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J & J Sports Productions, Inc. v. Cerda

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

January 10, 2014

J & J SPORTS PRODUCTIONS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
DANIEL DE LA CERDA, et al., Defendants.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS THAT PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR COSTS AND ATTORNEYS' FEES BE GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART OBJECTIONS DUE: 14 days

SHEILA K. OBERTO, Magistrate Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

On November 18, 2013, Plaintiff J & J Sports Productions, Inc. ("Plaintiff") filed a "Motion for Costs and Attorneys' Fees." (Doc. 39.) No opposition was filed. The Court reviewed the motion and supporting documentation and determined that the matter was suitable for decision without oral argument pursuant to Local Rule 230(g); as such, the hearing on the motion was vacated.

For the reasons set forth above, the Court RECOMMENDS that Plaintiff's "Motion for Costs and Attorneys' Fees" be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

II. RELEVANT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On November 10, 2011, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendants Daniel De La Cerda, Erica De La Cerda, and Daniel's Mexican Grill, LLC ("Grill, " collectively "Defendants"). (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff alleged that it is a closed-circuit distributor of sports and entertainment programming and obtained in the United States the exclusive commercial exhibition licensing rights to " Tactical Warfare: Manny Pacquiao v. Antonio Margarito, WBC Light Middleweight Championship Fight Program" (the "Program"), which was broadcast on November 13, 2010. Plaintiff marketed sub-licensing (commercial exhibition) rights to commercial establishment customers to permit them to show the Program. To broadcast the Program, Plaintiff required commercial establishments to pay a sublicense fee of $2, 200 for seating capacity up to 100 persons. Plaintiff did not sublicense the program to Defendants, and alleged that Defendants unlawfully intercepted and exhibited the Program without payment of the commercial sub-licensing fee. (Doc. 1.)

On January 27, 2012, Defendants filed an answer. (Doc. 12.) On September 11, 2013, Grill filed a Notice of Bankruptcy, and the Court stayed the action as to Grill only. (Docs. 33, 34.) On September 12, 2013, Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment against Defendant Daniel De La Cerda only. (Doc. 36.) No opposition was filed, and on October 16, 2013, District Judge Lawrence J. O'Neill granted Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and entered judgment against Daniel De La Cerda. (Doc. 37.) Additionally, Plaintiff was ordered to file a motion before Magistrate Judge Sheila K. Oberto by no later than November 18, 2013, if it sought attorney's fees and costs. (Doc. 37.)

On November 6, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Status Report indicating that the bankruptcy against Grill was dismissed and sought to reinstate the case as an active matter. (Doc. 38.) On November 8, 2013, Plaintiff filed the instant "Motion for Costs and Attorneys' Fees." (Doc. 39.) On November 19, 2013, District Judge O'Neill ordered Plaintiff to file a status report by no later than November 25, 2013, that showed good cause as to why the pretrial conference and trial dates should not be vacated, noting that the judgment granted against Defendant Daniel De La Cerda was contemplated as full and complete relief for all of Plaintiff's claims, except for attorney's fees and costs. (Doc. 40.) Plaintiff failed to file a status report. On November 26, 2013, Judge O'Neill issued an order vacating the pretrial conference and trial dates, and noted that the Court intends to close this action after a ruling on the pending attorney's fees motion. (Doc. 41.)

III. DISCUSSION

A. Attorney's Fees

Reasonable attorney's fees are recoverable under both 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(B)(iii) and 47 U.S.C. § 553(c)(2)(C). The court determines the amount of reasonable attorney's fees by applying the "lodestar" method. Ferland v. Conrad Credit Corp., 244 F.3d 1145, 1149 n. 4 (9th Cir. 2001). The lodestar is calculated by multiplying the number of hours the prevailing party reasonably expended on the litigation by a reasonable hourly rate. Id. "In determining reasonable hours, 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). "Where the documentation of hours is inadequate, the district court may reduce the award accordingly." Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). A district court should also exclude from the lodestar fee calculation any hours that were not "reasonably expended, " such as hours that are excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary. See id. at 434; see also J & J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Napuri, No. C 10-04171 SBA, 2013 WL 4428573, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 15, 2013).

The district court must determine a reasonable hourly rate, considering the experience, skill, and reputation of the attorney requesting fees. Chalmers, 796 F.2d at 1210. Reasonable hourly rates are calculated by reference to "prevailing market rates in the relevant community, " with a special emphasis on fees charged by lawyers of "comparable skill, experience, and reputation." Davis v. City of San Francisco, 976 F.2d 1536, 1546 (9th Cir. 1992), vacated in part on other grounds by 984 F.2d 345 (9th Cir. 1993). Generally, the forum district represents the relevant legal community. Gates v. Deukmejian, 987 F.2d 1392, 1405 (9th Cir. 1992); see also Camacho v. Bridgeport Fin., Inc., 523 F.3d 973, 979 (9th Cir. 2008) (determining that "generally, the relevant community [for the prevailing market rate] is the forum in which the district court sits"); Mendenhall v. Nat'l Transp. Safety Bd., 213 F.3d 464, 471, n. 5 (9th Cir. 2000), overruled on other grounds by Gonzalez v. Arizona, 677 F.3d 383 (9th Cir. 2012) (finding the same).

The fee applicant bears the burden of producing satisfactory evidence "that the requested rates are in line with those prevailing in the community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill, experience and reputation." Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895, n. 11 (1984). "Affidavits of the plaintiff[s] attorney and other attorneys regarding prevailing fees in the community, and rate determinations in other cases, particularly those setting a rate for the plaintiff[s] attorney, are satisfactory evidence of the prevailing market rate." United Steelworkers of Am. v. Phelps Dodge Corp., 896 F.2d 403, 407 (9th Cir. 1990); see also Napuri, 2013 WL 4428573, at *2.

Here, Plaintiff requests a total of $5, 921.25 in attorney's fees. (Doc. 39, 5:28; see also Riley Decl., Doc. 39-1, Exh. 1, p. 10.) These fees consist of 4.65 hours of work at $450 per hour performed by Thomas P. Riley, Esq. ("Riley"), 6 hours of work performed by an unidentified "research attorney" at $300 per hour, 3 hours of work by an unidentified paralegal at $150 per hour, 10.6 hours of work by an unidentified administrative assistant at $75 per hour, and 2.85 hours of work by an unidentified person with the initials "ASC" at $275 per hour. (Riley Decl., Doc. 39-1, Exh. 1, p. 10; see also ...


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