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Title: Ernest Raymond Rodriguez v. City of Long Beach

March 6, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: The Honorable David O. Carter, Judge



Julie Barrera N/A Courtroom Clerk Court Reporter


None Present None Present



Before the Court are two motions field by Plaintiff Ernest Raymond Rodriguez ("Plaintiff"): (1) a Motion for New Trial (dkt. 112); and (2) Motion For Recovery of Attorney Fees (dkt. 95). The Court finds the matter appropriate for decision without oral argument. Fed R. Civ. P. 78; Local R. 7-15. After considering the moving, opposing, and replying papers, the Court GRANTS the Motion but REDUCES the fee award.

As the parties are familiar with the facts of the case, the Court will not summarize them here.

II.Legal Standard

a.Standard for a Motion for New Trial

A new trial may be granted in an action in which there has been a trial by jury, for any of the reasons for which new trials have heretofore been granted in actions at law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(a). Granting a new trial is left to the sound discretion of the trial court. See Browning-Ferris Indus. v. Kelco Disposal, Inc., 492 U.S. 257, 278, 109 S. Ct. 2909, 2921 (1989). Bases for a new trial include: (1) a verdict against the clear weight of the evidence, see Landes Const. Co., Inc. v. Royal Bank of Canada, 833 F.2d 1365, 1371 (9th Cir. 1987); (2) evidence, discovered after trial, that would not have been uncovered earlier through the exercise of due diligence and that is of such magnitude that its production at trial would likely have changed the outcome of the case, see Far Out Prods., Inc. v. Oskar, 247 F.3d 986, 992-93 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting Defenders of Wildlife v. Bernal, 204 F.3d 920, 929 (9th Cir. 2000)); (3) jury misconduct, see United States v. Romero-Avila, 210 F.3d 1017, 1024 (9th Cir. 2000); and (4) error in law that has substantially prejudiced a party, see Ruvalcaba v. City of Los Angeles, 64 F.3d 1323, 1328 (9th Cir. 1995).

b.Standard for a Motion for Attorney's Fees Under 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b)

Under 42 U.S.C. § 1988, the Court may, in its discretion, grant reasonable attorney's fees as part of the costs to the prevailing party. 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b). Generally, the lodestar formula should be used to determine a reasonable figure for an award of attorney's fees. See Perdue v. Kenny A. ex rel. Winn, __ U.S. __, 130 S.Ct. 1662, 1672 (2010). A lodestar figure is calculated by "multiplying the hours spent on a case by a reasonable hourly rate of compensation for each attorney involved." Pennsylvania v. Del. Valley Citizens' Council for Clean Air, 478 U.S. 546, 563, 106 S. Ct. 3088 (1986). The lodestar figure is presumed to represent an appropriate fee, but the Court may adjust the figure upward or downward to take into account special factors. See Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 897, 104 S. Ct. 1541 (1984) (reasonable hours multiplied by reasonable rate normally provides a reasonable fee award within the meaning of the statute); Jordan v. Multnomah County, 815 F.2d 1258, 1262 (9th Cir. 1987) (strong presumption that lodestar figure is reasonable). A "reasonable" fee is a fee that is "sufficient to induce a capable attorney to undertake the representation of a meritorious civil rights case." Perdue, 130 S.Ct. at 1672.

A plaintiff is considered the prevailing party if it succeeds on any significant issue in litigation which gives some benefit that plaintiff sought in bringing the suit. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433, 103 S. Ct. 1933 (1983). To satisfy this requirement, the suit must have produced a material alteration of the legal relationship between the parties. Buckhannon Board & Care Home, Inc. v. W. Va. Dept. of Health & Human Res., 532 U.S. 598, 604, 121 S. Ct. 1835 (2001). This alteration may be the result of an enforceable judgment or comparable relief through a consent decree. Farrar v. Hobby, 506 U.S. 103, 111, 113 S. Ct. 566 (1992). If a plaintiff achieves only partial success, the reasonable hours expended on the action as a whole multiplied by a reasonable rate may be an excessive amount. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 436. Where a plaintiff prevails on only some claims, the Court should ask whether the plaintiff "fail[ed] to prevail on claims that were unrelated to the claims on which he succeeded" and whether the plaintiff "achieve[d] a level of success that makes the hours reasonably expended a satisfactory basis for making a fee award". Id. at 434.

Once the Court has determined that attorney's fees are warranted in a given case, the Court must then assess whether the amount of fees requested is reasonable. A fee applicant carries the burden of submitting evidence in support of the claimed hours. Gates v. Deukmejian, 987 F.2d 1392, 1397 (9th Cir. 1993). "Counsel for the prevailing party should make a good faith effort to exclude from a fee request hours that are excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary . . . ." Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434. The opposing party has the burden of rebuttal, requiring submission of evidence challenging the accuracy and reasonableness of the hours charged or facts asserted. Gates, 987 F.2d at 1397-98. "'In setting a reasonable attorney's fee, the district court should make specific findings as to the ...

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