United States District Court, E.D. California
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: MOTION FOR ATTORNEY'S
FEES AND COSTS
WILLIAM B. SHUBB JUDGE.
Scott Johnson is a quadriplegic and brought this action based
on barriers he encountered at Accurate Auto Body, which is
owned and operated by defendant Brian Kenneth Gross.
Plaintiff alleged violations of the Americans with
Disabilities Act ("ADA"), the California Unruh
Civil Rights Act, and the California Disabled Persons Act.
The parties settled the case and defendant agreed plaintiff
was entitled to reasonable attorney's fees and costs, as
to be determined by the court. Presently before the court is
plaintiff's motion for attorney's fees and costs.
(Docket No. 24.) Defendant failed to file a timely statement
of opposition as required by Eastern District Local Rule
230(c). The hearing date of June 27, 2016 is therefore
vacated pursuant to Eastern District Local Rule 230(c) and
the court takes plaintiff's motion under submission
without oral argument.
ADA authorizes a court to award attorneys' fees,
litigation expenses, and costs to a prevailing party."
Lovell v. Chandler, 303 F.3d 1039, 1058 (9th Cir.
2002); see also 42 U.S.C. § 12205. The court may also
award attorney's fees to the prevailing party under the
California Unruh Civil Rights Act. Cal. Civ. Code
§§ 52(a), 55. A plaintiff prevails "when
actual relief on the merits of his claim materially alters
the legal relationship between the parties by modifying the
defendant's behavior in a way that directly benefits the
plaintiff." Farrar v. Hobby, 506 U.S. 103,
court calculates a reasonable amount of attorney's fees
by following a two-step process. First, the court determines
the lodestar calculation--"the number of hours
reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a
reasonable hourly rate." Hensley v. Eckerhart,
461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). Second, the court may adjust the
lodestar figure "pursuant to a variety of factors."
Gonzalez v. City of Maywood, 729 F.3d 1196, 1209
(9th Cir. 2013); see also Kerr v. Screen Guild Extras,
Inc., 526 F.2d 67, 70 (9th Cir. 1975) (enumerating
factors on which courts may rely in adjusting the lodestar
figure). There is a strong presumption, however, that the
lodestar amount is reasonable. Fischer v. SJB-P.D.
Inc., 214 F.3d 1115, 1119 n.4 (9th Cir. 2000).
determining the size of an appropriate fee award, the Supreme
Court has emphasized that courts need not "achieve
auditing perfection" or "become green-eyeshade
accountants." Fox v. Vice, 563 U.S. 826, 838
(2011). Rather, because the "essential goal of shifting
fees . . . is to do rough justice, " the court may
"use estimates" or "take into account [its]
overall sense of a suit" to determine a reasonable
attorney's fee. Id.
Hours Reasonably Expended
submitted a billing summary itemizing the time spent by
attorneys Mark Potter, Phyl Grace, Dennis Price, Amanda
Lockhart, and Christina Sosa on this case. (Pl.'s Mot.
for Att'y's Fees ("Pl.'s Mot.") Ex. 2
("Billing Summary") (Docket No. 24-3).) Plaintiff
requests a total of $11, 050 in attorney's fees for
forty-three hours of work. ( Id. at 1.) The billing
summary shows Potter billed 21.8 hours, Grace 13.3 hours,
Price 1 hour, Lockhart 3.8 hours, and Sosa 3.1 hours. (
21.8 hours claimed by Potter, eight hours are estimated time
for reviewing the opposition, drafting a reply brief, and
attending oral argument on the pending motion for
attorney's fees and expenses. ( Id. at 3.) Given
that no reply brief was filed and Potter did not have to
expend any time preparing for or attending oral argument
since the court determined that oral argument was unnecessary
and vacated the hearing, the court will reduce Potter's
hours by five. Accordingly, the court finds that Potter
reasonably expended 16.8 hours and, together, the
plaintiff's attorneys reasonably expended a total of 38
Reasonable Hourly Rate
court must multiply the reasonable hours expended in this
litigation by a reasonable hourly rate to calculate the
lodestar amount. To determine the reasonableness of the
hourly rates claimed, the court looks to "the prevailing
market rates in the relevant community, " Blum v.
Stenson, 465 U.S. 866, 895 (1984), "for similar
work performed by attorneys of comparable skill, experience,
and reputation." Chalmers v. City of Los
Angeles, 796 F.2d 1205, 1210-11 (9th Cir. 1986). In
general, "the relevant community is the forum in which
the district court sits." Barjon v. Dalton, 132
F.3d 496, 500 (9th Cir. 1997). The burden is on the party
seeking fees "to produce satisfactory evidence . . .
that the requested rates are in line with those prevailing in
the community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably
comparable skill, experience and reputation." Blum, 465
U.S. at 895 n.11.
counsel seeks hourly rates of $300 for Potter, $250 for
Grace, and $150 for Price, Lockhart, and Sosa. All of the
attorneys practice at the Center for Disability Access
("CDA"). Potter is the founder of CDA and a
managing partner with almost twenty years of experience with
disability issues, Grace is an experienced associate with
twenty years of experience and nine in disability access
litigation, and Price, Lockhart, and Sosa are junior
associates. (Pl.'s Mot. at 3-5; Potter Decl. ¶¶
5-9 (Docket No. 24-2).) In several recent cases this court
has found the hourly rates of $300 for Potter and $150 for
junior associates reasonable for disability access cases in
the Sacramento legal community. See, e.g., Johnson v.
Wayside Prop., Inc., Civ. No. 2:13-1610 WBS AC, 2014 WL
6634324, at *8 (E.D. Cal. Nov. 21, 2014), appeal voluntarily
dismissed, No. 14-17479 (9th Cir. Apr. 27, 2015); Johnson
v. Allied Trailer Supply, Civ. No. 2:13-1544 WBS EFB,
2014 WL 1334006, at *6 (E.D. Cal. Apr. 3, 2014). For the
reasons enumerated in this court's prior orders, the
court finds these same rates reasonable for partner Potter
and junior associates Price, Lockhart, and Sosa in this case.
regard to Grace, the court has previously awarded an hourly
rate of $175 based on her status as an associate and years of
work experience. Id. This hourly rate is on the
higher end for associates in Sacramento. Id. In
these same cases, however, the court awarded Raymond
Ballister, an associate with thirty-one years of experience
and ten years exclusive to disability access cases, an hourly
rate of $260. Wayside Property, Inc., 2014 WL 6634324, at *8.
This hourly rate is comparable to that of a junior partner.
Id. Given that Grace now has more than twenty years
of experience with nine years exclusive to disability access
cases, the court acknowledges that she should receive a rate
similar to that of Ballister. (Potter Decl. ¶ 6.) The
court will therefore grant the ...