United States District Court, N.D. California, Oakland Division
DESIREE MOORE and KAREN JONES individually and on behalf of a class of similarly situated individuals, Plaintiffs,
VERIZON COMMUNICATIONS INC., VERIZON CALIFORNIA INC., VERIZON CORPORATE SERVICES GROUP INC., VERIZON SERVICES CORP., TELESECTOR RESOURCES GROUP, INC. d/b/a VERIZON SERVICES GROUP, VERIZON SERVICES OPERATIONS INC., VERIZON SERVICES ORGANIZATION INC., VERIZON CORPORATE SERVICES CORP., VERIZON DATA SERVICES INC., and DOES 1 through 25, Defendants.
ORDER ADOPTING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Docket 123, 211, 212.
SAUNDRA BROWN ARMSTRONG, District Judge.
The parties are presently before the Court on Verizon's Motion for De Novo Determination of Dispositive Matter Referred to Magistrate Judge. Dkt. 212. Class Counsel oppose the motion. Dkt. 213. Having read and considered the papers filed in connection with this matter and being fully informed, the Court hereby GRANTS Verizon's Motion for De Novo Determination of Dispositive Matter Referred to Magistrate Judge, and OVERRULES Verizon's objections to Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley's ("Magistrate Corley") Report and Recommendation. For the reasons stated below, the Court ACCEPTS Magistrate Corley's Report and Recommendation, which shall become the Order of this Court. The Court, in its discretion, finds this matter suitable for resolution without oral argument. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b); N.D. Cal. Civ. L.R. 7-1(b).
On July 11, 2013, the Court referred Class Counsel's motion for an award of attorneys' fees and expenses to Magistrate Corley for a Report and Recommendation. Dkt. 189. On August 28, 2013, the Court granted Plaintiffs' Motion for Final Approval of Class Action Settlement, and granted in part Class Counsel's Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Expenses and Class Representative Incentive Awards. Dkt. 196. The Court granted Class Counsel's Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Expenses and Class Representative Incentive Awards to the extent Class Counsel sought an incentive award of $5, 000 for each of the Class Representatives, and noted that Class Counsel's motion for an award of attorneys' fees and expenses in the amount of $7, 500, 000 was referred to Magistrate Corley for determination, subject to review by this Court upon timely request by either party. Id.
On September 5, 2013, Magistrate Corley heard oral argument regarding Class Counsel's motion for attorneys' fees and expenses, and ordered Class Counsel to produce their contemporaneous billing records to Verizon. Dkt. 198. Thereafter, the parties filed supplemental briefs regarding the reasonableness of the attorneys' fees sought by Class Counsel in light of Verizon's review of the billing records. Id . Enhanced Services Billing, Inc. ("ESBI"), which was previously granted leave to submit an amicus brief in opposition to Class Counsel's motion for attorneys' fees and expenses, also submitted a supplemental brief opposing Class Counsel's motion. Id.
On November 27, 2013, Magistrate Corley issued a Report and Recommendation in which she recommends awarding Class Counsel $7, 500, 000 in attorneys' fees and expenses, i.e., the full amount allowed under the Settlement Agreement. Dkt. 211. In reaching her recommendation, Magistrate Corley determined that the appropriate method of calculating attorneys' fees is the lodestar method, and that the lodestar in this case is $6, 365, 982. Id. She also found that a multiplier of at least 1.5 is warranted "[i]n light of the excellent' terms of the settlement, Class Counsel's efforts to ensure that the class has meaningful access to the settlement's benefits, and the risk involved in bringing this case." Id.
In so finding, Magistrate Corley reasoned that because the hourly rates charged by the attorneys that worked on this case are the normal rates they charge in non-contingency cases, the risk Class Counsel took in bringing this contingent-fee case would not be taken into account without a multiplier. Dkt. 211. Magistrate Corley further reasoned that "while the litigation may not have been extensive, the results achieved are sweeping and there was a substantial risk that Plaintiffs would not succeed either at the class certification or merits stage. Class members receive significant monetary relief (full refunds of unauthorized third-party charges) and injunctive relief (a complete overhaul of Verizon's third-party billing practices including an opt-in requirement for all new accounts) under the settlement." Id . Finally, Magistrate Corley noted that "while not required by the settlement itself, less than one month after the settlement was preliminarily approved Verizon agreed to no longer engage in third-party billing for enhanced or miscellaneous services." Id.
On December 11, 2013, Verizon filed a Motion for De Novo Determination of Dispositive Matter Referred to Magistrate Judge. Dkt. 212. On December 26, 2013, Class Counsel filed an opposition. Dkt. 213. A reply was filed on January 2, 2014. Dkt. 214.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
Any objections to the report and recommendation of a Magistrate judge must be filed within fourteen days of receipt thereof. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Any objections to the report and recommendation must be made as a motion for de novo determination, and must "specifically identify the portions of the Magistrate Judge's findings, recommendation or report to which objection is made and the reasons and authority therefor." See Civ. L.R. 72-3(a).
The district court must make "a de novo determination of those portions of the report or... recommendations to which objection is made, " and "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). However, when no objections are filed, the district court need not conduct a de novo review. United States v. Reyna-Tapia , 328 F.3d 1114, 1121 (9th Cir. 2003) (the "district judge must review the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations de novo if [an] objection is made, but not otherwise.") (emphasis in original). "Neither the Constitution nor the statute requires a district judge to review, de novo, findings and recommendations that the parties themselves accept as correct." Id.
Pursuant to Rule 72(b) and Civil Local Rule 72-3, Verizon requests a de novo determination of Magistrate Corley's recommendation to award Class Counsel $7, 500, 000 in attorneys' fees and expenses. Defs.' Mot. at 1. Verizon does not dispute that Class Counsel is entitled to a substantial fee award in this case. Id . However, Verizon ...