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Makaeff v. Trump University, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. California

November 18, 2014

TARLA MAKAEFF, on Behalf of Herself and All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
TRUMP UNIVERSITY, LLC, (aka Trump Entrepreneur Initiative) a New York Limited Liability Company, DONALD J. TRUMP, and DOES 1 through 50, inclusive, Defendants. TRUMP UNIVERSITY, LLC, Counterclaimant,
v.
TARLA MAKAEFF, and DOES 1 through 10, inclusive, Counter Defendant.

ORDER REQUIRING SUPPLEMENTAL BRIEFING IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFF/COUNTER DEFENDANT TARLA MAKAEFF'S BILL OF FEES AND COSTS [DKT. NO. 331.]

GONZALO P. CURIEL, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Before the Court is Plaintiff/Counter Defendant Tarla Makaeff's ("Makaeff") Bill of Fees and Costs. (Dkt. No. 331.) Defendant/Counterclaimant Trump University, LLC ("Trump University") opposes Makaeff's Bill of Fees and Costs. (Dkt. No. 335.)[1] Makaeff filed a notice of deficiency and intended non-response. (Dkt. No. 336.) Upon review of the moving papers, admissible evidence, the applicable law, and for the reasons set forth below, the Court hereby ORDERS Makaeff to submit supplemental briefing further substantiating fees and costs.

BACKGROUND

Between August 2008 and June 2009, Makaeff attended approximately seven real estate investing and finance seminars, workshops, and classes hosted by Trump University and spent a total of approximately $60, 000 on the programs. (Dkt. Nos. 4 at 9; 14-1 at 11.) Makaeff alleges the programs were shorter than advertised, (Dkt. No. 14-1 at 10-11), she was provided only a toll-free telephone number instead of a one-year mentorship of "expert, interactive support, " (Id.), and her Trump University mentors were largely unavailable and offered no practical advice when she did speak with them. (Id.)

Makaeff brought a class action lawsuit against Trump University on April 30, 2010. (Dkt. No. 1.) On May 26, 2010, Trump University filed a defamation counterclaim against Makaeff, alleging Makaeff published statements to third parties about Trump University that are per se defamatory. (Dkt. No. 4 at 3.)

On June 30, 2010, Makaeff filed a special motion to strike Trump University's counterclaim on the ground the counterclaim is a strategic lawsuit against public participation, or "SLAPP suit, " with the purpose of intimidating Makaeff into dropping her class action lawsuit. (Dkt. No. 14-1 at 8.)

On August 23, 2010, Judge Irma E. Gonzalez denied Makaeff's special motion to strike Trump University's counterclaim. (Dkt. No. 24.) Makaeff's subsequent motion for reconsideration of her special motion to strike Trump University's counterclaim was denied by Judge Gonzalez on September 20, 2010. (Dkt. Nos. 31; 40 at 3.)

On January 3, 2011, Makaeff appealed Judge Gonzalez's August 23, 2010 order to the Ninth Circuit, (Dkt. No. 43), which reversed and remanded the order on April 17, -. Makaeff v. Trump Univ., LLC, 715 F.3d 254, 271 (9th Cir. -). In addition, the court of appeals granted Makaeff's unopposed request that the issue of appellate attorney's fees be transferred to the district court. (Dkt. No. 284.) In the interim, the case was transferred to the undersigned judge. (Dkt. No. 190.) On June 16, 2014, this Court granted Makaeff's special motion to strike Trump University's defamation counterclaim. (Dkt. No. 328.)

On July 3, 2014, pursuant to this Court's direction, (Dkt. No. 328), Makaeff filed a bill of fees and costs to substantiate the amount of reasonable attorney's fees and costs associated with bringing the motion to strike, related appeal, and supplemental briefing. (Dkt. No. 331.) On July 18, 2014, Trump University filed an opposition. (Dkt. No. 335.)

LEGAL STANDARD

The "prevailing defendant on a special motion to strike shall be entitled to recover his or her attorney's fees and costs." Cal. Civ. Proc. Code ยง 425.16(c)(1). "[A]ny SLAPP defendant who brings a successful motion to strike is entitled to mandatory attorney fees." Ketchum v. Moses, 24 Cal.4th 1122, 1131 (2001). "[A] court assessing attorney fees begins with a touchstone or lodestar figure, based on the careful compilation of the time spent and reasonable hourly compensation of each attorney... involved in the presentation of the case." Id. at 1131-32 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). To determine the reasonable number of hours billed, courts are to evaluate the time expended, the nature of and need for the services performed, and the relevant fee records. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433-34 (1983). An award of fees and costs in an anti-SLAPP case must be reasonable, and courts have broad discretion in determining what is reasonable. See Metabolife Int'l, Inc. v. Wornick, 213 F.Supp.2d 1220, 1222 (S.D. Cal. 2002).

DISCUSSION

In the instant case, Makaeff requests an award of attorney's fees in the amount of $1, 333, 004.25, based on 2, 226.35 hours incurred in the process of strategizing, researching and briefing the anti-SLAPP motion, subsequent successful appeal and opposing Trump University's petition for rehearing en banc, discovery, supplemental briefing, and the fee brief. (Dkt. No. 331 at 12, 14.) Additionally, Makaeff requests cost in the amount of $9, 812.11. (Id. at 14.) For the reasons stated below, the Court orders ...


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