwith.

Plaintiffs' contend that the nearly 60 hours in attorney time requested by Defendants is excessive for preparation of the 25 page motion, 9 page reply and 6 page fee declaration. Furthermore, Plaintiffs' argue that the Defendants should be limited to the hourly rate of $175 per hour that Defendants actually charged the client for preparation of the motion to compel.

Upon review of the billing statements submitted by Defendants, as well as the arguments presented by the parties, the Court finds the billable hours and amount requested by Defendants to be excessive. Specifically, the Court finds hours billed by Defendants for the following to be unwaranted:

1) review of documents or responses produced by Plaintiffs in response to Defendants requests;*fn1 2) time billed for the meet and confer process with opposing counsel;*fn2 and 3) telephone conferences with the Court regarding scheduling,*fn3 attendance and review of the Court's order taking the motion under submission.*fn4 As such, the Court finds the 18.6 hours attributable to these items to be unreasonable and unjustified, and, therefore, reduces the number of requested billable hours sought by the Defendants accordingly to 40.1 hours. However, even at this reduced number of billable hours, Defendants are stilll seeking nearly an hour of billable time per page for the motion (25 pages), reply (9 pages) and fee declaration (6 pages). As such, the Court finds that the hourly rate of $175 per hour that was actually billed to the client to be reasonable for the services rendered.

Conclusion

For the reasons set forth above, the Court hereby awards Defendants $7,017.50 in attorney fees incurred in bringing the motion to compel. Plaintiffs' request that the fee award be held in abeyance until the conclusion of this case is DENIED. Plaintiffs' shall tender the awarded fees to Defendants on or before December 20, 2006.

IT IS SO ORDERED.


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