United States District Court, S.D. California
ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF ERIKA MACIAS'
MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES AND COSTS AND DENYING
PLAINTIFF ERIKA MACIAS' MOTION FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF
[Dkt. No. 157.]
Gonzalo P. Curiel United States District Judge
the Court is Plaintiff Erika Macias' motion for
attorneys' fees and costs and a motion for entry of
injunctive relief. (Dkt. Nos. 156, 157.) Defendant did not
file an opposition. Macias filed a reply arguing that the
Court should grant both motions for Defendant's failure
to file an opposition. (Dkt. No. 169.) Based on the reasoning
below, the Court GRANTS in part Plaintiff Macias' motion
for attorneys' fees and costs and DENIES her motion for
November 19, 2014, Plaintiffs Erika Macias
(“Macias”) and Cynthia Rich(“Rich”) filed a complaint
against Defendant Myron Lange (“Defendant”) for
violations of the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), 42
U.S.C. § 3601, et seq.; California Fair
Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), Cal.
Gov't Code sections 12927, 12955, et seq.;
California Civil Code section 51.9 (“section
51.9"); California Ralph Act, (“Ralph Act”),
Cal. Civ. Code section 51.7; California Unruh Civil Rights
Act (“Unruh Act”), Cal. Civ. Code section 51;
breach of the covenant of quiet use and enjoyment; and
invasion of privacy. (Dkt. No. 1, Compl.) Defendant is the
owner of about eight rental houses and apartments in the San
Diego area. Macias was a tenant of Defendant from 2001 until
the end of 2013.
April 1, 2016, the Court denied Defendant's motion for
summary judgment as to Macias' claims. (Dkt. No. 63.) On
May 16, 2016, defense counsel sought to withdraw as counsel
for Defendant. (Dkt. No. 89.) On June 1, 2016, the Court
conditioned defense counsel's withdrawal on participation
with Plaintiff's counsel in lodging a pretrial order.
(Dkt. No. 92.) Once a pretrial order was lodged, the Court
granted defense counsel's motion to withdraw. (Dkt. No.
10, 2016, at the pretrial conference, Defendant, now
proceeding pro se, orally requested that his prior
waiver of a jury trial be withdrawn. (Dkt. No. 94.) After
briefing on the issue, the Court granted Defendant's
request to withdraw his waiver of jury trial. (Dkt. Nos. 99,
100, 101, 103.) Motions in limine were then held on October
7, 2016. (Dkt. No. 110.)
October 17 and 18, 2016, a jury trial was held as to
Plaintiff Erika Macias' claims against Defendant Myron
Lange. (Dkt. Nos. 122, 123.) On October 18, 2016, a jury
verdict was entered on Macias' claims. (Dkt. No. 129.) Of
the remaining five causes of action, the jury found in favor of
Plaintiff on the claim for hostile housing environment under
the Fair Housing Act and California Civil Code section 51.9
(“Civil Code section 51.9"). (Id.) The
jury awarded Plaintiff $35, 320.00 in compensatory damages
under the FHA and $20, 000 in compensatory damages under
Civil Code section 51.9. (Id. at 4, 6.) The jury found
in favor of Defendant on the remaining claims for violations
of the Ralph Act, quid pro quo harassment under the Fair
Housing Act and for gender discrimination under the Unruh
Act. (Id. at 2, 3, 5.) The jury also found that
punitive damages were not warranted. (Id. at 7.)
Judgment was entered on March 29, 2017. (Dkt. No. 154.) On
April 25, 2017, Defendant filed a notice of
appeal. (Dkt. No. 160.)
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Rule) 54,
Macias seeks attorneys' fees as the prevailing party
under the FHA and Civil Code section 51.9 in the amount of
$97, 316.50 for the Legal Aid Society of San Diego, Inc.
(“Legal Aid Society”) and costs in the amount of
$4, 117.35. (Dkt. No. 157 at 8; Dkt. No. 157-3, Butler
Decl., Ex. 1 at 1.) She also seeks $86, 500.00 in
attorney's fees for Brancart & Brancart and
non-taxable costs in the amount of $5, 328.00. (Dkt. No. 157-10,
Brancart Decl., Exs. 1-2 at 2-31.)
provides that a prevailing party may be awarded reasonable
attorneys' fees and costs. 42 U.S.C. § 3613(c)(2).
Moreover, a defendant who violates Civil Code section 51.9 is
also liable for attorneys' fees. Cal. Civil Code §
52(b)(3). Because the jury found in favor of Plaintiff under
the FHA and Civil Code section 51.9 claims, Plaintiff is a
prevailing party and entitled to attorneys' fees and
costs under both the federal and state statute.
fees are based on the “lodestar” calculation
which undergo a similar analysis under both federal and state
law. See Hensley v. Eckerhardt, 461 U.S. 424, 433
(1983); Ketchum v. Moses, 24 Cal.4th 1122, 1131
(2001); Lane v. Facebook, Inc., No. C 08-3845 RS,
2010 WL 2076916, at *1 (N.D. Cal. May 24, 2010) (lodestar
approach similar under federal and state law). The Court must
first determine a reasonable fee by multiplying “the
number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation”
by “a reasonable hourly rate.” Hensley,
461 U.S. at 433.
federal law, once calculated, the lodestar amount is
presumptively the reasonable fee amount. Van Gerwen v.
Guarantee Mut. Life Ins., 214 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th Cir.
2000). A multiplier may then be used to adjust the lodestar
amount upward or downward only in “‘rare' and
‘exceptional' cases, supported by both
‘specific evidence' on the record and detailed
findings by the lower courts” that the lodestar amount
is unreasonably low or unreasonably high. Id.
(citations omitted). Under state law, the lodestar may be
adjusted by a multiplier based on such factors as the
contingent nature of the fee award and the novelty and
difficulty of the questions involved. Ketchum, 24
Cal.4th at 1132.
has the burden to establish entitlement to fees and provide
supporting evidence. See Hensley, 461 U.S. at 437.
The Court may reduce an award based on inadequate
documentation of hours or rates requested. Id. at
433. Once the applicant submits evidence of the appropriate
hours spent on litigation, “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.” Gates v.
Deukmejian, 987 F.2d 1392, 1397 (9th Cir. 1992).
Reasonable Hourly Rate
seeks rates of $320.00 per hour for Attorney Branden Butler,
(Dkt. No. 157-1, Butler Decl. ¶ 6), $295.00 per hour for
Attorney Rosalina Spencer, (Dkt. No. 157-4, Spencer Decl.
¶ 6), $500.00 per hour for Attorney Christopher
Brancart, (Dkt. No. 157-9, Brancart Decl. ¶ 14), and
$175.00 per hour prior to December 1, 2016 and $200.00 after
December 1, 2016 for Attorney Danielle Tailleart. (Dkt. No.
157-6, Tailleart Decl. ¶ 5).
assessing a reasonable hourly rate under both federal and
state law, a court must consider the prevailing market rate
charged by attorneys of comparable experience, expertise, and
skill for comparable work.” Coles v. City of
Oakland, No. C03-2961 TEH, 2007 WL 39304, at *4 (N.D.
Cal. 2007) (citing Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886,
895 n. 11 (1984); Children's Hosp. & Med. Ctr. v.
Bonte, 97 Cal.App.4th 740, 783 (2002)). Courts look to
the prevailing market rates in the relevant community for
similar work by attorneys of comparable skill, experience,
and reputation. Camacho v. Bridgeport Fin., Inc.,
523 F.3d 973, 979 (9th Cir. 2008); PLCM Grp. v.
Drexler, 22 Cal.4th 1084, 1095 (2000). Generally, the
relevant community is the “forum in which the district
sits.” Camacho, 523 F.3d at 979. The moving
party has the burden to produce “satisfactory evidence,
in addition to the affidavits of its counsel, that the
requested rates are in line with those prevailing in the
community for similar services of lawyers of reasonably
comparable skill and reputation.” Jordan v.
Multnomah County, 815 F.2d 1258, 1263 (9th Cir. 1987).
Affidavits by the plaintiff's counsel and other counsel
concerning the prevailing fees in the community, and rate
determination in other cases, are satisfactory evidence of
the prevailing market rate. United Steelworkers of
America v. Phelps Dodge Corp., 896 F.2d 403,
407 (9th Cir. 1990).
Plaintiff provides declarations of each counsel detailing
their education, years of practice and experience in the area
of fair housing law. (Dkt. Nos. 157-1, 157-4, 159-6, 157-9.)
She also includes declarations of other counsel in the
community and citation to cases supporting these rates. (Dkt.
No. 157-10 at 32-54.) Based on these documents, the Court
concludes that Plaintiff's counsels' hourly rates are
Hours Reasonably Expended
both federal and state law, an award of attorneys' fees
should include compensation for all hours reasonably spent on
the litigation, absent circumstances rendering an award
unjust.” Coles, 2007 WL 39304, at 8 (citing
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 429; Serrano v. Unruh,
32 Cal.3d 621, 624, 639 (1982)). The district court has wide
discretion in determining the reasonableness of
attorney's fees. Gates v. Deukmejian, 987 F.2d
1392, 1398 (9th Cir. 1992); Montgomery v. Bio-Med
Specialities, Inc., 183 Cal.App.3d 1292, 1297 (1986).
moving party bears the burden of documenting the appropriate
hours spent in the litigation and submit evidence in support
of the hours worked. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433.
Counsel should exclude hours that are “excessive,
redundant or otherwise unnecessary.” Id. at
434. The Court should decrease the hours that were not
“reasonably expended.” Id. The opposing
party must provide “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.” Gates, 987
F.2d at 1397-98 (citing Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S.
886, 892 n. 5 (1984)); McGrath v. County of Nevada,
67 F.3d 248, 255 (9th Cir. 1995) (citations omitted) (there
must be evidence to challenge the accuracy and reasonableness
of the hours charged). The party opposing fees must
specifically identify defects or deficiencies in the hours
requested; conclusory and unsubstantiated objections are
insufficient to warrant a reduction in fees. Cancio v.
Fin. Credit Network, Inc., No. C04-03755 THE, 2005 WL
1629809, at *3 (N.D. Cal. July 6, 2005).
the opposing party has not objected to the time billed, the
district court “may not uncritically accept a fee
request, ” but is obligated to review the time billed
and assess whether it is reasonable in light of the work
performed and the context of the case. Common Cause v.
Jones, 235 F.Supp.2d 1076, 1079 (C.D. Cal. 2002) (citing
Sealy, Inc. v. Easy Living, Inc., 743 F.2d 1378,
1385 (9th Cir. 1984)); see also McGrath, 67 F.3d at
254 n.5 (noting that court may not adopt prevailing
party's representations without conducting an independent
review of the fee application). When the district court makes
its award, it must provide a “concise but clear”
explanation of its reasons. Hensley, 461 U.S. at
plaintiff is only partially successful in the case, he or she
may not recover attorney's fees for work on unsuccessful
claim that are not related to the successful ones.
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434-35. Apportionment is
required when disproportionate time is spent against each
defendant in order to ensure that a “defendant is not
liable for a fee award greater than the actual fees incurred
against that defendant.” Jones v. Espy, 10
F.3d 690, 691 (9th Cir. 1993). Despite the general rule of
apportionment, it might not be required if “it is
impossible to differentiate between work done on
claims.” Gracie v. Gracie, 217 F.3d 1060,
1069-70 (9th Cir. 2000) (where “claims are so
inextricably intertwined that even an estimated adjustment
would be meaningless.”) Some cases involve claims for
relief that involve a common core of facts or are based on
related legal theories. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 435. In
these cases, counsel's time will be spent generally to
the litigation as a whole making it difficult to divide the
hours spent on a claim by claim basis. Id. In such a
case, the court should “focus on the significance of
the overall relief obtained by the plaintiff in relation to
the hours reasonably expended on the litigation.”
Id. If a plaintiff has obtained excellent results,
full recovery is allowed because an enhancement may be
justified. Id. Therefore, just because plaintiff did
not prevail on every contention raised in the lawsuit, does
not mean the fee award should be reduced. Id.
“[T]he most critical factor is the degree of success