United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER RESOLVING OBJECTIONS, ADOPTING SPECIAL
MASTER'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION WITH
ONE MODIFICATION, AND FIXING COMPENSATION
WILLIAM ALSUP UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Title VII challenge, plaintiff moved for attorney's fees
and expenses. A prior order held that plaintiff was entitled
to a reasonable amount of attorney's fees and costs based
on his victory (Dkt. No. 313). The special master then issued
a report and recommendation regarding the amount of the
award. This order resolves the pending objections and adopts
the special master's report and recommendation with one
history of this action has been summarized in prior orders
and will not be repeated herein (Dkt. No. 277). In short,
after a six-day bench trial, an order found that defendants
had violated Title VII by discriminating against plaintiff, a
Latino job applicant, based on his previous use of an invalid
social security number. Plaintiff filed his motion for
attorney's fees and expenses on October 30, 2015 (Dkt.
296). An order appointed Attorney Christina Chen as the
special master under Rules 53 and 54.
special master reviewed the parties' submissions and
allowed supplemental submissions. The special master then
filed a 73-page report regarding attorney's fees and
expenses (Dkt. No. 352).
short, plaintiff sought $1, 621, 776.15 in attorney's
fees (including fees on fees), $22, 469.61 in statutory
costs, and $145, 972.86 in non-statutory litigation expenses.
Defendants contended the attorney's fees should be
reduced to $279, 265. The special master recommended an award
of $1, 186, 307.70 in attorney's fees, $20, 569.01 in
statutory costs, $145, 972.86 in non-statutory litigation
expenses, and $50, 717.12 of fees-on-fees. This
recommendation reflected a 15 percent reduction to the
lodestar, which the report concluded was appropriate given
that plaintiff had achieved "good - but not excellent -
overall results when viewed in relation to the 3, 000 hours
claimed" (id. at 1-2, 62).
special master submitted an invoice for her fees and
recommended a 50-50 allocation of her fees between defendants
and plaintiff. The report also recommended staying any award
of reasonable attorney's fees, costs, and expenses until
after all appeals had been exhausted.
12, 2016, the California Department of Corrections and
Rehabilitation (CDCR) moved to modify the special
master's recommendation. The California State Personnel
Board (SPB) and plaintiff lodged objections.
object to the recommended 15 percent reduction of the
lodestar, arguing a further reduction is warranted.
Defendants assert that a 35 percent reduction is warranted
due to plaintiff's limited success.
defendants argue that a further reduction is warranted
because plaintiff could have obtained the same individual
relief in state court. In response, plaintiff argues that
defendants failed to properly raise this argument in their
original oppositions to plaintiff's motion for
attorney's fees, thereby forfeiting this argument. This
order agrees. Furthermore, CDCR proffers no authority
for the conclusion that a fee reduction is appropriate
because plaintiff could have obtained the same relief in
state court. Moreover, the assertion is speculative;
ascertaining whether plaintiff could have obtained the same
relief in state court is beyond the purview of this motion.
This objection is therefore Overruled.
defendants argue a further reduction is warranted because the
success achieved by plaintiff was limited in comparison to
the scope of the litigation as a whole. The report
acknowledged that reaching a fair and appropriate percentage
for the lodestar reduction here was "tricky" (Dkt.
352 at 65). The report concluded that a 15 percent reduction
was warranted because plaintiff obtained "make-whole
equitable relief" but not "broad systemic
reforms." The report noted the absence of on-point case
law for our situation. Nonetheless, the recommended reduction
is appropriate given other holdings in our ...