United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR
ATTORNEYS' FEES (DOC. NO. 71)
matter is before the court on plaintiff Ronald Moore's
March 31, 2016 motion for attorneys' fees. (Doc. No. 71.)
Defendants filed their opposition to plaintiffs motion on May
3, 2016. (Doc. No. 74.) On May 6, 2016, plaintiff filed their
reply. (Doc. No. 76.) For the following reasons, the court
will grant in part and deny in part plaintiffs motion for
Ronald Moore, brought suit against defendants, Millenium
Acquisitions, LLC, and Timeless Investments, Inc., pursuant
to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42
U.S.C. § 12181 et seq. (“ADA”), the
California Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 51,
(“Unruh Act”), and California Health & Safety
Code § 19955. (Doc. Nos. 1, 19.) In his complaint,
plaintiff alleged accessibility violations at an ARCO AM/PM
gas station located in Fresno, California. (Id.)
March 4, 2016, the court granted plaintiff's motion for
summary judgment in part. (Doc. No. 61.) On March 8, 2016,
pursuant to the stipulation of the parties, the claims
remaining after the granting of partial summary judgment in
favor of plaintiff were dismissed and judgment was entered.
(Doc. Nos. 63, 64.) Thereafter, plaintiff moved for the award
of attorneys' fees under the ADA and state law. (Doc. No.
moves for an award in the amount of $87, 777.78, requesting
$80, 748.50 in attorneys' fees (after voluntarily
deducting fees related to a sanctions motion brought against
defendant), and $7, 029.28 in litigation expenses. (Doc. No.
71-1 at 15.)
and the Unruh Act permit a prevailing plaintiff to recover
attorneys' fees and costs. 42 U.S.C. § 12205; Cal. Civ. Code
§ 55. Fee-shifting statutes such as these “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
Citizen' Council for Clean Air, 478 U.S. 546, 565
(1986). Attorneys' fee awards are calculated through a
two-step process known as the “lodestar method.”
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983);
Van Skike v. Dir., Office of Workers' Comp.
Programs, 557 F.3d 1041, 1048 (9th Cir. 2009)
(“The Supreme Court has stated that the lodestar is the
‘guiding light' of its fee-shifting jurisprudence,
a standard that is the fundamental starting point in
determining a reasonable attorney's fee.”) (quoting
City of Burlington v. Dague, 505 U.S. 557, 562
(1992)); Schwarz v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 73 F.3d 895, 901 (9th Cir. 1995). In the first
step, a court multiplies hours reasonably spent in litigation
by a reasonable hourly rate. Hensley, 461 U.S. at
433; Camacho v. Bridgeport Fin., Inc., 523 F.3d 973,
978 (9th Cir. 2008); Ferland v. Conrad Credit Corp.,
244 F.3d 1145, 1146-48 (9th Cir. 2001). The party seeking an
award of fees must submit evidence supporting the hours
worked and the rates claimed. Van Gerwen v. Guarantee
Mut. Life Co., 214 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th Cir. 2000);
see also Hensley, 461 U.S. at 461. However, “a
district court should exclude from the lodestar amount hours
that are not reasonably expended because they are excessive,
redundant, or otherwise unnecessary.” Van
Gerwen, 214 F.3d at 1045 (quoting Hensley, 461
U.S. at 434); see also McCown v. City of Fontana,
565 F.3d 1097, 1102 (9th Cir. 2009); Tahara v. Matson
Terminals, Inc., 511 F.3d 950, 955 (9th Cir. 2007). The
lodestar amount should also exclude hours that plaintiff
spent on unsuccessful claims, if these claims were unrelated
to claims plaintiff brought successfully. McCown v. City
of Fontana, 565 F.3d 1097, 1103 (9th Cir. 2009);
Schwarz, 73 F.3d at 901; see also Hensley,
461 U.S. at 44 (“[T]he extent of a plaintiff s success
is a crucial factor for determining the proper amount of an
award of attorney's fees.”).
second step, a court may adjust the lodestar amount “to
account for other factors which are not subsumed within
it.” Ferland, 244 F.3d at 1149 n.4; see
Kerr v. Screen Extras Guild, Inc., 526 F.2d 67, 70 (9th
Cir. 1975) (listing additional factors district courts may
consider in determining fee awards); see also Cairns v.
Franklin Mint Co., 292 F.3d 1139, 1158 (9th Cir. 2002)
(stating that “[t]he court need not consider all . . .
factors, but only those called into question by the case at
hand and necessary to support the reasonableness of the fee
award.”) (citation omitted). Nonetheless, the lodestar
amount is presumptively reasonable, and an adjustment should
occur only in “rare and exceptional cases, where there
is both specific evidence on the record and detailed
findings” that the initial amount is unreasonably low
or unreasonably high. Van Gerwen, 214 F.3d at 1045
(internal quotations omitted); Camacho, 523 F.3d at
982; see also Hiken v. Dep 't of Defense, 836
F.3d 1037, 1044 (9th Cir. 2016) (“There is a
‘strong presumption' that the lodestar figure
represents a reasonable award.”).
their opposition to plaintiffs motion for attorneys'
fees, defendants contend that plaintiff has incorrectly
calculated the lodestar amount. They make three arguments in
this regard: (i) both attorney Tanya Moore's time
purportedly expended on this case as well as her hourly rate
are excessive; (ii) the time purportedly spent by and hourly
rate for paralegals Sacks and Law are excessive; (iii)
plaintiff is not entitled to the full amount of claimed
litigation expenses; and (iv) the award of attorneys'
fees should be reduced due to plaintiff's limited success
in this litigation. The court analyzes each of
defendants' contentions below.
Reasonable hourly rates
court “must determine a reasonable hourly rate to use
for attorneys and paralegals in computing the lodestar
amount.” Gonzalez v. City of Maywood, 729 F.3d
at 1196, 1205 (9th Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). In
assessing applications for attorneys' fees, the
reasonable hourly rates are to be calculated according to the
prevailing market rates in the relevant legal community.
Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895 (1984);
Ingram v. Oroudjian, 647 F.3d 925, 928 (9th Cir.
2011) (“We have held that ‘[i]n determining a
reasonable hourly rate, the district court should be guided
by the rate prevailing in the community for similar work
performed by attorneys of comparable skill, experience, and
reputation.'”) (quoting Chalmers v. City of Los
Angeles, 796 F.2d 1205, 1210-11 (9th Cir. 1986));
Van Skike, 557 F.3d at 1046. It is also the general
rule that the “relevant legal community” is the
forum district, and that the local hourly rates for similar
work should normally be employed. Gonzalez, 729 F.3d
at 1205; Prison Legal News v. Schwarzenegger, 608
F.3d 446, 454 (9th Cir. 2010); Gates v. Deukmejian,
987 F.2d 1392, 1405 (9th Cir. 1992); Davis v. Mason
County, 927 F.2d 1473, 1488 (9th Cir. 1991). The initial
burden is on the applicant to produce satisfactory evidence
that the requested rate is “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;
see also Gonzalez, 729 F.3d at 1206 (“[T]he
fee applicant has the burden of producing ‘satisfactory
evidence' that the rates he requests meet these
standards.”); Nadarajah v. Holder, 569 F.3d
906, 916 (9th Cir. 2009); Camacho, 523 F.3d at 978;
L.H. v. Schwarzenegger, 645 F.Supp.2d 888, 893 (E.D.
Cal. 2009) (“Finally, a reasonable rate should reflect
not only the market rates, but the skill and experience of
the prevailing party's counsel.”). “[R]ate
determinations in other cases, particularly those setting a
rate for the plaintiffs' attorney, are satisfactory
evidence of the prevailing market rate.”
Hiken, 836 F.3d at 1044 (quoting United
Steelworkers of Am. v. Phelps Dodge Corp., 896 F.2d 403,
407 (9th Cir. 1990); see also Welch v. Metro. Life Ins.
Co., 480 F.3d 942, 947 (9th Cir. 2007).
represents that attorney Moore specializes in representing
plaintiffs in disability actions, and has significant
expertise litigating ADA actions such as this one. (Doc. No.
71-2 at 2, ¶ 2.) In her own declaration, attorney Moore
states that she has filed and successfully prosecuted nearly
1, 000 civil rights actions, and that while her standard
billing rate is $400 an hour, she has reduced her rate for
this case to $300 an hour. (Id. at 2-3, ¶ 5.)
Plaintiff has not submitted declarations in support of this
claimed market rate but instead has chosen to rely primarily
on the fact that $300 per hour has been found reasonable for
attorney Moore's work in the disability rights actions
brought in the Fresno Division of the Eastern District of
California which he lists. (Doc. No. 71-1 at 9.) As noted,
this is satisfactory evidence of the market rate.
opposing the motion for attorneys' fees, defendants argue
that a $300 hourly rate is unreasonable with respect to
attorney Moore's services and suggests that a $200 hourly
rate is more appropriate. (Doc. No. 74 at 14.) However,
defendants offer no evidence whatsoever in support of their
suggestion that $200 an hour is the prevailing market rate,
nor do defendants cite any decisions in which the rate they
suggest was found to be reasonable.
the court now finds-as other judges of this court have
previously found- that $300 is a reasonable hourly rate for
attorney Moore's work. See, e.g., Moore v.
Watkins, No. 1:15-cv-00115 JAM-GSA, 2015 WL 5923404, at
*5 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 9, 2015); Kalani v. Nat'l Seating
and Mobility, Inc., No. 2:13-cv-00061 JAM-CKD, 2014 WL
3956669, at *2-3 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 13, 2014); Gutierrez v.
Vantia Props., LLC, No. 1:13-cv-00642-LJO, 2014 WL
2106570, at *8 (E.D. Cal. May 20, 2014); Moore v.
E-Z-N-Quick, No. 1:13-cv-01522-LJO-SAB, 2014 WL 1665034,
at *6 (E.D. Cal. Apr. 24, 2014); cf. Kalani v. Statewide
Petroleum, Inc., No. 2:13-cv-02287-KJM-AC, 2014 WL
4230920, at *6 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 25, 2014) (fixing attorney
Moore's reasonable hourly rate at $250 per hour based
upon the evidence presented in that case).
respect to the hourly rate sought for paralegal work
performed in connection with this litigation, plaintiff seeks
an hourly rate of $115. Once again, plaintiff relies on prior
decisions of judges of this court finding that to be the
appropriate market rate for such work. (Doc, No, 71-1 at 9.)
In opposing plaintiff's motion, defendants argue that a
$115 hourly paralegal rate is elevated. (Doc. No. 74 at
15-16.) In support of this contention, defendants cite
various decisions in which judges of this court have
determined that in those cases the appropriate hourly rate
for paralegals was $75. See, e.g., Deocampo v.
Potts, No. 2:06-1283 WBS CMK, 2014 WL 788429, at *9
(E.D. Cal. Feb. 25, 2014); Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v.
Albright, No. CIV. 2:11-2260 WBS CMK, 2013 WL 4094403,
at *3 (E.D. Cal. Aug. 12, 2013).
of this court have specifically determined that the
reasonable market rate for work performed by paralegals Sacks
and Law in other ADA cases is $115 per hour. See,
e.g., Moore v. Watkins, No. 1:15-cv-00115
JAM-GSA, 2015 WL 5923404, at *5 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 8, 2015);
Gutierrez v. Leng, No. 1:14-cv-01027-WBS-SKO, 2015
WL 1498813, at *7 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 31, 2015); E-Z-N
Quick, 2014 WL 1665034, at *6; cf. Kalani, 2014
WL 4230920, at *6 (finding that a $75 hourly rate was
appropriate for work performed by paralegals Sacks and Law).
Those prior determinations are satisfactory evidence of the
prevailing market rate. See Hiken, 836 F.3d at 1044.
Accordingly, the court determines that the $115 hourly rate
for the work of paralegals Sacks and Law to be the prevailing
market rate that it will adopt.
Hours reasonably expended
attorneys' fee applicant also bears the burden of
establishing the appropriate number of hours expended.
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 437; see also Carson,
470 F.3d at 891; Jadwin v. County of Kern, 767
F.Supp.2d 1069, 1100 (E.D. Cal. 2011) (“The fee
applicant bears the burden of documenting the appropriate
hours expended in the litigation and must submit evidence in
support of those hours worked.”). The party opposing
the fee application has the burden of rebutting that
evidence. Camacho, 523 F.3d at 982; see also
Toussaint, 826 F.2d at 904; Jadwin, 767
F.Supp.2d at 1100 (“The party opposing the fee
application has a burden of rebuttal that requires submission
of evidence to the district court challenging the accuracy
and reasonableness of the hours charged or the facts asserted
by the prevailing party in its submitted affidavits.”).
Attorney Moore's time
noted above, plaintiff seeks an attorney fee award of $80,
748.50. According to billing records submitted in connection
with the motion, this fee request is in part based upon a
total of 201.7 hours expended on the case by plaintiff's
lead counsel, attorney Tanya Moore. (Doc. No. 71-1 at 10).
With respect to the attorney time expended by attorney Moore,
the court finds that while the time claimed in connection
with many of the tasks performed is reasonable, some of the
attorney time claimed is unreasonable, duplicative, or
inadequately documented. Accordingly, and as addressed in
more detail below, the court concludes that the number of
attorney hours attributable to attorney Moore should be
moving for attorneys' fees, plaintiff has presented
attorney billing statements documenting the following time