United States District Court, N.D. California
ROYAL ALLIANCE ASSOCIATES, INC. Plaintiff,
HENRY T. MORA, et al., Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING AMENDED MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES
RE: ECF NO. 41
TIGAR United States District Judge.
the Court is Respondents' Motion for Attorneys' Fees,
ECF No. 41, filed pursuant to this Court's order granting
them post-arbitration attorneys' fees in connection with
their defeating Petitioner's motion to vacate the
arbitration award, ECF No. 38. Petitioner has opposed the
motion for attorneys' fees. ECF No. 42. The Court will
grant Respondents' motion.
case concerns two joined disputes between Royal Alliance, a
brokerage firm, and its former clients Michele R. Lewis
("Lewis"), Henry T. Mora ("Mora"), and
Lionel Gonzalez ("Gonzalez" collectively with Lewis
and Mora "Respondents"), for breach of fiduciary
duty and negligent supervision. Pursuant to Royal
Alliance's customer agreements, the disputes were
required to be submitted to arbitration before a FINRA (The
Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) panel. ECF No. 25 at
6. In their claims, Respondents, inter alia,
alleged: (1) Royal Alliance's registered representatives
recommended unsuitable securities investments for
Respondents, and (2) Royal Alliance breached its contracts
with Respondents by failing to properly supervise its
representatives. Id. at ¶ 6, 8. Respondents
sought attorneys' fees in both claims. Id. On
September 5, 2014, Respondents filed a motion before the
Mora/Gonzalez panel, requesting to join the
Lewis Arbitration to the Mora/Gonzalez
Arbitration. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 11. Royal Alliance opposed
the motion. Id. at ¶ 12. On October 21, 2014,
the Mora/Gonzalez panel granted Respondents'
motion, and consolidated both arbitrations before the
Mora/Gonzalez panel. Id. at ¶ 14.
15, 2015, the Mora/Gonzalez panel awarded
Respondents compensatory damages of $1, 085, 456, punitive
damages of $75, 000, attorneys' fees of $184, 000, and
costs of $57, 231.05. Id. at ¶ 26.
Alliance filed a petition to vacate the arbitration decision
in this Court on August 13, 2015. ECF No. 1. They argued that
the consolidation of both arbitrations was improper because
the cases should have been consolidated before the
lower-numbered Lewis panel rather than before the
higher-numbered Mora/Gonzalez panel. Id. at
¶¶ 28-29. They also challenged the award of
March 10, 2016, this Court denied Royal Alliance's
petition to vacate the arbitration award and granted
Respondents' cross-motion to confirm the arbitration
award as well as its motion for post-arbitration
attorneys' fees. ECF No. 38. As ordered, Respondents
filed their motion for attorneys' fees on March 24, 2016.
An amended motion was later filed, as approved by the Court,
on April 7, 2016. ECF No. 41. Although there is some dispute
over the exact sequence of events leading to this,
Respondents assert that subsequent to the filing of their
motion, Royal Alliance sought to meet and confer over Royal
Alliance's objections to the motion. Id. at 2.
The parties met and conferred, and "as an attempt to
resolve the disputes in good faith, " Respondents
submitted their amended motion with a reduced request for
attorneys' fees. Id.
Alliance nevertheless opposed the amended motion. ECF No. 45.
They assert that the requested attorneys' fees should be
cut in half, and contend that they are further entitled to
their own attorneys' fees for successfully opposing this
courts in diversity cases apply state law with regard to the
granting or denying of attorneys' fee recovery."
Good Earth Corp. v. M.D. Horton & Associates, No.
C-94-3455-CAL, 1997 WL 702297, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 4, 1997)
(citing to Kabatoff v. Safeco Ins. Co. of America,
627 F.2d 207, 209-10 (9th Cir. 1980)). "California
affords its trial courts broad discretion to consider a wide
number of factors in determining the reasonableness of
attorneys' fees." Id. at *3 (citation
omitted). "For example, the court may consider the
nature and difficulty of the litigation, the skill required
and the skill employed in handling the litigation, the
success of the attorney's efforts, the attorney's
experience in the particular type of litigation, and the
amount of time required." Id.
Respondents have requested $94, 301.75 for litigating the
cross-petitions on the arbitration award (reduced from the
original request of $98, 672.50). They also request
attorneys' fees for litigating this motion, bringing
their total request to $102, 857.75. ECF No. 47 at 6.
Alliance requests that this amount be cut in half, offering
two reasons why the requested amount is unreasonable. Neither
is persuasive. First, Royal Alliance argues that the amount
of time that Respondents' counsel billed for working on
their Motion for Attorneys' Fees, Cross-Petition and
Opposition to the Petition to Vacate, and their Reply in
Support of their Cross-Petition is excessive. ECF No. 45 at
6-8. They compare this case to two cases, Value Selling
Associates, LLC v. Temple, No. 09-CV-1493-JM AJB, 2011
WL 5025157, at *3 (S.D. Cal. Oct. 21, 2011) and
Latinamerican Theatrical Grp., LLC v. Swen Int'l
Holding, No. 2:13-CV-01270-CAS, 2013 WL 5563749, at *2
(C.D. Cal. Oct. 7, 2013),  and contend that because both of these
cases also dealt with petitions to vacate arbitration awards
but involved far lower awards of attorneys' fees to the
prevailing parties, Respondents' request for fees here is
comparatively too large. ECF No. 4-6.
Alliance's argument appears to be, in other words, that
because two courts in other districts awarded a certain
amount in attorneys' fees for post-arbitration
litigation, no other court should award more than those
amounts. The argument collapses under its own weight.
Further, Respondents astutely point out that Royal Alliance
has, in the same brief in which it argues that
Respondents' request for $94, 301.75 is excessive, also
requested the sum of $20, 775 solely for ostensibly defeating
Respondents' original motion for attorneys'
fees. ECF No. 45 at 13. Royal Alliance cannot
persuasively argue that Respondents' requested fees for
the entirety of this litigation is unreasonable while
simultaneously requesting approximately a fifth of that
amount merely for opposing Respondents' fee requests.
Royal Alliance argues that Respondents have unreasonably
billed for clerical and administrative tasks, such as
intra-office conferences, creating a table of contents and
table of authorities, final review of briefs, and verifying
case citations. ECF No. 45 at 12. Royal Alliance argues that