Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Rodriguez v. Barrita, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Francisco Division

July 1, 2014


Page 1269

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1270

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1271

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1272

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1273

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1274

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1275

For Armando Rodriguez, Plaintiff: Catherine M. Cabalo, Celia Louise McGuinness, Paul Leslie Rein, Law Offices of Paul L. Rein, Oakland, CA.

For Barrita, Inc., doing business as LA Victoria Taqueria, Nicandro Barrita, ENS Associates Investments, LLC, Masoud Shahidi, Defendants: David Irwin Kornbluh, LEAD ATTORNEY, Miller Morton Caillat & Nevis, LLP, San Jose, CA.

Page 1276




In this disability access case, prevailing plaintiff Armando Rodriguez seeks

Page 1277

$1,444,513.84 in attorney fees, litigation expenses, and costs from defendants Barrita Inc., Nicandro Barrita, ENS Associates, and Masoud Shahidi. More specifically, he requests $763,691 for " merits" (i.e., through the end of trial) attorney fees, $50,125 in post-trial attorney fees, and $248,671.84 in litigation expenses and costs. Plaintiff also seeks a 1.5x multiplier on the merits fees, adding $381,846 to his overall request. Defendants agree that Rodriguez is entitled to fees and costs, but they argue he seeks too much. In defendants' estimation, plaintiff is entitled to $391,770.50 in attorney fees and $17,991.74 in taxable costs and expenses. Unsurprisingly, the appropriate amount falls somewhere along the million-dollar spectrum between the parties' requests. For the reasons explained below, plaintiff is entitled to $584,805.60 in attorney fees and $173,348.29 in costs and litigation expenses, resulting in a total award of $758,153.89.


The calculation of a reasonable fee award involves a two-step process. Fischer v. SJB-P.D. Inc., 214 F.3d 1115, 1119 (9th Cir. 2000). First, the court calculates the presumptive fee award, also known as the " lodestar figure," by taking the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation and multiplying it by a reasonable hourly rate. Id. (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433, 103 S.Ct. 1933, 76 L.Ed.2d 40 (1983)). Second, in " appropriate cases" the court may enhance or reduce the lodestar figure based on an evaluation of the factors set forth in Kerr v. Screen Extras Guild, Inc., 526 F.2d 67, 69-70 (9th Cir. 1975), that were not taken into account in the initial lodestar calculation. Intel Corp. v. Terabyte Intern., Inc., 6 F.3d 614, 622 (9th Cir. 1993) (citation omitted).[1] The Ninth Circuit has cautioned that there is a " strong presumption" that the lodestar figure represents a reasonable fee and that adjustment upward or downward is " the exception rather than the rule." D'Emanuele, 904 F.2d at 1384.


As a threshold matter, it is undisputed that Rodriguez is entitled to attorney fees. A prevailing plaintiff under the ADA " should ordinarily recover an attorney's fee unless special circumstances would render such an award unjust." Barrios v. California Interscholastic Fed'n, 277 F.3d 1128, 1134 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at 429). Additionally, the California Disabled Persons Act provides for attorney fees to prevailing parties as a matter of right. Cal. Civ. Code § 55. Here, where Rodriguez prevailed under both statutes, defendants do not contest that fees are warranted. The question, rather, is how much.

A. Lodestar Rates

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

Page 1278

services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill, experience, and reputation." Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895, n.11, 104 S.Ct. 1541, 79 L.Ed.2d 891 (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 America v. Phelps Dodge Corp., 896 F.2d 403, 407 (9th Cir. 1990). Courts also may rely on decisions by other courts awarding similar rates for work in the same geographical area by attorneys with comparable levels of experience. See, e.g., Nadarajah v. Holder, 569 F.3d 906, 917 (9th Cir. 2009). As a general rule, the forum district represents the relevant legal community. See Gates v. Deukmejian, 987 F.2d 1392, 1405 (9th Cir. 1992).

i. Celia McGuinness

Celia McGuinness, plaintiff's trial counsel and the lead lawyer on this case, seeks fees at the rate of $550/hour. In support, she submits declarations from four Bay Area disability access attorneys, all of whom attest that McGuinness's requested rate is reasonable for an attorney of her skill, experience, and reputation. McGuinness also furnishes excerpts from numerous cases in this district where the court awarded fees at her then-requested rates. The most recent excerpt is from Hernandez v. Grullense, 2014 WL 1724356 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 30, 2014), where the court approved her request for fees at $495/hour in a motion filed in December 2013.

This fee motion, filed in March 2014, apparently marks the first time McGuinness has requested fees at $550/hour--a rate significantly higher than the $495/hour requested and awarded in other recent cases. See, e.g., Cruz v. Starbucks Corp., 2013 WL 2447862 at *7 (N.D. Cal. June 5, 2013). Defendants, however, do not contest that $550/hour is a reasonable rate for McGuinness in 2014.[2] Indeed, McGuinness has extensive experience representing plaintiffs in disability access cases, and she served as a skilled and persuasive advocate for her client over the course of this litigation. Given McGuinness's skill, experience, and reputation, $550/hour is a reasonable rate for her services.

ii. Paul Rein

Paul Rein, owner of Rein Law Offices and member of the California bar for over forty-five years, requests fees at $645/hour. In support, plaintiff points to numerous recent court decisions finding this to be an appropriate rate for Rein's services. Within the last fifteen months, four different judges in this district have found $645/hour to be a reasonable rate in light of Rein's skill, reputation, and extensive experience. See Hernandez, 2014 WL 1724356 at *5, Moralez v. Whole Foods Mkt., Inc., 2013 WL 3967639 at *4 (N.D. Cal. July 31, 2013); Cruz, 2013 WL 2447862 at *5; Delson v. CYCT Mgmt. Grp., Inc., 2013 WL 1819265 at *5 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 30, 2013). Indeed, defendants do not contest that $645/hour is a reasonable rate for Rein's services in 2014. Plaintiff's submissions and argument substantiate Rein's request for attorney fees at the reasonable rate of $645/hour.

iii. Catherine Cabalo

Catherine Cabalo, plaintiff's third attorney, seeks fees at a rate of $425/hr. Cabalo, a 2001 graduate of the University of Washington, has been working for Rein Law since 2009. Her rate is supported by

Page 1279

the declaration of Bryan Gearinger, a Bay Area disability law attorney who has been practicing for twenty-three years. Plaintiff also points to several recent court decisions finding that $425/hour is a reasonable rate for Cabalo's work. See Moralez, 2013 WL 3967639 at *3; Delson, 2013 WL 1819265 at *2. Defendants do not contest Cabalo's requested rate. Cabalo will be awarded attorney fees at the reasonable rate of $425/hour.

iv. Rein Firm Paralegals

Aaron Clefton, a Rein Firm paralegal, requests fees at $200/hour. This rate would mark an increase from several recent cases in this district finding that $175/hour is a reasonable price for Clefton's work. See Hernandez, 2014 WL 1724356 at *4; Cruz, 2013 WL 2447862 at *5. Indeed, in Cruz, the court denied Clefton's request for fees at $200/hour, instead awarding him fees at the rate of $175/hour. Plaintiff claims an increase is warranted to reflect that " few other paralegals . . . possess both [Clefton's] years of experience and his understanding of disability rights law." (Pl. Repl., ECF No. 260, 2:1-2). Indeed, Clefton has been working as a paralegal for more than a decade, spending nine years with Rein Law. In addition, Clefton has attended several semesters of law school and anticipates completing his Juris Doctorate at some point in the future. When Clefton finishes school and becomes a member of the bar, he will doubtlessly be justified in increasing his rate substantially. For now, however, plaintiff's submissions fail to establish that $200/hour is a reasonable rate for Clefton's work as a paralegal. Accordingly, Clefton will be awarded fees at the reasonable rate of $175/hour.

Holly Jaramillo, a Rein Law paralegal with much less experience than Clefton, requests fees at the rate of $135/hour. Defendants do not address, much less rebut, Jaramillo's request. She will ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.