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Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Garl

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

September 3, 2013



JENNIFER L. THURSTON, Magistrate Judge.

Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. ("Plaintiff") seeks an award of attorneys' fees and costs pursuant to 47 U.S.C. § 553. (Doc. 24). Defendant Klarke Anthony Garl, individually and doing business as Nile Bar and Grill ("Defendant") has not opposed the motion.[1]

Having reviewed the motion and supporting documents, the Court finds the matter suitable for decision without oral argument. Accordingly, the matter is taken under submission pursuant to Local Rule 230(g), and the hearing date of September 10, 2013 is VACATED. For the following reasons, the Court recommends Plaintiff's motion be GRANTED IN PART.

I. Factual and Procedural History

Plaintiff asserted it possessed the exclusive rights to the nationwide commercial distribution of "Ultimate Fighting Championship 129: Georges St-Pierre v. Jake Shields" ("the Program"), televised on April 30, 2011. (Doc. 1 at 4). Plaintiff alleged Defendant intercepted and broadcast the Program without obtaining permission from Plaintiff. Id. at 3. Accordingly, Plaintiff filed its complaint against Defendant on April 27, 2012, alleging violations of 47 U.S.C. § 605, et seq.; 47 U.S.C. § 533, et seq.; and the California Business and Professions Code § 17200, et seq. Also, Plaintiff alleged Defendant was liable for wrongful conversion of property, arising under California State law. Id. at 4-9.

Defendant was properly served with the First Amended Complaint, but failed to respond within the time prescribed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Upon application of Plaintiff, default was entered against Defendant pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a) for the failure to answer on September 18, 2012. (Docs. 7-8). Plaintiff filed an application for default judgment (Doc. 13), which was granted in part by the Court on July 4, 2013. (Docs. 20, 22). Accordingly, judgment was entered in favor of Plaintiff. (Doc. 23).

The Court ordered Plaintiff to "file any application for attorney fees and costs pursuant to 47 U.S.C. § 605 no later than fourteen days from the entry of judgment." (Doc. 22 at 6). On August 7, 2013, Plaintiff filed a motion for attorneys' fees and pursuant to 47 U.S.C. § 553, which is now pending before the Court.[2] (Doc. 24). Plaintiff's Counsel, Thomas Riley, filed an amended declaration in support of the motion on August 29, 2013. (Doc. 27).

II. Legal Standard

The Court has the discretion to award reasonable attorneys' fees and costs to an aggrieved party under 47 U.S.C. § 553(c)(2)(C).[3] The Ninth Circuit utilizes a "lodestar" method to compute reasonable attorneys' fees, which represents the number of hours reasonable expended multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate. Ferland v. Conrad Credit Corp., 244 F.3d 1145, 1149 n.4 (9th Cir. 2001) (citing Caudle v. Bristow Optical Co., Inc., 224 F.3d 1014, 1028 (9th Cir. 2000); Morales v. City of San Rafael, 96 F.3d 359, 363 (9th Cir. 1996)). Consequently, "counsel bears the burden of submitting detailed time records justifying the hours claimed to have been expended." Chalmers v. City of Los Angeles, 796 F.2d 1205, 1210 (9th Cir. 1986) (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)). If the documentation of hours is inadequate, or if the hours expended are excessive and unnecessary, the Court may reduce the number of hours claimed. Chalmers, 796 F.2d at 1210; Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433.

III. Discussion and Analysis

A. Attorneys' Fees

Plaintiff requests an award of fees in the amount of $3, 000.00. (Doc. 24 at 5). Plaintiff's counsel, Thomas Riley, reports that his firm spent 14.75 hours in this action, from the preparation of a file and initial demand letter to the filing of the motion now pending before the Court. (Riley Amend. Decl. Exh. 1, Doc. 27 at 5-8). This amount includes 2.45 hours for Mr. Riley at a rate of $450.00 per hour, 4.00 hours for a paralegal at a rate of $150.00 per hour, and 5.30 hours for an administrative assistant at a rate of $75.00 per hour, and 3.00 hours for an unidentified "research attorney" at the rate of $300.00 per hour. Id. at 8. According to Mr. Riley, he and his administrative assistant each "worked 2.13 hours at no charge." Id.

1. Number of hours expended

As an initial matter, the records indicate Plaintiff seeks fees for the filing and service of documents by an administrative assistant. Such clerical tasks are not compensable because they are subsumed in firm overhead costs. Nadarajah v. Holder, 569 F.3d 906, 921 (9th Cir. 2009). The Ninth Circuit explained that "[w]hen clerical tasks are billed at hourly rates, the court should reduce the hours requested to account for the billing errors." Id. (citing Davis v. City and County of San Francisco, 976 F.2d 1536, 1545-46 (9th Cir. 1992)); see also Junes v. ...

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