United States District Court, E.D. California
ALLISON CLAIRE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on plaintiffs' Re-Noticed
Motion for a Mandatory Fee and Costs Award Pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(a)(5)(A) and E.D. Cal. R.
(“Local Rule”) 230. This motion was referred to
the undersigned by Local Rule 302(c)(1).
Relevant Procedural History
two associations of parents of children with disabilities,
allege that the California Department of Education
(“CDE”) is violating the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Improvement Act, 20 U.S.C.
§§ 1400, et seq., through its systemic failure to
provide a “free appropriate public education”
(“FAPE”) to children with disabilities in
accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act (“IDEA”). During the pendency of this
litigation, the Court has addressed multiple discovery
disputes between the parties. On August 17, 2016, following
one such discovery dispute, an order was issued in which
plaintiffs were awarded attorneys' fees at what the Court
determined to be the correct Sacramento rates: $350 per hour
for attorneys and $75 per hour for paralegals. ECF No. 229 at
November 23, 2016, plaintiffs filed a subsequent motion to
compel and for sanctions, seeking fees based on San Francisco
rates (ECF No. 273). Defendants filed a cross-motion for a
protective order and for sanctions (ECF No. 272). The
undersigned denied defendants' motions. ECF No. 287 at
20. Plaintiffs' motion to compel was granted, but their
request for sanctions was denied without prejudice in light
of the undersigned's finding that Sacramento rates are
the appropriate fee measurement. Id. Plaintiffs were
given 30 days to renew their motion for fees using Sacramento
rates. Id. Plaintiffs sought reconsideration from
District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller. ECF No. 288. Judge
Mueller denied the motion. ECF No. 300.
now renew their request for fees at what they allege to be
Sacramento rates. ECF No. 304. There are three issues
presented: (1) the appropriate rate for attorney and
paralegal fee reimbursement; (2) the billed hours appropriate
for compensation as a result of plaintiffs' success on
their motion to compel, and (3) plaintiffs' recoverable
parties do not dispute that the appropriate method for
computing fees in this case is the lodestar approach, in
which the Court multiplies the number of hours reasonably
expended on the litigation by a reasonable hourly rate.
Cunningham v. Cty. of Los Angeles, 879 F.2d 481, 484
(9th Cir. 1988). Each of these factors is discussed below,
followed by a discussion of recoverable costs.
Reasonable Hourly Rates
appropriate rate for reimbursement of fees in Sacramento is
the Court's previously stated rate of $350 per hour for
attorneys, and $75 per hour for paralegals. ECF No. 229 at
23-24; see also, Orr v. California Highway
Patrol, 2015 WL 9305021 at * 4, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
170862 at *13 (E.D. Cal. 2015) (Shubb, J.); Lin v.
Dignity Health, 2014 WL 5698448 at *3, 2014 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 155980 at *7-8 (E.D. Cal. 2014) (Mueller, J.). It has
already been established in this case that the reasonable
hourly rate is determined by the Sacramento community. ECF
No. 229 at 23-24. “To inform and assist the court in
the exercise of its discretion [in determining reasonable
community rates], the burden is on the fee applicant to
produce satisfactory evidence-in addition to the
attorney's own affidavits-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 v. Stenson,
465 U.S. 886, 895 n. 11 (1984).
argue that an upward adjustment to the typical Sacramento
rates is necessary due to the limited number of attorneys
doing similar work in Sacramento. Their argument is
unpersuasive because they interpret far too narrowly the pool
of attorneys and paralegals available for comparison.
Plaintiffs assert that the appropriate Sacramento rate for
attorneys in the specialized area of statewide, systemic IDEA
litigation is $725 per hour for attorneys and $182 per hour
for paralegals. ECF No. 304-1 at 5. Plaintiffs reach these
numbers by taking the average of what they allege to be the
only two attorneys/organizations in Sacramento that litigate
IDEA cases. Id. at 6. The undersigned finds this
first of the attorneys proposed by plaintiffs as a fee
guidepost, Mr. Richard Ruderman, avers that he practices
disability law in Sacramento, and that his current rates are
$550 per hour for attorneys and $150 per hour for paralegals.
ECF No. 304-6 at 2. While the undersigned agrees that Mr.
Ruderman's fees may be relevant as a guidepost for the
legal community in Sacramento, plaintiffs fail to explain why
the Court should be guided by Mr. Ruderman's 2017 rates,
when plaintiffs' motion to compel was brought in 2016.
ECF No. 273. The undersigned accepts defendants' position
that a more reasonable comparison would be Mr. Ruderman's
2016 rate of $400 per hour. ECF No. 305-1 at 8. The undersigned
further agrees with defendants that the $400 rate is high as
applied to plaintiffs' counsel, given that Mr. Ruderman
has litigated ...