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Anthony Guy v. City of San Diego; et al

April 19, 2011

ANTHONY GUY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF SAN DIEGO; ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jeffrey T. Miller United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING AWARD OF ATTORNEY'S FEES AND NON-TAXABLE COSTS

Following remand from the Ninth Circuit, Plaintiff Anthony Guy moves for an award of attorney's fees and non-taxable costs. Defendants City of San Diego, Richard W. Garcia, David Maley, and Kevin Friedman partially oppose the motion. For the reasons set forth below, the court grants an award of attorney's fees and non-taxable costs in the amount of $39,990.

BRIEF BACKGROUND

On February 19, 2008 an eight-person jury returned a verdict acquitting all Defendants except defendant Officer David Maley, finding that he alone violated Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force. The jury also found that Defendant Maley's conduct caused Plaintiff injury, damage, loss or harm. The jury originally determined that Plaintiff was entitled to zero dollars as a result of the injuries. Following the court's supplemental jury instruction concerning nominal or minimal damages, the jury returned a supplemental special verdict awarding Plaintiff one dollar in nominal damages.

On May 12, 2008, the court denied Plaintiff's motion for new trial and denied Plaintiff's request for an award of attorney's fees and non-taxable costs in the amount of $195,580.00 and $24,159.01, respectively. (Ct. Dkt 132). Plaintiff appealed. The Ninth Circuit affirmed this court's denial of the motion for new trial but reversed the court's denial of an award of attorney's fees. In pertinent part, the Ninth Circuit held:

It is a close question, but we conclude that the district court abused its discretion in completely rejecting Guy's request for attorney's fees. The jury verdict that some of Maley's force was excessive offers clear and important guidance to the police department, which is a sufficiently tangible result. See Morales, 96 F.3d at 363-64. The SDPD now knows, if it did not know before when it conducted its internal review, that even if Maley's force was initially justified, if it went too far, i.e., if he harmed Guy unnecessarily or gratuitously after Guy had been subdued, then a jury may determine that force was excessive.

We are therefore not prepared to say that the jury verdict produced no tangible results. It is logical to expect, in the face of this jury verdict, that the police department would take a closer look at the level of force used by its police officers after they have subdued a suspect. Such a result, under the circumstances of this case, would justify some amount of costs and attorney fees. Of course, in determining the amount of such an award, the trial court may consider, among other things, Guy's limited success in obtaining only nominal monetary damages. See Farrar, 506 U.S. at 115, 113 S.Ct. 566.

We remand to the district court for a determination of the amount of costs and attorney's fees to be awarded. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 39(a) and Ninth Circuit General Order 4.5(e), each party shall bear its own costs on appeal.

Guy v. City of San Diego, 608 F.3d 582, 590 (9th Cir. 2010).

Plaintiff now moves for an award of attorney's fees and non-taxable costs in the amount of $518,770 and $34,313.54, respectively. Defendants oppose the motion in part, arguing that a fee award between $25,000 and $50,000 is reasonable and that costs should not exceed $6,000.

DISCUSSION

At the outset, the court notes that there are no hard and fast formulas for determining the precise amount of any reasonable attorney fee award. Rather, in broad brush, the count considers the reasonableness of the fee award in light of the extent of success at trial. In awarding attorney fees and costs, this court is guided by those factors ordinarily considered in awarding attorney's fees under 42 U.S.C. §1988(b): the time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions, the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly, the preclusion of other employment due to acceptance of the case, the customary fee, the contingent or fixed nature of the fee, the time limitations imposed by the client or the case, the amount involved and the results obtained, the experience, reputation and ability of the attorney, the undesirability of the case, the nature of the professional relationship with the client, and awards in similar cases. Southeast Legal Defense Group v. Admas, 657 F.2d 1118 (9th Cir. 1981); Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc., 488 F.2d 714 (5th cir. 1974).

In the case of a nominal jury award where fees are awarded pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง1983(b), the court also considers (1) the degree of success obtained; (2) significance of the legal issue on which the plaintiff claims to have prevailed; and (3) whether the award promotes some bona fide public goal. Guy, 608 F.3d at 590. (2010); Farrar v. Hobby, 506 U.S. 103 (1992). In Farrar, the Supreme Court held that "the most critical factor in determining the reasonableness of a fee award is the degree of success obtained." Id. at 114. In ...


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