United States District Court, E.D. California
matter is before the court on plaintiff Scott Johnson’s
motion seeking attorneys’ fees and costs under the
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 42 U.S.C.
§ 12101, et seq., and the Unruh Civil Rights
Act (Unruh Act), California Civil Code §§ 51-53.
ECF No. 20. Defendant Shahnaz Parveen Iqbal opposed the
motion, Opp’n, ECF No. 22, and Johnson replied, Reply,
ECF No. 23. Finding the matter suitable for disposition on
the papers, the court submitted it without a hearing. As
explained below, the court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part
physically disabled, filed this action on January 25, 2015
based on (1) the ADA, (2) the Unruh Act, (3) the California
Disabled Persons Act, California Civil Code §§
54-54.8, and (4) common law negligence after encountering
accessibility barriers when patronizing the Paisano Market in
Stockton, California (the Property). See generally
ECF No. 1. Johnson sought injunctive relief and statutory
damages. Id. at 9. Iqbal answered. ECF No. 11.
the parties engaged in settlement discussions. Mem. P. &
A., ECF No. 20-1 at 1. The final settlement agreement was
signed by Johnson and Iqbal on November 20, 2015 and November
18, 2015, respectively, and provided, in relevant part, for
Iqbal to pay Johnson $4, 000 and bring the Property into
compliance with the ADA and Title 24 of the California Code
of Regulations, the California Building Standards Code.
Settlement Agreement, ECF No. 20-4 at 1-2, Ex. 2. On November
12, 2015, the parties filed a notice of settlement, ECF No.
18, which also noted that a motion for attorneys’ fees
would be filed shortly.
the ADA and the Unruh Act permit recovery of fees by a
“prevailing” plaintiff. 42 U.S.C. § 12205;
Cal. Civ. Code § 55. Such fee-shifting statutes
“enable private parties to obtain legal help in seeking
redress for injuries resulting from actual or threatened
violation of specific . . . laws, ” Pennsylvania v.
Del. Valley Citizens’ Council for Clean Air, 478
U.S. 546, 565 (1986); they are not intended “to punish
or reward attorneys, ” Van Gerwen v. Guarantee Mut.
Life Co., 214 F.3d 1041, 1047 (9th Cir. 2000). A
plaintiff who enters into a legally enforceable settlement
agreement is considered a prevailing party. Barrios v.
Cal. Interscholastic Fed’n, 277 F.3d 1128, 1134
(9th Cir. 2002). Because plaintiff has here obtained
“substantial relief” on “related”
claims based on “a common core of facts or . . .
related legal theories, ” the court may award full fees
under either the ADA or Unruh Act claim and need not
distinguish between the fees awarded under each. See
El-Hakem v. BJY Inc., 415 F.3d 1068, 1075-76 (9th Cir.
2005); see also Schwarz v. Sec’y of Health &
Human Servs., 73 F.3d 895, 901- 02 (9th Cir. 1995)
(citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 440
calculate recoverable fees, both federal and state courts
look to the lodestar, Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433;
Ketchum v. Moses, 24 Cal.4th 1122, 1132 (2001),
which is “strong[ly] presum[ed]” to represent a
reasonable fee, Del. Valley Citizens’ Council,
478 U.S. at 565. The court arrives at this figure by
multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended by a
reasonable hourly rate. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433;
Ketchum, 24 Cal.4th at 1132. The fee applicant bears
the burden of showing that the requested rate is reasonable
based on “the prevailing market rate in the community
for similar services of lawyers of reasonably comparable
skill, experience, and reputation.”
D’Emanuele v. Montgomery Ward & Co., Inc.,
904 F.2d 1379, 1384 (9th Cir. 1990) (internal quotation marks
omitted), overruled on other grounds by Burlington v.
Dague, 505 U.S. 557, 559 (1992). In making this
determination, courts look to other decisions in “the
forum in which the district court sits, ” Barjon v.
Dalton, 132 F.3d 496, 500 (9th Cir. 1997); see also
Nadarajah v. Holder, 569 F.3d 906, 917 (9th Cir. 2009),
and “accord[s] more weight to . . . fee awards made in
the last two years, ” Johnson v. Allied Trailer
Supply, No. 13-1544 WBS EFB, 2014 WL 1334006, at *5 n. 3
(E.D. Cal. Apr. 3, 2014) (citing Bell v. Clackamas
Cnty., 341 F.3d 858, 869 (9th Cir. 2003) (finding abuse
of discretion where district court “appl[ied] market
rates in effect more than two years before . . . work . . .
“rare and exceptional cases, ” the lodestar
figure may be adjusted by using a multiplier, for example to
reflect specific evidence offered “to show that the
quality of service rendered was superior to that one
reasonably should expect in light of the hourly rates charged
and that the success was ‘exceptional.’”
Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 899 (1984) (citing
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434); see also Del. Valley
Citizens Council, 478 U.S. at 565.
Fees Both parties agree the case was not litigated
extensively and Johnson’s counsel expended less than a
week’s worth of time on the representation. Mem. P.
& A. at 11; Opp’n at 1-2. Johnson is seeking
compensation for this week based on the lodestar without any
adjustment, in the amount of $8, 090. Iqbal does not
challenge Johnson’s entitlement to fees, requested
hourly rate, or requested costs. Instead, Iqbal challenges
only a few of the billing entries for attorneys Mark Potter
and Phyl Grace. The court first reviews the challenged
billing entries and then the hourly rate.
challenges certain entries in the billing statements
submitted by Johnson for Mr. Potter and Ms. Grace.
Specifically, Iqbal challenges, (1) the hours spent on the
drafting of discovery, (2) hours accomplishing seemingly
duplicative tasks, (3) hours spent reviewing billing entries,
and (4) the hours spent drafting the reply to this motion.
Drafting of Discovery
court stayed the case on June 25, 2015, six months after it
was filed. ECF No. 12. Johnson’s counsel conceded in
the Reply that Mr. Potter did not immediately realize the
case had been stayed, and inadvertently drafted the discovery
after the June date. Reply at 5. But Johnson contends the
hours should still be included because the draft was used
after the stay was lifted and a pretrial scheduling
conference was set; he does not explain how the draft was
actually used. Id. at 6. Johnson does not point to
any other billing entries to show any discovery was actually
conducted or scheduled to be conducted. Furthermore, the
parties filed the notice of settlement on the date of the
pretrial scheduling conference, prior to the setting of a
discovery schedule. ECF Nos. 16-18. The court thus finds
unpersuasive Johnson’s argument that the draft
discovery became useful while the parties were in settlement